ONEplace Blog

News, comments, resources, and more for nonprofits.

Copyright is the Law

In this day of open access to all types of information on the Internet, wikileaks, etc, the subject of copyright protection is often misunderstood, ignored, or forgotten. However, copyright laws are ‘alive and well’ and actively protecting published and unpublished original works of many kinds.

This issue came to the forefront recently when we learned that ONEplace workshop participants re-created a copyright protected document received as an educational handout. Even though not required, the document was clearly marked with © notations which were overlooked when it was re-designed to improve its appearance. They were asked to immediately destroy the illegal documents.

There are legal, ‘fair use’ provisions in the law that allow certain specific, non-commercial uses of copyrighted materials: “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

In seeking the best, most current, resources for ONEplace workshops, copyright-protected materials are often used as part of the curriculum for “teaching, scholarship, or research” purposes. We are now reminding participants when materials are © protected and how they may legally be used, along with advising appropriate use of all copyright-protected materials.

Read the Complete version of the U.S. Copyright Law(

Download the Copyright Basics guidePDF


U.S. Copyright Law

Pitch Your Story by Phone

In an interesting article in the MNA Links entitled, “Pitch Your Story by Phone,” the writers, Community Media Workshop, suggests nonprofits “pitch” or verbally tell the stories they want to see published by phoning reporters and editors. Thus, bypassing the old system of submitting a press release and crossing your fingers that it will catch someone’s attention.

The article points out that with all the media noise, “phone calls humanize and personalize your stories.” The article lists some helpful tips to make the process easier:

  • Call at the right time
  • Be Prepared
  • Make calls in front of a computer
  • Be persistent but don’t be a pest
  • Offer to do more to make their job easier
  • Be pleasant and upbeat, not frantic, moralistic, or nagging

To read the complete article, click on the link above or drop by ONEplace and pick up a copy of MNA Links at no charge. If you are already an MNA member, you can read the latest issue along with archived issues at the MNA Links webpage.

In addition, the Community Media Works website has an informative video on, “People to Pitch.”

People To Pitch: Burt Constable, Daily Herald from Community Media Workshop on Vimeo.

Has this tactic worked for you? If you’ve had success with phone “pitches,” how does it compare with more traditional electronic submission by website or email? If you have another method of getting your stories heard, please share your success with others and leave a comment.


Pitch Your Story by Phone

Plan to Communicate in 2011

Have you created a communication plan for the coming year? If not, now is a good time. According to a report done by the Nonprofit Marketing Guide on 2011 Nonprofit Communication Trends, only 34% of nonprofits have a written and board approved 2011 communication plan in place. Creating a communication plan opens up opportunities and creates synergies between your organizational marketing, fundraising, and promotional efforts. Creating a clear purpose and direction for communicating with stakeholders will allow your organization to speak with one voice and strengthen your image to the public and to your constituents.

Tackling a communication plan is a process similar to strategic planning, it is done in phases. Here are four online resources specifically designed to walk nonprofits through the communication planning process.

Books written about communication plans are rich resources offering more details and breadth on the subject. Recommended books include:

If your nonprofit doesn’t have internal skill to write a plan, hiring a consultant is an option. The ONEplace Consultant & Trainer Directory includes consultants who specialize in communication, marketing, and branding.

If you have experience writing your own communication plan, or working with a consultant, please share your experience along with any helpful tips and/or advice.


Consultants and Trainers Directory

Significant COSA Changes Coming Soon

Michigan's Charitable Solicitations Act (COSA) was substantially amended in December, 2010. The amendments take effect on March 31, 2011.

The changes effect nonprofits of all sizes. Please learn integrate them into your operation by the effective date. Penalties for violations are steep.

Some of the significant changes made by the amendments are:

1. A charitable organization will be exempt from registering under the Act if all of its fundraising will be conducted by volunteers and it expects to receive less than $25,000 per year in contributions through their efforts. This is an increase from the current level of $8,000 per year. An organization will still have to register if it will use paid staff or a professional fundraiser to raise any amount of donations.

2. Nonprofits will now "register" with the Michigan Attorney General to solicit donations, instead of being licensed by the Attorney General to solicit donations. The registration will be good for a period of 19 months, instead of the current 12 months.

3. The law lists a number of activities that are prohibited. Many of these are targeted against misrepresentations. However, one prohibits a person from soliciting a contribution on behalf of a charitable organization that is not registered. A violation of any of these prohibitions could result in a civil fine of up to $10,000 for each violation.

4. The amendments also list certain actions that are punishable as crimes as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanors are subject to up to 6 months in prison or a fine of up to $5,000, while felonies are punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine of not more than $20,000. It is a misdemeanor if a person knowingly solicits or operates as a charitable organization in Michigan and the charitable organization is not registered with the Attorney General.

5. The amendments allow local County prosecutors to prosecute persons who have committed acts that are misdemeanors or felonies. This takes the burden off the Attorney General to prosecute these cases. This might result in greater enforcement of the Act and criminal prosecution of smaller infractions.

A few sections of the Act were not amended and these do not appear in the bill that was passed in December. To understand the entire Act, you will need to look at both the current law(pdf) and the amendments and insert the amendments into the current law, where applicable.

Our thanks to Leo Goddeyne, attorney with Miller Canfield, for this summary of important changes effecting nonprofit fundraising in Michigan.



“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” ~ Thomas J. Peters

December 15 was a special day for the nonprofit sector in Kalamazoo County! Over 100 nonprofit executives, foundation representatives, board members, and community leaders gathered to honor and celebrate accomplishments of 2010 before a New Year starts in a couple weeks.

The first-ever celebration was sponsored and hosted by ONEplace at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Consultants & Trainers Network (also sponsored by ONEplace) members helped host the fun and engaging event. The room sustained a gentle roar of excitement for over two hours as people re-connected with colleagues from across the community and met new ones. People commented on the diversity of nonprofits and supporters in the room.

A video looped throughout the morning, showing the depth and breadth of the nonprofit sector through photos and statistics from a wide array of local organizations: health & human services agencies; educational institutions; governmental units; arts, culture, & humanities organizations; environmental organizations; youth development organizations; faith-based organizations; business associations; nonprofit-support organizations; foundations; and, more.

As director of ONEplace, I commented briefly on the level of services provided despite the current economy which are enormous and ever-generous. Basic needs providers are challenged to meet demands while often reducing their own budgets. Educators at all levels continue supporting new, innovative ways to improve student outcomes and employee performance while ‘tightening their belts.’ Arts, cultural, humanitarian, and civic organizations continue supporting Kalamazoo County’s quality of life with fewer dollars. Working together with our business and governmental sectors, the nonprofit sector assures the very fabric of our community continues to thrive.

It’s important to step back, pause, and reflect on how special Kalamazoo County is and “celebrate what we want to see more of.” The Nonprofit Sector Celebration did just that.



ONEplace Celebration