Interior of the Fasanenstrasse Synagogue, burned on Kristallnacht (Berlin)

DID YOU KNOW? This week marks the 80th anniversary of the devastating Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass,” sparking powerful acts of remembrance, solidarity, and mourning across the world. On November 9 and November 10, 1938, in a violent attack on Jewish people in Germany and Austria, Nazi paramilitary forces and German civilians torched synagogues and vandalized thousands of Jewish-owned homes, businesses, and schools, killing nearly 100 Jews and causing irreparable damage to countless communities. The name Kristallnacht comes from the millions of shards of shattered glass that fell from storefront windows and homes as the Germans tore across cities, leaving entire Jewish neighborhoods in shambles and tragedy in their wake. While Jews in Germany had been subject to repressive policies for years before this, the horrific incident of Kristallnacht marked a violent shift in Nazi attitudes and would be remembered as a turning point among the devastating events leading up to the Holocaust. Today, many across the world hold ceremonies to remember those who tragically lost their lives on this day. The Jewish Community of Berlin, a public corporation in Germany, has organized a number of memorial events, including a ceremony during which the names all every Jewish person killed during the Holocaust will be read out loud at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. But before finding out what other countries are doing to mourn this infamous day in history, check out these nonprofit headlines.

1. Investing in Your Interns

The past few decades have seen a drastic rise in the number of internship and returnship positions. According to a study conducted by NACE, “80% of college graduates have taken on at least one internship, compared to only 10% 30 years ago.” Yet this increase can mean more than just the latest “fad” to your organization. By taking advantage of this new trend, your nonprofit can form mutually beneficial partnerships and reap the rewards of a group of creative, passionate, and motivated young people who are hungry for experience. The challenge lies in making this experience both helpful to the operational goals of your organization and meaningful for the intern carrying out the work. In an article in the Forbes Nonprofit Council, Pamela Hawley, Founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, offers nonprofits a few tips on how to do just this. First, Hawley urges, make the commitment to use your interns’ capabilities to their full potential. The days of hiring interns to do coffee runs are in the past. Start by identifying your intern’s strengths and how they might promote your business unit goals, set up a project management system, and stay engaged on the project’s progress. Other tips include assigning your interns a “coach,” helping to develop their professional skills, and making time to speak with them about their passions (whether they are related to your organization’s mission or not). While it may seem daunting, by investing time and energy into your interns, you will not only help them along their career paths, but you will also be “creating a community, a circle of goodness and a powerful recruitment channel.” To read more tips on creating a positive and impactful internship experience, check out the link above.

2. Breaking Down Barriers to Volunteering, One Interest Payment at a Time

The student debt crisis in the U.S. has provoked unprecedented concern, as the current total student loan debt is set to reach nearly $1.5 trillion this year, according to the Federal Reserve. Thus, these days it is not uncommon for recent graduates, strapped with massive student loan debt and incomes that barely support costs of living, to take up “side hustles” in order to help supplement this repayment. A nonprofit called Shared Harvest Fund (SHF) is attempting to steer these graduates away from taking these “side hustle” jobs at popular companies like Uber and Lyft and to instead spend this time volunteering at charitable organizations by providing them with opportunities to receive partial loan repayments in exchange for such work. While the concept of coupling volunteering and student loan debt relief is not necessarily new – popularized by organizations like the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps – SHF is making this prospect a reality for busy professionals who may not have the time to commit to a year or multi-year long project. Upon completing certain service projects at organizations partnering with SHF, volunteers will receive a payment from SHF made out directly to their student loan lender, which typically ranges from $250–$1,000 for any given project. As of now, volunteers can earn up to $5,000 a year toward their debt relief, but SHF is hoping to increase this number and expand the organization’s reach in the coming years. To learn more about SHF and how your organization can help tear down possible barriers for your own volunteers, visit the link above.  

3. Nonprofit Leaders Seek State-Level Solutions for Expected Post-Election Gridlock

As the Democrats regained control of the House on Tuesday and split the White House once again, nonprofit leaders were left wondering what this political shift could mean for future legislation affecting the sector. Many, undoubtedly disappointed that more nonprofit advocates did not receive the necessary majorities on election day, are worried that the inevitable and paralyzing gridlock likely to ensue will prevent important legislation from being passed and threaten to cripple the sector’s growth. Still, others are seeing the newly divided government as a “glass half full.” David Thompson, Vice President of Public Policy at the National Council of Nonprofits, expressed that this expected gridlock might not be the worst thing after all, as it will, at the very least, prevent the passage of significant bills posing an immediate harm to the sector. Thompson also claimed to be optimistic that the election results will sway the vote on the unrelated business income tax (UBIT) just enough to issue its repeal. Yet while the extent of the expected gridlock is unclear, many leaders agree that this change will require organizations to form closer relationships with new legislators and public officials at the state and local level. The lack of federal action might indeed necessitate their greater involvement in shaping public policy issues relating to the nonprofit sector. For more information on what Tuesday’s election could mean for future nonprofit legislation, including the recent postal reform legislation that could affect mailing costs for organizations like yours, click the link to the article in the Nonprofit Times above.

4. Getting Creative with Restrictive “Microgrants”

While most grant-seekers would agree that a larger grant equals a larger potential for impact, strategic implementation of even the smallest grants can allow any level of funding to improve your organization’s operations. An article in Nonprofit Quarterly reports on the impact of “microgrants,” or mini-grants of relatively small amounts, urging nonprofits to seek creative ways to maximize the effectiveness of such funding. According to the article, these grants are commonly used to support individuals in community-building projects and to widen the scope of start-up nonprofits. Grants like this can be particularly effective in these scenarios, where a small amount of funding can often result in a significant impact. Whether it be providing an individual with seed money to implement an idea or establishing a small but solid base for an emerging organization by funding its initial administrative spending, when placed and utilized strategically, these grants can go a long way. Ironically, microgrants also often come with the most restrictive conditions on spending and strict reporting requirements. Still, creative nonprofit leaders in a variety of fields have found ways to make these grants count. A program of Winrock International known as the Wallace Center recently launched its Food Systems Leadership Network (FSLN), which strategically employs the microgrants it receives for furthering the professional development of its staff. So, if your organization tends to shy away from applying for smaller grants in fear that their attached requirements might entail more hassle than they’re worth, you might be overlooking potential opportunities for growth in both your operations and your staff. To find out more about microgrants and how other organizations have used them successfully, check out the article above.

5. Frank vs. Gaos: The Delicate Future of Cy Pres Awards

In an article from the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal, Erwin Chemerinsky tells of a recent Supreme Court case that could threaten the future use of cy pres awards in class action suits. “Cy pres,” which comes from the French “cy pres comme possible,” is a term given to awards meant “to come as close as possible to fulfilling the purpose of the class action suit.” In other words, during a class action suit, a court might award a certain portion of a settlement to an organization – often a nonprofit or educational institution – if this furthers the intent of the lawsuit. Frank vs. Gaos was prompted by a class action that gave out such awards in its settlement after Google was sued for reportedly selling information about their browser’s frequently used search terms to businesses. Yet while the settlement of this suit was significant, requiring Google to cover $8.5 million in damages, it would only amount to 4 cents per person if dispersed evenly across all its class members. Thus, the district court approved a cy pres award in this case to institutions focused on securing internet privacy, and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld this ruling. Petitioners in Frank vs. Gaos, hoping the court will deem cy pres awards unjustified, claim that such awards violate Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires settlements to be “fair, reasonable and adequate.” They reason that Rule 23 prevents settlements comprised solely of cy pres awards from falling under the discretion of district courts, and that even if they did, there is always inherent bias involved in choosing such recipients. Respondents argue that the courts have done enough to mitigate potential conflicts of interest and ensure that cy pres awards are solely used to further the purpose of the class action. There is also heated debate surrounding what will be done with the money from the settlements should cy pres awards be disallowed in class action suits. Thus, with the future of cy pres awards hanging in the balance, nonprofits and educational institutions might very well be forced to seek out funding that comes from such suits elsewhere. To find out more about Frank vs. Gaos and why your organization might have a stake in the fate of cy pres awards, visit the link above.

That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! To read more about the ceremonies taking place across the world to remember the tragic loss of life eighty years ago during Kristallnacht, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s address to a Berlin synagogue, visit this link.

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