Hurricane Lane, as seen from the International Space Station

DID YOU KNOW? Hurricane season is officially upon us. According to the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans see the largest number of hurricanes between August and October. These violent storms, or “tropical cyclones,” are caused by changing heat and pressure patterns over the equator and have brought destruction and devastation to populations across the globe. 2017 turned out to have an exceptionally active and disastrous season, with 17 named storms – 10 classified as hurricanes. Among these storms were Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which hit landfall in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico respectively and killed dozens of people in their paths. Marking a catastrophic end to a 12-year run of no major hurricanes making landfall on the continental United States, these storms left no shortage of need. As their aftermaths brought dangerous flooding, shortages of food and water, lack of power, and billions of dollars in damages, emergency responders, city officials and nonprofit organizations were left with a massive job with few resources at their disposal. In fact, the sheer number of charities working in these areas encouraged many organizations to design systems to help donors direct their money to best support disaster-relief efforts. To learn more about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predictions for this year’s hurricane season, you can click here. But before doing that, check out these five nonprofit headlines from the week. 

1. Why Nonprofits May Need to Rethink Their Dependency on Postal Premiums

A new proposal from the United States Postal Service (USPS) could hike shipping costs for nonprofits using mailing premiums to acquire and renew donors. If passed, the provision would no longer allow organizations to classify its mail as Marketing, or “Standard,” Mail, unless all its content is limited to paper-based material. This means that in order to send pieces of mail containing so much as a paper clip, organizations will have to use other USPS rates such as Priority Mail or Parcel Select. Cheryl Keedy from the Harrington Agency, a fundraising consultancy that works with many nonprofits, predicted that under the new proposal, organizations might see their postal fees double. Among other rationales, the USPS is proposing the change in the hope of improving tracking services and reducing operating inefficiencies. The USPS is waiting to decide on the proposal until further feedback has been collected. To find out how you can make your voice heard before a decision is made that might affect your organization, visit the link above. 

2. From Band-Aids to Solutions: Understanding Intersectionality as a Key to Effective Decision-Making

The recent emergence of an expanding homeless encampment in Minneapolis has sparked partnerships between the city’s government, American Indian communities, and local nonprofits, all trying to alleviate the city’s escalating rate of homelessness. The residents at the camp, largely American Indians, have faced outbreaks of infectious diseases and many have expressed concerns for the safety of women. The American Indian Community Development Corporation, just one of the many nonprofits involved in efforts to eliminate the camp and house its residents, has set up hygienic service areas with toilets and showers throughout the encampment. By working with American Indian leaders and acknowledging the increased rates of homelessness among people of color, officials in Minneapolis serve as an important example of how governments and nonprofits will have to go about addressing overlapping disparities. According to Nonprofit Quarterly, as the issue of homelessness grows increasingly dire across the country, a recognition of the role that intersectionality plays in homelessness will become essential in making lasting change. To learn more about the efforts in Minneapolis and how intersectionality might help determine the direction and mission of your nonprofit, check out the article above.

3. Using Nonpartisan Political Engagement to Your Advantage

As nonpartisan organizations who serve populations in need regardless of their members’ political allegiance, many nonprofits opt out of participating in political events of any kind. Some such events, however, might provide your nonprofit with a unique opportunity to engage members of your community, raise awareness, and maybe even to inspire future champions of your cause. National Voter Registration Day, a day on which organizations like yours can join others to ensure everyone in your community is exercising the right to vote, has registered an impressive 1.6 million Americans since its inception in 2012. No experience with voter registration drives? No problem. According to the National Council of Nonprofits, if your nonprofit chooses to participate, you will receive informational resources to help you run and publicize your event. Regardless of political affiliation, your nonprofit can use this day to highlight the importance of civic engagement. To learn about other ways in which your organization can take part in this year’s National Voter Registration Day on September 25th, check out the link above. 

4. Charity or Advocacy?: Being Apolitical in a Hyper-politicized World

Speaking of politics. According to an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the Johnson Amendment might be looking at a remodel. The infamous amendment, which prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from participating in or interfering with any political campaign on behalf of a candidate for public office, has surfaced with increasing frequency in recent debates regarding the role of nonprofits in society. Those wishing to modify the amendment claim that some of today’s most significant nonprofit organizations got their start in advocacy work for deeply political issues, and the amendment was only proposed in fear that their increasing influence might dangerously offset an administration’s power. Proponents of the amendment argue it was proposed to protect tax-exempt agencies from the corruption and bias of the world of politics. If this were the case, however, the creation of 501(c)(4) organizations has largely defeated the amendment’s original purpose. Unlike their “apolitical” counterparts, 501(c)(4) organizations are not restricted by the limitations established by the Johnson Amendment. Thus, many modern 501(c)(3)s have created their own 501(c)(4)s to carry out the very political work they are prohibited from doing themselves. In today’s hyper-politicized and hyper-polarized environment, it might prove difficult for nonprofits to find their place in society – especially with 501(c)(4)s continuing to blur the lines between aid and advocacy. To read a more comprehensive history of the Johnson Amendment and see how it continues to change the nonprofit narrative, visit the link above. 

5. Boosting Morale to Boost Your Results

Often left without the possibility of using monetary incentives, many nonprofit leaders must be creative when determining how to best motivate their employees. Studies have shown that organizations, whether nonprofit or for-profit, typically see a decline in employee performance as the end of the year approaches. Representing organizations across the country, nine members of the Forbes Nonprofit Council have compiled a list of tips for nonprofits to keep their employees engaged and motivated even through this end-of-the-year slump. One member, Tom Van Winkle of the Hinsdale Humane Society, suggests that leaders revisit the feasibility of initial goals a few months into the year, in case recent developments have rendered any unattainable. Other tips include introducing friendly competition, renewing a sense of ownership of projects in your employees, engaging stakeholders and sponsors, and increasing the frequency of your projects’ benchmarks and assessments. To find out other tips for maintaining a motivated staff through the summer and the holidays, click the link above. 

That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! To find out how your nonprofit can take steps to prepare for natural disasters during peak hurricane season, check out these tips from BizTech Magazine. 

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