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Friday Five: March 16, 2017

Four leaves may bring you luck, but three leaves are just as beautiful.

Four leaves may bring you luck, but three leaves are just as beautiful.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Supposedly on this day St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, which is less impressive when you realize that Ireland never had any snakes to begin with.  Nevertheless, it’s a day to celebrate Irish heritage and culture, including their famous gift of gab.  We must have some of the Irish in us, for we have a need to gab about these stories in nonprofit news.

1. Nonprofits Matter (in California, at Least) 

As one of the largest states in the country by almost every metric, the California legislature has a lot on its plate. It’s heartening, then, to see that they still make the time to focus on nonprofits. The California Association of Nonprofits has announced that the legislature has created an assembly select committee to focus on the nonprofit sector, helping to connect the various parts of the nonprofit universe and strengthening the state’s commitment towards nonprofits. You can learn more at the Association’s announcement.

2. You’re Always Your Own Best Advocate 

Today’s political climate has been pushing more and more nonprofits into an advocacy role, but many nonprofits find themselves with an outdated set of skills for the job, or worse, no advocacy skills at all.  Writing at Social Velocity, President and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits Tim Delaney lays out a few ideas to help get you started on the journey towards advocacy, including a reminder that you may already know more than you realize.

3. Singing in the Rain is More Fun with an Umbrella

Donations are a notoriously unreliable form of income.  People are wonderfully generous, but they aren’t always generous in a sustained, standardized way, and that makes life difficult for balance sheets. Writing at the Nonprofit Quarterly, Hilda H. Polanco and John Summers discuss the importance of building up a reserve for when times are difficult, as well as how you can start building up your rainy day fund without negatively impacting the important work you’re already doing.

4. Speaking of Rainy Days

The White House released its budget blueprint on Wednesday, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy is already hard at work combing through the details to find out how it could affect nonprofits. Initial reports indicate that numerous federal programs that fund work in poverty, education, the arts, the environment, rural development and foreign aid may be cut or in some cases completely eliminated. While the full budget proposal, complete with line items, has yet to be released, this initial blueprint serves as a useful metric for nonprofits to know what the President’s budgetary priorities are.

5. Be All That You Can Be 

Activism is important and drives much of the work we do, but there are ways to be the best activist you can be. Ruth McCambridge of the Nonprofit Quarterly discusses a recent article in Curbed New York about the best ways a new activist can get involve and be of the most help. With the new wave of civic activism in America, these suggestions are more important than ever. Read more at Nonprofit Quarterly and the original article that inspired Ruth at Curbed New York.

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back, and may you be in Heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you’re dead. See you next week!

Can’t get enough Friday Five? Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and send your questions about the nonprofit world to info@b-alaw.com. We’ll be back next week!

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Friday Five: February 24, 2017

The classiest way to give anonymously.

The classiest way to give anonymously.

It’s Carnival season in parts of the world, a time for celebration, color, dancing and revelry.  Did you know that the organizations that run the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans are called “Krewes” and are known for their charitable work when they aren’t donning masks and dancing in the streets?  Before letting the good times roll, we invite you to check out five stories from this week in nonprofit news.

1.  IT AIN’T EZ

The IRS recently released public data on all organizations that have been approved for tax-exempt status using the new 1023-EZ form.  The Nonprofit Blogger at the Law Professor Blog Network combed through the data and discovered that some 600-plus churches received tax-exempt status with the 1023-EZ.  Churches are specifically forbidden from filing with the 1023-EZ, as clearly delineated in the 1023-EZ pre-questionnaire.  Read more about this and other concerns with independent verification of the 1023-EZ at the link.

2. FAREWELL TO JOHNSON

The Johnson Amendment, that is. The President recently promised at the National Prayer Breakfast that he would "destroy" the Johnson Amendment. Named after then-Senator Lyndon Johnson, the Johnson Amendment prevents charities from endorsing or opposing a political candidate.  While the President went on to clarify that he intended this specifically to allow faith-based organizations speak on political matters, the Johnson Amendment covers all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations.  In their blog post, Law Professor Phillip Hackney and Accounting Professor Brian Mittendorf examine the ways the Trump Administration could tweak or outright repeal the Amendment and the potential consequences.  Read more at the link.

3. NEW YEAR, NEW GOVERNANCE

We don't know if you've stopped writing the old years on your checks yet, but it's already 2017.  May Harris and Linda Rosenthal at the For Purpose Law Group think that it's the perfect time to take a look at your governance policies.  Some of them may no longer be necessary, while you may find that adding a few might be a good idea. In the end, there's nothing like a new year to engage in a little self-reflection.  Learn more, including some suggestions on how you might structure your review, at the link.

4. GREY AREAS IN CHINESE GIVING GET A LITTLE LIGHT

In 2015, the Charities Aid Foundation ranked China just above Yemen in their "World Giving Index", a distressing showing for the world's second largest economy. Writing at Alliance Magazine, Karla Simon and Holly Snape tell a different story.  A recently enacted Charity Law brings up to three million "gray area" NGOs into the official light, allowing for greater transparency and accounting of charities that had been operating in the dark the whole time. Learn more about the other ways charitable giving in China is changing at the link.

5. FROM THE SHAREHOLDERS TO THE PUBLIC

If a for-profit corporation wants to make the switch to a nonprofit entity, they have a lot of considerations to make. They might have even more considerations than they realize, and that can lead to trouble further down the line. If you’re a for profit corporation thinking about making the switch, it behooves you to make sure you know what you’re getting into. Michele Berger lays out some of the necessary changes at the Nonprofit Law Blog.

That's the Friday Five this week. Laissez les bon temps rouler, and we'll see you next week!

Can’t get enough Friday Five? Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and send your questions about the nonprofit world to info@b-alaw.com. We’ll be back next week!

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Friday Five: February 17, 2017

Your eyes do not deceive you; that is the color green underneath the snow

Your eyes do not deceive you; that is the color green underneath the snow

Spring is in the air, and that means it’s time for change. The weather has gotten warmer (or colder, if you’re in the Northeast), plants are growing again, and we’ve decided to shake up our formatting for the Friday Five. Henceforth, you can click on the headlines to link to the articles we’ve found for you. So wherever you are, stay warm or cool with these five headlines from the past week in nonprofit news

 

1) LEAN ON ME, WHEN YOU’RE NOT STRONG
We all need a friend when times are tough, but we need friends when times are good, too. Mentorship isn’t just good for mentees, it’s a great opportunity for mentors as well - it develops leadership skills and builds networks and communities. Mission Box, a new social media network for nonprofits, helps to connect people in the nonprofit world to their peers.  Need help finding someone with a particular set of skills? No idea what to do? Just generally panicking? Reach out to a friend, old or new. Maybe they’ve been down in this hole before.

 

2) HAIL, CAESAR
Mike Ilitch, founder of Little Caesars, owner of the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, and noted Detroit philanthropist, passed away this past week at 87. While his contributions to the city were wide and varied, perhaps the sweetest story that has emerged in the past week was the report that he had personally paid the rent of Civil Rights legend Rosa Parks  from 1994 until her death in 2005. Learn more about his other projects, including Little Caesars Love Kitchen, at the article.

 

3) THE GIVING LIST
The Chronicle of Philanthropy released its list of the top 50 charitable donors for 2016. At the top of the Philanthropy 50? Phil and Penny Knight of Nike, giving $900 million to Stanford and the University of Oregon. Frequent Philanthropy 50 member Michael Bloomberg followed in the second spot with $600 million. Still not on the list? Warren Buffet. The Chronicle’s methodology means that his annual donations of Berkshire Hathaway stock only count the year he made the pledge. Given that his donations this year alone were valued at nearly $3 billion, it seems only fair to leave a little room for everyone else. More highlights, including the rise of Silicon Valley, at the article

 

 4) THINKING BIG IN SMALL SPACES
Paul Clolery of The Nonprofit Times argues that it’s time for nonprofits to start acting on the local level. If these last months have taught us anything, it’s that while working on the national scene might be flashy and glamorous, it’s working on politicians on the ground and in their districts that affects real change. No matter who is in the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate listen to people in their individual districts, and ultimately, it is they who make the laws. Visit the article to learn more strategies on building change from the ground up.

 

5) WHERE’S THE SHERIFF?
Writing on the Surly Subgroup, Notre Dame law professor Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer worries about the numerous instances this past year of tax-exempt organizations violating tax laws and seemingly getting away from it. In theory, the IRS is the sheriff that enforces these laws, but recent events have people wondering if maybe the sheriff has high-tailed it out of town. Check the article to learn more about why this could be a growing problem, as well as Mayer’s proposed solutions.

 

That’s the Friday Five for this week. We’re heading out to take a walk in the bright, warm sun. See you next week!

 

Can’t get enough Friday Five? Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and send your questions about the nonprofit world to info@b-alaw.com. We’ll be back next week!

  

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Friday Five: June 24, 2016

Dance like there's no tomorrow. Or maybe don't.

Happy June 24th! We’re dancing for joy that it’s Friday.

On this day in 1374, a sudden outbreak of St. John's Dance caused people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapsed from exhaustion. In some cases, people suffered from cardiac arrest or died from injuries.

We would like to revise and amend our opening paragraph: we are… sitting with joy that it’s Friday. Calmly.

Here are five must-reads (one of them is actually a must-watch) from and about the nonprofit world:

1) Osocio is a central online hub dedicated to social advertising, defined as advertising from nonprofit organizations that seeks to connect us with other human beings. The embedded video from Agency Jung von Matt/Limmat AG does a great job of visualizing what it’s like to live with fear and significant anxiety. Anxiety is an ‘invisible’ illness, and the two agencies are doing important work to illustrate that people may be dealing with burdens and challenges we know nothing about and encouraging us to think more broadly about mental health:
http://osocio.org/message/fear-is-a-serious-disability/

Learn more about Osocio here: http://osocio.org/about-osocio/

2) Can spreadsheets really get you fired? If they’re combined with hubris and overconfidence, absolutely. Brian Lauterbach at Network for Good digs into his own past so that you can learn from his mistakes and avoid a similar fate:
http://www.networkforgood.com/nonprofitblog/how-spreadsheets-got-me-fired/

3) If you’re a board member who’s wondering how to lean in towards board activity or looking for ways to make your nonprofit better, this blog has some great suggestions for you—everything from learning staff members’ names to insisting to the executive director that “Yes, it is totally acceptable for you to buy a better chair so you won’t be suffering from constant back pain.” Read all about it:
http://nonprofitwithballs.com/2016/06/25-things-awesome-board-members-do/

(There’s also a great link in the 25 Awesome Things article to another article on why the Oxford Comma is so essential. #OxfordCommaForever! http://nonprofitwithballs.com/2016/04/the-role-of-the-oxford-comma-in-nonprofit-communications/ )

4) Culture, culture, culture. The disastrous collapse of the Healing Arts Initiative, a New York City-based nonprofit that made arts accessible to isolated and marginalized people, should remind everyone that even if you’ve got a badass executive director who can ferret out corruption like a private eye, it’s all for nothing if you don’t have the right culture in place:
https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/06/10/culture-suck-how-a-bad-ethical-culture-can-doom-a-good-nonprofit

5) Shane Bauer (the American journalist who spent two years in prison in Iran) worked with The Mother Jones Investigative Fund to go undercover as a U.S. prison guard at a privately-run (vs. government-run) prison in Louisiana to expose the prison industrial complex. Bauer’s article is thorough, phenomenal and deeply disconcerting:
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/cca-private-prisons-corrections-corporation-inmates-investigation-bauer

This has been the Friday Five. Join us next week for help staying on top of pertinent nonprofit articles, topics , and insights, and remember to contact us (link to info@b-alaw.com) if you have any questions about your own nonprofit or board!

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