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Posts Tagged ‘community’

We’ve discussed a number of topics related to developing your idea to address a need in your community and ways to organize your efforts to achieve your goals.  It is my hope that these topics have been helpful to you as you begin and/or proceed on your journey.  I may not have been as exhaustive in my information as you may need; however, these entries can be used as a launching pad to help guide you in your search for more information.

I readily admit that there are many professionals in this field that are more experienced that I am, but I have a passion for this work and this blog was one way to share my thoughts and more than 15 years of experience.  If there are other related subjects you would like for me to cover, please let me know and I will do my best to create more “launching pads”.  If you want a particular subject to be covered more thoroughly, let me know.  Otherwise, I thank you for taking this journey with me and I pray that all of your efforts are successful.

And speaking of “your efforts”…are you ready to take the plunge?  What’s stopping you from moving forward?  Nothing stops an idea better than inaction.  Just go for it!!

Be strong and be blessed!

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As I write this entry, our family is preparing to witness our son participate in a horse-riding competition.  For most parents, attending competitions is an honored ritual – supporting our children as they prepare to succeed, compete with honor, and grow to become the productive citizens we pray they will be.  But this is not just an ordinary contest – the contestants have overcome not just learning how to ride, but how to perform many everyday tasks we take for granted.

Now I can’t speak for every competitor because I don’t know them personally, but because this competition is geared toward those with special needs, I can only imagine what they may have had to overcome.  As for our son, he continues to recover from autism slowly but surely.  We thank God for the resources and people He has brought into our life to assist him (and his proud mom and dad!).

I wanted to take this opportunity to “swell my chest” for my son AND daughter as they continue to mature in this thing called LIFE.  For those with children (biological, step, grand and otherwise), in the midst of serving your communities, congregants and constituents, show love to your children in any way you can (especially pray for them) – we don’t have them for long!

Be strong and be blessed!

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When it comes to nonprofits and their tax-exempt status, faith-based organizations (FBOs) must be especially careful when they decide to go beyond “having church” to providing services that benefit the community overall.  For example, when a FBO decides to go from developing Sunday School curriculum for its own use to developing and selling biblical children’s stories to be used by the general public…or when a FBO expands its transitional housing efforts from housing the homeless in their multi-purpose building to providing shelter in homes the FBO has purchased…or when a FBO intends to purchase land not just for a new church building but for other uses such as senior housing and small-shop retail…and the list can go on.

Even though the examples given above can be deemed as extensions of the FBOs overall mission, these “extensions” may be viewed by the Internal Revenue Service differently.  In fact, there are many recent examples of FBOs and their leaders being investigated by the federal government questioning their tax-exempt status.  Ultimately, these investigations were dropped, but the fact remains that as budgets tighten at the federal and state levels, government bodies will continue to aggressively seek additional sources of revenue and FBOs will continue to be potential targets as the line blurs between their charitable and auxiliary activities.

One way to address this possibility is for FBOs to establish independent organizations that can facilitate these activities without jeopardizing the FBOs tax-exempt status.  For example, using the “bible children’s stories” example from above, I would recommend that the FBO create a separate entity (e.g., a publishing company) that would develop, market and sell the products so that the tax-exempt status of the FBO would not be put into question – especially when the income of the publishing company begins to increase substantially.  In addition, if the FBO intends to secure grants for various charitable activities that will benefit the community as a whole, many philanthropic organizations cannot award grants directly to FBOs, but can make awards to non-profit organizations that facilitate these charitable activities.

The examples given above are merely for illustration and not intended to be definitive.  Case law is constantly evolving in this area, so please consult with a local attorney or CPA who can help you wade through these waters.  If you have questions or comments that would help broaden this discussion, please respond.

Be strong and be blessed!

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“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.” – Gautama Buddha

You’ve noticed a great need in your community (e.g., teen unemployment, crime, obesity, etc.) and have come up with a great idea to address that need or would like to implement an existing program in your neighborhood.  As you proceed, make sure that you begin with a firm foundation in creating the organization through which your idea will be implemented.  If you plan to, for example, raise funds from outside sources, the decisions made at this stage will determine where you can go to raise needed funds.

Organization Type – There are two primary choices for organization type: for-profit and non-profit.  As the names suggest, each type is driven by its primary objective.  For-profit organizations exist to maximize profits (revenues minus expenses) for its owners and/or shareholders.  In contrast, non-profits are not PRIMARILY motivated by profits, but rather by fulfilling its charitable mission.  However, there are incidences where you can find both types of organizations mutually benefitting each other (e.g., a for-profit organization creating a related non-profit organization to perform charitable work such as the Ford Foundation).  Keep in mind that foundations and some government programs can only award grants to tax-exempt non-profit organizations (we’ll talk about becoming tax-exempt soon).

Organization Name – It has been said that “words have meaning and names have power”[1].  Don’t underestimate the importance of choosing a name for your organization that communicates who you are, what you do, and/or who you serve (e.g., American Cancer Society).  In choosing a name, you will need to make sure that the proposed name is not being used by another organization.  Various sources you can use to check on the availability of a name include your secretary of state and/or your local registar.

In order to become an official organization, you would submit an application or articles of incorporation to your secretary of state or similar entity.  In addition, you may be required to apply for a business license from your local jurisdiction.  Check with your state and local governments for their specific requirements for creating your organization.

Be strong and be blessed!

[1] – Author unknown (Source: http://www.quotegarden.com/names.html)

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With all of the detailed steps that have been discussed regarding operating and financing your nonprofit organization, we don’t want to dismiss the importance of starting up properly.  Just as “blocking and tackling” is to football, building a firm foundation in starting your organization will allow you to proceed more confidently in meeting the needs of your community.

Over the next few weeks we’ll discuss various topics pertaining to your organization’s start-up activities, including:

  • Obtaining a tax-exempt status designation
  • Becoming an “official” organization
  • Resources that can assist you
  • What faith-based organizations should consider

If there are other topics you want us to cover or have other questions, feel free to send me your comments or contact me.

Be strong and be blessed!

Postscript: Join me in praying for those individuals and families who were and continue to be affected by the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

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According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.  It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. [1]

As we approach the Labor Day holiday, I can’t help but to think about how blessed I am to be employed.  I would consider myself a “modern-day employee” in that for much of my career history, I sought out opportunities to expand my skill set either through a new position with my present employer, with a new employer or through entrepreneurship.  With this strategy, I have been blessed to have gained a wide variety of experiences, with a primary focus on community and economic development.  Nevertheless, there have been times when, unfortunately, I did not receive a steady paycheck or the entrepreneurial pursuit did not turn out as I expected.  Through it all, God provided for me and my family and I thank Him for that!

I, also, can’t help but to reflect on those who are unemployed or underemployed.  As of this writing, the unemployment rate in the U.S. stands at 9.1% (August 2011).  There are more than 13 million people who are seeking full-time employment, but have been unsuccessful for a number of reasons (e.g., jobs moving to lower cost locations, skills mismatch, etc.).  This has implications for all areas of the economy, including homeownership, meeting basic needs, obtaining the training needed for today’s jobs, and others.  With the current direction of federal and state governments to reduce spending at all costs, the work and mission of nonprofits become even more important.  Nonprofits have to become even more efficient in their operations and programming to address the ever-increasing needs of its target population, constituency and community.

Do not become discouraged in the present state of affairs, but rather use this time to be more creative in meeting the need and more emboldened in requesting and securing assistance for your efforts.

Please pray with me that the unemployed, employers, government leaders, nonprofits and other willing participants will work together to improve our economy and increase meaningful opportunities!

Be strong and be blessed!

[1] – U.S. Department of Labor (http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm)

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By now you should have a general idea of how much money you need to operate and are aware of some funding sources that could contribute toward your efforts (if not, visit some of our earlier blog entries for help).  However, there are still some key questions you should be able to answer, such as “who’s going to actually write the grant applications?” or “what’s the best way to account for these funds?” or “are there other requirements that come with this money and how do I handle them?”…among others.

A good start to answering these questions can be found in identifying some key persons and their associated tasks, including grant writers, grant managers, and bookkeepers/accountants.

Grant Writers
Just as the name implies, grant writers develop the grant package that is sent to potential funders and can assist in identifying other potential funders.  In many organizations (especially start-ups), the organization’s grant writer may also be the board chair or a congregant at the church or a student volunteer or…  In any case, this person ensures that the organization and its programming is placed in the best light for the potential funder to see. 

According to the American Association of Grant Professionals, freelance grant writers must guard against unethical behavior on the part of the organizations on behalf of which they write grants.  Some organizations may try to pay a grant writer only after the grant has been awarded or pay the grant writer with a percentage of the grant money. According to the Association, both of these practices are ethics violations.  Be mindful of this as you consider compensation for your grant writer.

Grant Managers
Consider this scenario:  You got the grant!  Everyone is thrilled…until reality hits.  Someone has to be responsible for administering the project, complying with regulations, reporting to the funder…and that someone is (drums, please) the grant manager.  Regardless of whether you are seasoned professional at a large institution or a volunteer for a grassroots organization, the job of a grant manager is a balancing act – making sure that program staff have the flexibility to accomplish something meaningful, while at the same time that every obligation to the funding source is met. [1]

Bookkeeper/Accountant
Starting out, you may be able to use Microsoft Excel or even a basic version of QuickBooks to account for revenues and expenses for your organization’s administration and programming.  However, as you secure greater amounts of funding from government and philanthropic sources, their compliance requirements may dictate that you seek out an experienced bookkeeper or accountant to report on the use of their funds.  At a minimum, they may require an annual audit of your financing by an independent CPA which, depending on the size of your organization, can cost thousands of dollars.

In conclusion, make sure that your organization’s financial plan include not only raising funds, but properly managing and accounting for these funds as well.

Be strong and be blessed!

[1] – Source: Essentials of Grant Management: A Guide to the Perplexed by Henry Flood (2001).  Article can be found at http://www.tgci.com.

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