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Posts Tagged ‘financing’

There’s a lot of discussion going on these days about taxes – whether to increase them or reduce them, what should taxes be spent on, and so forth.  However, there is one item in the tax laws that I hope NEVER goes away – Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code.  What is this you might ask?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  Section 501 describes organizations that are exempt from taxation.  You may have heard of the term “501(c)(3) organizations”, which describes many of the nonprofit organizations we’re most familiar with.  This entry will briefly describe the process of becoming tax-exempt.

But before I go on, let’s make sure there’s an understanding that there is a difference between being a nonprofit organization and being tax-exempt.  According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), nonprofit status is a state law concept.  Nonprofit status may make an organization eligible for certain benefits, such as state sales, property and income tax exemptions.  Although most federal tax-exempt organizations are nonprofit organizations, organizing as a nonprofit organization at the state level does not automatically grant the organization exemption from federal income tax.  Therefore, you must not only become certified as a nonprofit organization in your state, but you must apply to the IRS to become federally tax-exempt.

What are the benefits of becoming tax-exempt?  The two primary benefits of becoming tax-exempt are as follows [1]:

  • Donations to the nonprofit are tax-deductible. With 501(c)(3) nonprofits, donations are tax-deductible to the donor.
  • Access to grants earmarked for 501(c)(3)s. Certain grants and other public allocations are only available to 501(c)(3) organizations.

Is there a fee associated with the application?  The application fee will depend on what your anticipated “annual gross receipts” (AGR) will be – either a fee of $400 for AGR of less than $10,000 during the preceding 4 years OR $850 for AGR of greater than or equal to $10,000 during the preceding 4 years (as of September 2011).

What is the application process?

  • Obtain nonprofit status from your state;
  • Obtain an Employee Identification Number; and
  • Complete and submit Form 1023 (for most organizations) along with supplemental documentation and appropriate fee to the IRS.  NOTE: This process can be a significant investment in time, depending on the amount of work that has already been done (e.g., budget, detailed description of organization and programming, etc.).

There are many organizations, including ours, that assist organizations with completing this application for free or for a nominal fee; however, it is not necessary.  If you have other questions, please visit the IRS’s website or contact me.

Be strong and be blessed!

[1] – Source: http://www.bizfilings.com/learn/tax-exempt-nonprofit.aspx

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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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We are all familiar with the famous quote from the movie “Jerry Maguire” – Show me the money!  It means “put up or shut up”…do what you say you’re going to do…walk the talk.  When it pertains to raising funds for your organization, it is rare that someone will walk into your office and say “I have a million dollars to give to your organization” (it would be nice, but highly unlikely – unless you’re close to Henry Ford or Bill Gates).  Therefore, you have to SEEK out the funds and then do what it takes to SECURE those funds.

Whether it’s a foundation or government grant, each has a process by which you communicate your funding needs as well as how your needs match the funder’s priorities.  There are a number of methods by which you can communicate your needs, including:

  • Face-to-face – As you network in your community, you will meet different people who may have an interest in working with you to address your funding needs.  Take the opportunity to tell them about your organization and, if appropriate, ask for a follow-up meeting to discuss your needs, including financial.  The saying is true that people tend to help those whom they know.  Also, you never know how a person may be able to help you – don’t just focus on the money!
  • Letter of introduction/interest – This is an effective way to introduce your organization to a potential funder without the pressure and time commitment associated with a formal application.  In fact, many funders require this as a “pre-application” step to screen out ineligible requests before time and effort are spent by the applicant to complete a more detailed application.
  • Formal application – Most funders use an application to obtain information about an applicant such as its organizational structure, its target audience, its programming, and its desired use of the funds being requested.  More and more applications for funding are being completed and submitted on-line.

To talk a bit more about formal applications, there are some key pieces of information that are requested (many we’ve talked about before).

  • Tax-exempt status – Many funders can only make contributions to organizations that have obtained tax-exempt status from the IRS.  This means that contributions made to this type of organization are tax-deductible to the contributor and that many purchases made by the organization can be purchased tax-free.  For more information on obtaining tax-exempt status for your organization, please contact me or visit the IRS website.
  • Evaluation – As mentioned in a previous blog entry, a funder wants to know that their contribution will have the desired impact that led them to make the contribution in the first place.  To better ensure this, the application will request details up front on how the program will be evaluated to determine success.  For example, if your goal is to reduce the number of students dropping out of school, how will you know you are successful (e.g., benchmarking, pre- and post-testing, etc.)?  You may consider securing outside assistance from, say, a university to provide expertise and objectivity.

There are many other items included in formal applications for funding.  However, if you are diligent in following the recommendations above as well as those giving in previous blogs, you will be better prepared to apply for and secure funding.  Our plan is to talk about the human capital needs associated with fundraising in our next entry.

Be strong and be blessed!

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After you’ve developed the budget for your organization, you will be in a better position to determine the type(s) of funding you will need.  There is a tendency to only focus on the different SOURCES of funding that are available (which we’ll cover in the near future) rather than recognizing and focusing on funding the different TYPES of needs you have.

In general, there are three primary expense types that require fundraising – operational, capital and programming.  As mentioned in a previous blog, operational expenses are expenditures that a business incurs as a result of performing its normal business operations.  Examples of operational expenses include salaries, office space, and supplies.  Capital expenses are expenditures creating future benefits – for example, fixed assets such as a building, property or equipment [1].  One primary difference between operational and capital expenditures is how they are treated for tax purposes.

As you begin to research funding options, you’ll discover that there are many more opportunities to secure funding for programs than there are for funding operations or capital purchases.  This is because many funders are eager to support the functions that directly impact those whose needs are being met (i.e., programming) and place less of an emphasis on the “indirect” functions that support programming (e.g., salaries and buildings).  However, as one who has been on both sides of the funding table, it is recognized that financial support for the people and assets that support programming is vital for long-term sustainability (there’s only so much that volunteers can or would be willing to do!).

To address this need for financial support for operations, many funding sources allow for a percentage of the grant to be used for this purpose (typically, 10% of the grant amount).  There are a few grantmakers that provide funding specifically for operational expenses (e.g., NC Community Development Initiative in North Carolina); however, most of them are housed within city and county governments where resources are scarce and needs are high.  You may find that this amount is insufficient to cover all operational expenses, thus the need to identify additional funding sources.

We will discuss in the near future more details about sources of funding and how to determine which ones to concentrate on for your particular funding needs.

Be strong and be blessed!

[1] – Source: Wikipedia.com

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We’ve all heard the expression “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” …and this is certainly true when it comes to the operations of your nonprofit organization.  As in your personal life, planning for your organization’s fiscal health is a vital element in making sure that, for example, your expected revenues exceed your expenses.  In addition to determining how much money you REALLY need, a budget can help you in the execution of your organizational plan in general (e.g., how many employees do I need, should I buy or rent office space, etc.).

Before going further, it would be good to highlight some general terms that are often used [1]:

  • Fund Accounting – Nonprofit organizations aren’t in the business of making a profit (thus, it’s name :)), so they use an accounting system called fund accounting.  Fund accounting groups financial data together into funds or accounts that share a similar purpose.
  • Revenue – The amount of money that is brought into a company by its “business” activities (e.g., grants, income from programming, contributions, etc.).
  • Expense – Any expenses incurred in the ordinary course of business (e.g., salaries, office space rental fees, taxes, etc).
  • Operating expenses – A category of expenditure that a business incurs as a result of performing its normal business operations.
  • Non-operating expenses – An expense incurred by activities not relating to the core operations of the business (e.g., interest charges or other costs of borrowing funds).
  • Cash-flow – The cash generated from the operations of a company, generally defined as revenues less all operating expenses, but calculated through a series of adjustments to net income.  NOTE: It’s cash flow that pays the bills (“cash is king”)!

The financial statements for nonprofits relate to for-profit statements in the following way [2]:

Business Financial Statement Equivalent Nonprofit Statement
Income Statement Statement of Activities
Balance Sheet Statement of Financial Position
Cash Flow Statement of Cash Flows

Back to developing your budget…   It is recommended that the following steps be taken to methodically develop your budget [3]:

  1. List your monthly nonprofit operational expenses.
  2. List your monthly salaries and wages for each employee (if applicable).
  3. Identify and list your monthly expenses for your specific programs.
  4. Identify your monthly revenues.
  5. Assess the difference between your monthly revenue and expenses.

Please make sure that you are realistic and practical in your planning so that expectations are not set too high.  As with a for-profit business, sometimes an organization can get overwhelmed if it grows too fast too soon!

For more help in developing your budget, contact me or click here.

Be strong and be blessed!

[1] Source: Investopedia.com
[2] Source: http://tinyurl.com/3vyre8h
[3] Source: eHow.com

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In the starting phase of your organization, you may be able to provide services with little or no cost – primarily with board contributions and volunteers.  However, as demand for your services increases, you will find that additional financial resources are needed to buy equipment, to hire professional help, to rent office space, and for other necessary expenses.  At this point, a “resources development” plan is recommended to organize your fund raising efforts.

There are a number of issues to consider as you develop your plan, including:

  • What type of funding do I need (e.g., capacity-building, programming, etc.)?
  • Where can I find the type of funding I need (e.g., foundations, government, corporations, etc.)?
  • How much money do I need (i.e., budgeting)?
  • What expertise do I need to manage these resources?

Over the next few weeks, we will discuss these and other issues surrounding the process of securing financial resources for your organization.  If there are related issues you would like to see covered or have specific questions, please let us know and we’ll do our best to address them.

Be strong and be blessed!

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