Saturday, April 24, 2010

File or lose your (c)3

An excellent headsup in the New York Times on the risk that 400,000 nonprofits in the US have of losing their tax-exempt status if they don't file their 990 forms by May 15.

The bottom line is this: If you are a smaller nonprofit and have not filed your 990, or 990N in the past three years, on May 15 your tax-exempt status will vaporize.

Check this out and file NOW.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Innovation, Part 2

Earlier in the month, I neglected to post that the April edition of the Mission-Based Management Newsletter is up. This month, the newsletter covers the second part of a two-part series on Nonprofit Innovation.

Check it out, and remember to scroll down to see the topics of past newsletters over the years.

If you think you or your nonprofit could benefit from reading regularly, subscription is easy and free.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Great reporting on a cautionary tale...

OK, this is a story every nonprofit board member should read. All of it.

The story, from the Austin American-Statesman, is about the collapse of Austin's Family Connections. It is unusually well written and thorough. It analyzes the causes of the collapse of this successful, acclaimed service organization.

And, unlike much reporting on nonprofits that I have seen, it gets to the many (not just one) root causes.

Although there were signs easier to see in the rear view mirror, the ultimate bottom line (no pun intended, since this is a sad tale) is that there appears to have been a basic breakdown in board oversight. No audit, no audit committee, and the board allowed the ED to control all the financial reporting herself. All easy to see warning signs from the outside, but outsiders never got the chance to get in to take a look.

Again, well worth your time to read the entire article. And, a shout out to Andrea Ball for a great job with her story. I suspect it will help many other nonprofits avoid similar fates.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kiva for college

Regular readers know I am big on aggregation models for philanthropy (as well as innovation). You take lots of people, ask each for a little bit and good things usually happen. Kiva led the way with this a few years back and now there are many similar programs, like SmallCanBeBig or WorldFlix. I'm sure there are many others by now, because the process works and the technology is there to enable the great idea.

I was watching a show on Hulu last night and this in-your-face ad popped up about someone who couldn't go to college because he couldn't pay the tuition.

All $700 of it.

That got my attention, as did the charity name: So, I went, checked it out, looked for some background and found articles on it not only from the New York Times but also the Huffington Post.

As with Kiva, you lend money, though in this case to a non-US student (through an in-country intermediary). The student goes to school, hopefully graduates, gets a job and pays you back.

Are there issues of concern? Of course. But it's a great idea and another way to help international development.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A good day for women, a bad day for breast cancer

As regular readers know, my wife Chris is a breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed last November. She had surgery in December and is going very well. Yesterday, we participated in the first Susan Komen Race for the Cure in Roanoke. It was a terrific event, blessed by perfect weather.

The organizers expected 1,000 people and hoped for $150K in donations at this inaugural event. They got nearly 2,000 souls and over $265,ooo in funds. And, most of that money stays here in the Roanoke Valley, helping fight breast cancer.

I knew Komen had hit the big time last October, when NFL players wore pink shoes, hats, arm bands and gloves for the entire month. Chris and I had also done a walk on our 30th anniversary cruise, discovering that Holland America does such an event on the last morning of every single cruise.


Friday, April 02, 2010

Outcome measures on online watchdogs

Gordon Campbell, the CEO of United Way in New York City provided this excellent post on

Helping Donors Choose: Improving Nonprofit Ratings for the Future

I not only liked Gordon's perspective, but he provided good news on what GiveWell, Charity Navigator, GreatNonprofits and Philanthropedia are doing in this area. Then, he cautions readers (who, I assume, are donors who have never tried to provide "meaningful outcome measures") that doing so takes time and a bit of trial and error.

If you have a donor who is thinking about donating to your organization, read this post and send it to them.

As an aside, I love GiveWell's tag line "Real Change for Your Dollar". Of course real change only happens if someone measures outcomes.....or as the old saying goes "In God We Trust. Everyone else bring the data".