Archive for the ‘Pennsylvania’ Category

Learning Opportunity – This Friday

Anyone who’s going to be in the Western PA area this Friday, April 27, should seriously consider attending Grant Writing 201: Winning Grants in Southwestern PA with Eric Davis, Owner Procopio Fundraising and Managing Partner, Elliott & Davis, PC. 

Grant seeking in Southwestern Pennsylvania has never been more competitive than today. With information on grant opportunities so broadly available, most grant making foundations and agencies receive hundreds more worthy grant proposals for each funding cycle than they could ever fund. It is critically important that nonprofit organizations to learn how to set themselves apart by preparing winning grant applications.  Give your proposals the competitive edge of a serious grant seeker. If you’re ready to get serious about grant writing, invest a day honing your skills with proven techniques for generating support.

Here are the details on the event.

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Prosperity and Integrity: Harnessing the New Power of Benefit Corporations

Given the economic volatility our country has endured during the past three years, it’s easy to think of corporations as faceless, legal entities that care only about bottom lines. And in the face of reduced government funding and support from private foundations and corporate giving programs, nonprofits have been feeling the pinch more sharply than most. But, in this era of “too-big-to-fail,” “bailouts,” and perceived greed, it’s important to remember that corporations were originally conceived with both economic prosperity and the protection of public welfare in mind.

Early American corporations were not given unlimited reign, but were closely guided by the views of their investors and the tenets of their charters. Transparency and accountability were not just marketing buzzwords, but common standards of practice.

There has been a recent movement-which many in the nonprofit sector have observed-of for-profit entities engaging in socially-conscious endeavors.  This trend falls under the broad umbrella of “social entrepreneurship” and, very recently, states have begun to recognize a new incorporation option available for businesses that wish to be both financially successful and socially conscious.

This new construct, called a “Benefit Corporation,” stresses sustainability along with financial success. More to the point, this new model is a boon to the non-profit world. It provides the opportunity for increased cooperation with a conscientious corner of the for-profit sector and the potential to leverage more sustainable impacts on business practices beyond existing corporations. Benefit or “B” Corporations redefine the modern notion of commercial success by valuing “stakeholders” above “shareholders.” Unlike traditional corporations, B Corporations must facilitate, and publicly report, positive social and environmental impacts through their work in order to register with the non-profit organization, B Lab (http://www.bcorporation.net). This third-party validation process provides a number of valuable benefits to participating businesses:

  1. Save Money.  B Corporations have the potential to deliver immediate financial value, and B Lab has already saved B Corps over $1M through service partnerships.
  2. Set Yourself Apart.  B Corporations differentiate themselves in the marketplace, and the certification process allows companies to generate press, meet sustainability requirements set by other companies, enhance reputation and mitigate potential trust erosion from consumers.
  3. Find Common Ground.  B Corporations offer a “common ground” for businesses that are committed to both the mission-driven ethos of the non-profit world and the best practices of the for-profit section.
  4. Connect With Your Peers.  Through B Lab, B Corporations are encouraged (and incentivized) to collaborate amongst themselves and share best practices in sustainability, marketing, finance, IT, and HR.
  5. Grow Faster and Smarter.  The raw numbers (http://www.bcorporation.net/resources/bcorp/documents/2011-AR_B-Index.pdf) demonstrate that registered B Corporations expand at a more consistent rate, work more closely with other area organizations, offer better benefits to their employees, and foster more positive change within their communities than traditional corporations.

Here’s a look at other companies that have already taken advantage of the B Corps model:

Impact Makers, Inc: Impact Makers delivers information technology and management consulting professional services, focused on the healthcare industry. They are a non-stock, “competitive” social venture – the critical difference between Impact Makers and their competitors is that all of Impact Makers’ profits go directly to their charitable community partners. (http://www.impactmakers.org/)

PhilanTech: PhilanTech provides the PhilanTrack™ online grants management system – an innovative online grant proposal, reporting and management system that enhances accountability, transparency, and efficiency. This online system enables valuable resources to be redirected towards service delivery and greater social impact rather than to grants administration. (http://www.philantech.com/)

Fair Trade Sports: Fair Trade Sports, Inc is the first sports equipment company in the US to launch a full line of eco-certified Fair Trade sports balls, ensuring fair wages and healthy working conditions for our adult workers. They have sports balls for soccer, football, basketball, rugby, volleyball, and more. (http://www.fairtradesports.com/)

Seventh Generation: Seventh Generation is the nation’s most recognized brand of natural household and personal care products. For 20 years, the company has been recognized for its non-toxic cleaners and personal hygiene products. (http://www.seventhgeneration.com/)

Practical Energy Solutions: Practical Energy Solutions is a privately owned partnership located in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Their talented and passionate team provide common sense solutions for reducing energy consumption and costs. The business operates as an independent consultant for clients so there is no conflict of interest on any recommended efficiency and conservation measures. (http://www.practicalenergy.net/)

We hope that you’ll take the time to look at B Lab, investigate some of the other companies that have already taken advantage B Corps, and in general think about what this new model could mean for the future of business.

We’re excited. We hope you are too.

Please feel free to contact Elliott & Davis, PC with all of your questions about nonprofit formations and management.  Elliott & Davis is a full service law firm with expertise in the areas of nonprofit law, civil litigation, corporate law, real estate law, estates & trust, immigration law, entertainment law, civil rights law and domestic relations law.

For more information about these, or any of our other practice areas, please visit our website at: www.elliott-davis.com.

Please feel free to give us a call at 412-434-4911 ext. 25 for a free phone consultation.

 

More Advice for Nonprofits Struggling in the Tough Economy

It’s no secret that the current economic recession is hitting nonprofit organizations particularly hard.  So what does this mean for your organization?  If you’re still plodding away with the same fundraising plan you’ve used for years, it’s time to stop and revisit your methods and expectations in light of the current financial reality.

Strategically allocate your resources. With so many cutbacks, it will be more difficult to find new sources of funding until market conditions improve.  Rather than directing resources towards a new campaign with a limited likelihood of success, consider dedicating some of your staff time towards the cultivation of existing relationships with funding sources and strategic planning within your organization to develop the strongest possible case for support.

Do your homework. Make sure you’ve fulfilled all the requirements for any grant funds you’ve already received, so you don’t inadvertently take your organization out of future funding streams.  Check websites and other publicly available information to make sure that a potential funder’s programs and priorities haven’t changed.  You don’t want to spend hours preparing an application only to find that the funder suspended giving for the year.  A more limited number of well-researched requests will likely bring in more returns than a form letter sent to every funding source you can find.

Check the accuracy of your information. Make any needed adjustments to your budgets and narratives as a result of changing market conditions, and make sure that the underlying basis for your requests is still relevant.  For example, if your narrative refers to the “skyrocketing cost of transportation” when gas prices have fallen significantly, funders may question the truth of your statements.  If changes in finances impact your use of grant funds, (for example, you received a $1,000 grant to purchase heating oil but only used $800, you received funds to offer 6 sessions of a program, but were only able to offer 4 sessions) you need to communicate the changes to the funder as soon as you are aware of the changes, and may need to return the surplus.  You cannot use leftover funds designated for a specific purpose for your other needs without the prior permission of the grantor.

Choose your requests wisely. The program most in need of funds in your organization may not be the one most likely to attract funding.  When prioritizing grant requests, ask yourself if securing funds for the “fundable” program would free up funds in your budget for the “not-so-fundable” program, giving you the same bottom-line effect.  Targeted program requests, as a rule, are generally more successful than requests for general operating funds.  However, as mentioned above, you cannot request funds for one program and then use those funds for another program.

Give the most bang for the buck. Provide specific examples of what your funding source would get for their money, and if you can, show how their funds will allow you to achieve greater returns.  For example, if you can say that for each dollar spent on administrative costs, you are able to distribute $50 in donated food to the homeless, $30 in free medical services, to reach 40 children through educational programs, etc., you’re demonstrating value to your funder.  Avoid making requests for recurring expenses if you could focus instead on a specific, one-time investment in capacity for your organization that would produce long term savings, such as purchasing a color printer to save on printer’s fees for producing your monthly newsletter, or obtaining a specific certification for your staff that would allow you to expand a program.

Cut costs-legally. You may find that it is more cost efficient to outsource certain aspects of your fundraising efforts such as grantwriting.  Remember that charitable fundraising is highly regulated in Pennsylvania (and most other states), and that any actions you take must comply with all applicable laws.  Also keep in mind that employment laws relating to independent contractors can be tricky and may have long term consequences for your organization.  Craigslist and other job sites are full of ads for grantwriters and fundraising staff that raise significant legal and ethical questions.  A consultation with an attorney experienced in these matters will ensure that your organization’s money-saving efforts are legal.

What Pennsylvania’s New Budget Means for Your Nonprofit

Welcome to Pennsylvania Nonprofit Law Blog!  We hope that this blog will serve as a resource that nonprofit organizations can use to become informed about the legal and financial issues that affect their daily operations.

We’re glad you found us, and we hope you will keep checking back for more updates!

The purpose of this, our first post, is to highlight some of the impacts the recent state budget might have for your organization and to offer some suggestions and strategies that you can use to weather this time of reduced government support.

Government support is drying up

After a grueling 101-day impasse during which a dieting Governor Ed Rendell was able to lose 50 pounds, the Pennsylvania Legislature has finally approved its budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year.  The new budget, which contains extensive cuts in a number of areas, was signed into law by Gov. Rendell on October 9.

Although the new budget was certainly a relief for many organizations who had long been waiting for much-needed funding, there is no hiding the fact that there is a lot less money to go around.   Given the $3 billion shortfall state lawmakers were facing, it’s no surprise that the recently-approved budget contains numerous cuts.  Unfortunately, many of these cuts hit close to home for the nonprofit community.

According to a statement on the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO) website: “Thousands of nonprofits servicing state and county contracts and grants laid-off staff, cut services or closed their doors.  Children, the elderly and people with special needs lost vital services, and precious time.  Nonprofits must still receive payment from the state or counties, restore their infrastructure, pay back their loans – with interest, and rebuild shattered lives.”

Here are a few specific examples of cuts that may have an impact on the nonprofit community:

The Arts: The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, which saw its funding decrease by 20.32%     under the new budget, has recently announced that the 2009 Governor’s Awards for the Arts is being postponed until the spring of 2010.

Economic Development: The new budget cuts all funding to Community Revitalization and Urban Development, meaning that these two budget items that received appropriations of $39,550,000 and $18,750,000, respectively during the last fiscal year, are now receiving $0.

Health Care: Under the new budget, funding to Health items decreased from $273 million to roughly $240 million, a decrease of 12.10%.  Some specific areas among the hardest hit were: Organ Donation Awareness (51.46% decrease), Cancer Control Programs (56.72% decrease), and Burn Foundation (52.06% decrease).

How to make less equal more

With this ominous cloud of reduced government support hanging overhead, it may be hard to believe that there is a silver lining anywhere in sight.  By now, we have all heard enough bad news about—or, even worse, experienced firsthand—the fact that many foundations and other private sources of funding also have less money to give as a result of the recession.

It is our goal, however, to share with you some strategies you can use to maximize fundraising opportunities for your organization—regardless of what’s happening in Harrisburg.

Diversify your sources of funding. Chances are, if your organization is among those hit hard by the current lack of state funding, you are faced with an incredible opportunity to discover new sources of support.  Nonprofits that are accustomed to substantial levels of government support may not have a great deal of experience locating and requesting support from private foundations.   If your organization fits this description, the good news for you is that the funding you need is out there, but it may just take some work to find it.

Accelerate your fundraising campaign. With the recent budget cuts on everyone’s minds, there is no better time than now to reach out to private foundations.  If your organization faces a loss of government support, private foundations and institutions with the power to help your organization are likely to be more sensitive to your situation—especially if you make it clear to them exactly how the climate of reduced government support has affected your organization.

Focus on your mission. We are all well aware of the fact that not every private foundation is brimming with cash, ready to hand it out to anyone who asks.  So how can your organization ensure that it locates the foundations that are likely to be funding partners?  The answer is simple:  keep doing what you’re doing.  In the current recession, there is an increased demand for many services provided by nonprofit organizations.   This fact is clear to everyone—especially those in the foundation community.   The bottom line is that grant makers want to know that their money is making a difference in people’s lives.  If you bring your attention back to your organization’s mission and use it to re-focus your fundraising efforts, you will likely receive more attention from potential grant makers.

They finally did it.  After a grueling 101-day impasse during which a dieting Governor Ed Rendell was able to lose 50 pounds, the Pennsylvania Legislature has finally approved its budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year.  The new budget, which contains extensive cuts in a number of areas, was signed into law by Gov. Rendell on October 9.

The purpose of this Nonprofit Law eBulletin is to highlight some of the impacts the recent state budget might have for your organization and to offer some suggestions and strategies that you can use to weather this time of reduced government support.

Government support is drying up

According to an October 13 article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, State Treasurer Rob McCord’s office began sending out long-overdue checks early this week, with at least 100 Treasury employees working through the holiday weekend in order get payments out on time.

Although the new budget and the issuance of checks is certainly a relief for many organizations who have long been waiting for much-needed funding, there is no hiding the fact that there is a lot less money to go around.   Given the $3 billion shortfall state lawmakers were facing, it’s no surprise that the recently-approved budget contains numerous cuts.  Unfortunately, many of these cuts hit close to home for the nonprofit community.

According to a statement on the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO) website: “Thousands of nonprofits servicing state and county contracts and grants laid-off staff, cut services or closed their doors.  Children, the elderly and people with special needs lost vital services, and precious time.  Nonprofits must still receive payment from the state or counties, restore their infrastructure, pay back their loans – with interest, and rebuild shattered lives.”

Here are a few specific examples of cuts that may have an impact on the nonprofit community:

The Arts: The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, which saw its funding decrease by 20.32%           under the new budget, has recently announced that the 2009 Governor’s Awards for the Arts is              being postponed until the spring of 2010.

Economic Development: The new budget cuts all funding to Community Revitalization and         Urban                 Development, meaning that these two budget items that received appropriations of     $39,550,000 and $18,750,000, respectively during the last fiscal year, are now receiving $0.

Health Care: Under the new budget, funding to Health items decreased from $273 million to    roughly $240 million, a decrease of 12.10%.  Some specific areas among the hardest hit were:               Organ Donation Awareness (51.46% decrease), Cancer Control Programs (56.72% decrease), and       Burn Foundation (52.06% decrease).

How to make less equal more..

With this ominous cloud of reduced government support hanging overhead, it may be hard to believe that there is a silver lining anywhere in sight.  By now, we have all heard enough bad news about—or, even worse, experienced firsthand—the fact that many foundations and other private sources of funding also have less money to give as a result of the recession.

It is our goal, however, to share with you some strategies you can use to maximize fundraising opportunities for your organization—regardless of what’s happening in Harrisburg.

Diversify your sources of funding. Chances are, if your organization is among those hit hard by the current lack of state funding, you are faced with an incredible opportunity to discover new sources of support.  Nonprofits that are accustomed to substantial levels of government support may not have a great deal of experience locating and requesting support from private foundations.   If your organization fits this description, the good news for you is that the funding you need is out there, but it may just take some work to find it.

Accelerate your fundraising campaign. With the recent budget cuts on everyone’s minds, there is no better time than now to reach out to private foundations.  If your organization faces a loss of government support, private foundations and institutions with the power to help your organization are likely to be more sensitive to your situation—especially if you make it clear to them exactly how the climate of reduced government support has affected your organization.

Focus on your mission. We are all well aware of the fact that not every private foundation is brimming with cash, ready to hand it out to anyone who asks.  So how can your organization ensure that it locates the foundations that are likely to be funding partners?  The answer is simple:  keep doing what you’re doing.  In the current recession, there is an increased demand for many services provided by nonprofit organizations.   This fact is clear to everyone—especially those in the foundation community.   The bottom line is that grant makers want to know that their money is making a difference in people’s lives.  If you bring your attention back to your organization’s mission and use it to re-focus your fundraising efforts, you will likely receive more attention from potential grant makers.