Charity Board Term Limits: What’s the Best Practice?

“Board governance is often taken for granted in the early stages of creating a nonprofit organization.” There is excitement about “the first steps in achieving the mission of the fledgling NPO” or resolving pressing funding issues. The recruitment of board members is often a top priority in the organizational phase. Few groups, though, give any thought at that point about a mechanism to cut loose these enthusiastic Read More

Ethics Codes for Nonprofits

Ethics - or lack thereof - has been in the news quite a bit recently. Back in 2009, the prestigious Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article titled “Ethics and Nonprofits.” The opening paragraph was harsh: Those who work on issues of ethics are among the few professionals not suffering from the current economic downturn. The last decade has brought an escalating supply of moral meltdowns in both the Read More

Charity Regulators: Focus on Enforcement of Corporate Policies

“When government regulators meet,” we wrote in a recent post, “they make lists of the most pressing topics that keep them up at night.” One such list is a March 2017 article in The Nonprofit Times. There, the authors discussed five hot-topic areas that give regulators apoplectic fits these days: Governance & Compliance: Policy vs. Practice Scrutiny of Fundraising and Overhead Costs Solicitation and Use of Read More

Issues in Online Giving

When government regulators meet, they make lists of the most pressing topics that keep them up at night. These lists aren’t static, especially given the fast pace of technological change that is having an impact on many aspects of the philanthropic sector including - of course - fundraising. One of the hottest topics right now is online fundraising and technology. With technology driving so much of today’s social Read More

Charities in the Courtroom, Part 9: Relief for Flint

For almost three years since April 2014, the beleaguered citizens of Flint, Michigan, have suffered from a shocking decision by an emergency city manager appointed by, and answerable solely to, the state’s GOP governor, Rick Snyder. To save a piddling amount of money, and without performing due diligence, the emergency manager switched the city’s water supply from the safe Detroit River to the heavily polluted Flint Read More

What’s Next After the Tax Exemption Letter?

There’s no shortage of books, articles, blog posts, website columns, and other sources of information about how to form a nonprofit corporation or how to get a tax exemption. What happens, though, at the moment after all the initial work is done? The corporation has been formed; you have the fancy binder. The 1023 or 1023-EZ has been filed (and perhaps has been quickly approved). The initial board meeting has been Read More

Do We Need to Have a CPA Audit Our Books?

Many small- to mid-sized 501(c)(3) organizations are often confused about their accounting and reporting duties. They may hear or read about an “independent audit” and wonder what that means and if it necessarily applies to them. The simple answer is: The IRS rules for charities do not include a requirement for an “independent audit”; Some states require them in certain circumstances; and Some grantors may Read More

A Third Way to Get Noticed by the CA Attorney General

Hint about this blog post title: It’s ironic. It’s never a good thing to get noticed by an attorney general from anywhere, like it’s never a good thing if a “60 Minutes” reporter shoves a microphone in your face. Just so we’re clear about this, check out two earlier posts: “A Recipe for How To Get Noticed by the California Attorney General,” and “A Second Way to Get Noticed by the California Attorney General.” They Read More

Dodgy Scholarship Scheme Doesn’t Get Tax Exemption

Responding in 2014 to a nightmarish backlog of tax-exemption applications, the Internal Revenue Service came up with a solution: Offer a short and simple alternative form - the Form 1023-EZ - for many small- to mid-size 501(c)(3) start-ups. The streamlined procedure would have the necessary effect of speeding up the response time from an average 2-year wait down to a few weeks. The trade-off was the miniscule number Read More

Charities in the Courtroom, Part 8: Universities

Recall the story of Virginia’s Sweet Briar College that we covered in 2015. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this idyllic campus erupted into controversy when the President and Chair of the Board of Trustees rushed through a controversial vote to close down the venerable, all-women, institution after 100 years of operation. As recent events in the news have demonstrated, when a group of women Read More