Your Advisory Board: Welcome Them in Writing

In “Is it Advisable to Have an Advisory Board,” we introduced the topic of advisory boards: what they are and what they (should) do. We also suggested that - sometimes - an advisory board isn’t a very good idea at all. We recommended that an organization think carefully and consider various alternatives to establishing an advisory board. But if it “makes sense to go the advisory board route,” the group should Read More

Back to the Wild West of Social Media: Who Owns the Accounts?

There’s a good reason why even social media experts describe this phenomenon as an “untamed wild west.” Social media is a new form of communication relayed across cutting-edge technological platforms. And the power to communicate has become more democratic: individuals, rather than just big organizations, have access to the medium as well as the message. Nonprofits - along with businesses and government - are Read More

Is the Form 1023EZ Too Easy?: Part III – The Applicant’s Decision

It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing recently for the IRS and its Exempt Organizations Division. What with Congressional subpoenas, lost emails, and gloomy tea parties, these federal charity regulators have been taking hits on several fronts. That may be one of the reasons why the beleaguered agency made the decision to go ahead with a flawed and imperfect plan to address the problem of huge delays in approval time Read More

Is the New Form 1023EZ Too Easy? Part I – Introduction

Unless your organization is fairly new, you may not be aware that the IRS Exempt Organizations Division has been grappling with a huge problem. No.  Not the one about lost emails, and Congressional subpoenas, and social welfare organizations’ political activities. This one’s about the absurdly long time it’s been taking for the beleaguered agency to approve Section 501(c)(3) tax exemptions. For several years, the Read More

"It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time."

In “Next Time, Let’s Just Text in our Votes,” the fictional charity board members were looking for a way to avoid the time, expense, and inconvenience of monthly board meetings. “Why don’t we just put a few issues on an agenda,” one of them suggested, “email it out, circulate it online for comments and questions, and then vote by text message?” Although a shortcut like this may be a widespread practice, it’s not Read More

Drafting A Social Media Policy Manual: How Hard Can It Possibly Be?

Social media has been described as a “Wild West” that nonprofits must “tame.”  That should be your first clue. The rules and regulations governing nonprofits were complicated enough before the era of online networking.  If  an organization isn’t allowed to do something in the real world, it certainly can’t do it in the virtual world.  There are just so many more ways on the digital superhighway to take a catastrophic Read More

Who is Robert and Should Nonprofits Follow His Rules Of Order?

There’s a quick answer to the second question: Sometimes yes and sometimes no. There are pros and cons. How’s that for a lawyerly response? Professional parliamentarians love Robert’s Rules of Order, but many nonprofit experts are wary: "We have said it before and we will say it again: Most organizations should avoid Robert’s Rules of Order like the plague. . ." Back to the Beginning: Who is Robert? In 1863, U.S. Read More

5 Ways to Lose Your Tax Exemption

Congratulations!  You just received the long-awaited determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service. You are now a tax-exempt, charitable organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. You can accept donations, get grants, and do great things for the world. But, if you’re not careful -- There are five foolproof ways to lose this coveted status.  You don’t need all of them. Just one -- Read More

Social Enterprises: A Revolution under the Radar

Until recently, entrepreneurs and businesses interested in being socially responsible had limited – and unsatisfactory – choices. If they set up as traditional for-profit corporations, there were serious restrictions on straying from the existing model of maximizing shareholder value. If they set up as nonprofit corporations, they endangered their tax exemptions if the primary purpose was to make money from Read More

Another Way to Sink the Ship: Too Much Lobbying

Along with prohibited political activity, another way a 501(c)(3) organization can risk its tax exemption is too much lobbying. Why? Because a tax exemption is a taxpayer subsidy to your organization -- without it, you’d have to pay tax on your revenue.  So Congress has wanted to make sure that a 501(c)(3)’s activities don’t veer too far into the partisan arena. But the lawmakers have also realized that many Read More