Six Smart Moves Great Board Chairs Make

3. Think Big. Boards without great leadership can get bogged down in the minutia. The minutia include the compliance and oversight responsibilities of the board. While it’s important to do these things well, it’s not the organization’s raison d’être. Great board chairs help steer the board clear of this phenomenon by keeping the board focused on their vision of the impact the board wants to make on the community the organization serves. Great board chairs understand that focusing on the organization’s breakthrough goals rather than busywork keeps the board energized and engaged.

What is a Private Foundation?

The defining characteristic of a private foundation is donor control. Private foundations are usually privately created, funded, and operated by a single individual, family, or company. As a result, private foundations are generally not dependent upon the support of outside donors and are therefore not subject to the same degree of public scrutiny as public charities that depend on outside funding for their survival.

A Reprieve for Small Nonprofits?

Monday was the deadline for small nonprofits to file overdue Form 990s or face loss of tax-exempt status. Notwithstanding Monday’s deadline , Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Doug Shulman said the agency will do what it can for small charities to keep their exemptions in a statement released on Tuesday.

Nonprofit Bylaws – What to Include and What to Leave Out

It is important to take a thoughtful approach when drafting or revising bylaws. Boards and board committees sometimes spend months or even years trying to draft the perfect set of bylaws . Too often, they look to bylaws of other nonprofit organizations or samples gleaned from the Internet with no regard to whether the bylaws match the structure and style of the organization or comply with state and federal law. Unfortunately, this approach usually leads to confusion, delay, and conflict on the board. The better practice is to work with a knowledgeable attorney from the beginning, starting with a compliant template, and tailoring it to the needs of your organization.

IRS Cyber Assistant – Is it Worth the Wait?

In 2003, the number of applications for exemption had gone up by over 40% with no corresponding increase in the number of IRS Exempt Organization employees. This motivated the IRS to consider how to streamline the application for exemption process to make processing easier for both the IRS and the applicant. The IRS invited a panel of experts from the nonprofit legal community to make recommendations to improve the application process. The panel’s key recommendation was that the IRS revive earlier plans to develop and fund an interactive online Form 1023 filing tool accessible through the IRS website known as the “Cyber Assistant.”
UPDATE: On May 7, 2010, IRS announced in IRS Exempt Organization Update 2010-11, that Cyber Assistant is delayed – no release this year.

May 17 First Major Deadline for New Automatic Revocation of Exemption Penalty

As part of the Pension Protection Act passed in 1996, Congress added a new penalty for tax-exempt organizations that fail to file their annual return for three years in a row. Formerly, the only penalty was a monetary penalty. The new law has upped the ante to impose the ultimate penalty: loss of exemption. The penalty applies to organizations that fail to file Form 990, Form 990-EZ, as well as the relatively new Form 990-N. Form 990-N is a relatively new form that must be filed by tax-exempt organizations whose revenues normally fall below $25,000. Organizations that have their status revoked may apply for reinstatement based on reasonable cause for the failure to file. The first three year period is 2007 through 2009, which means that once the 2010 filing deadline passes for these forms (May 15, 2010 for tax-exempt organizations with calendar fiscal years), organizations that failed to file their Form 990s forms for those three years will automatically lose their tax-exempt status.

Payroll Tax Holiday and Retention Credit for Hiring Unemployed Workers

To help stimulate the hiring of workers by the private sector, the new law exempts any private-sector (meaning non-governmental) employer that hires a worker who had been unemployed for at least 60 days from having to pay the employer’s 6.2% share of the Social Security payroll tax on that employee for the remainder of 2010. A company could save a maximum of $6,621 if it hires an unemployed worker and pays that worker at least $106,800—the maximum amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes—by the end of the year. The benefit is available to both for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations.

Who Owns a Nonprofit Corporation?

Let’s be clear about one thing. No one owns a nonprofit corporation.[1]

While there is no outright ownership, there is control. One of the fundamental questions I ask when forming a new nonprofit corporation is how board members will be selected. This is a key question because those who hold the power to select board members retain the ultimate authority over the corporation.

The possibilities are limited by the nonprofit corporation statute in the state where the corporation is domiciled.

Three Reasons Better Contracts Can Help Nonprofits – by Lindsey Harris

From protecting your brand to purchasing the goods needed to deliver your mission, contracts are an essential part any nonprofit business. Without solid contracts–the kind you can understand and actually use to protect your organization from broken promises and even litigation–meeting your mission can be an uphill battle. If you’re tired of having the same arguments with vendors and service providers or if you’re unsure of how to protect your brand, here are a few reasons why you should add “getting good contracts in place” to the top of your to-do list:

Small is Beautiful – Economics as if People Mattered

Fritz Schumacher published “Small is Beautiful – Economics as if People Mattered” in 1973. According to The Times Literary Supplement, it is among the 100 most influential books published since World War II and rightfully so.

For the last 60 years or so our way of life has been based on the premise that so long as there is demand there will always be supply. Schumacher wisely challenges these assumptions when he writes that sustainability is an impossibility when we are, “assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ than a man who consumes less”, in an environment with finite resources.

E. F. Schumacher is clear about what economics can do and what it can’t do. Mainstream economists divide humans into producers and consumers. As consumers, consuming more will always be in our self-interest. As producers, efficiency is to be desired above all else. This breaks down, Schumacher says, as soon as we realize that producers and consumers are the same people with the same desires.

Carter Law Group: Small is Beautiful

Yes, the rumors are true. CharityLawyer has formed her own law firm. My theme for 2010 is “Small is Beautiful” (which happens to be the title of the next book review). I started my career at a big four accounting firm with thousands of tax professionals, moved down the food chain to a national law firm of only 400 lawyers, and then to a regional law firm with a mere 200 lawyers. So, to continue the trend, I have started my own boutique law firm specializing in representing nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations. The firm is located in Phoenix, Arizona but will represent clients with respect to exempt organizations matters nationwide.