Before this year, some people mused that 2020 would be a great year because then we would “see the world more clearly, with 20/20 vision.” Little did we know. The only thing clear is that our musings were clearly wrong. 2020 has been a blur, surrounded by a haze, dipped inside a fog. We have faced down challenges that none of us could have ever anticipated. Now the year ends with the darkness of record numbers of people contracting and dying from COVID-19. But also with a glimmer of light on the horizon as scientists are carefully reviewing the efficacy of multiple potential vaccines.
While it didn’t make Merriam-Webster’s list of the top 11 words of the year like “mamba” or “malarkey,” we’d nominate “adaptability” as the nonprofit word of the year. Fundraising events moved online. Spaces were reconfigured. Conferences became virtual. More people were helped by organizations with fewer volunteers and staff working shifts to keep people safe. Nonprofits have been downright heroic.
The challenges won’t end as the calendar flips to 2021. We’re likely looking at at least another six months before there is a return to any sense of normalcy. Thus, adaptation will need to continue, and the good news is, that’s what nonprofits do best: we innovate to find workable solutions. In this, our final edition of 2020, we share insights in two areas where adaptation has been necessary: fundraising and leadership, along with an opportunity for you to share your own insights by giving feedback in early January to the IRS on Form 990, Form 1023-EZ, and dozens more.
We wish you a happy, healthy holiday season. See you in 2021!
The Advantages of Systematizing Fundraising
The official nonprofit motto might be, “If we had more time, more resources, more staff, we could.…” One of the conclusions of that sentence is frequently, “raise more money.” That’s even more important now, when organizations are stretched thinner than ever. By systematizing your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts, you can more efficiently raise the resources your nonprofit needs to advance its mission. The systems don’t need to be complicated or costly. We invited experienced nonprofit fundraiser Joe Garecht to share the four components of a strong fundraising system and a simple example that your nonprofit can build upon.
Beware Increased Unemployment Costs Due to Fraud and Government Errors
Nothing attracts fraudsters more than a large-scale, fast-moving program. As state governments were getting overwhelmed by the avalanche of pandemic-induced unemployment claims, hackers began - and still continue to - exploit the system. Unless you are careful, your nonprofit might end up paying the price.
Bad actors are using stolen personal information (such as social security numbers) from data breaches, fake email scams, and other illegal activities to file fraudulent unemployment claims. State government personnel, unaware that the information was stolen, have been transferring those costs to the alleged employers, including nonprofits. The U.S. Department of Labor released a letter on the need to be monitoring for suspicious activities. Nonprofit executives should carefully review and double-check the detailed bills from your state workforce agency each pay period and immediately notify authorities if you become aware of any of these activities.
In addition to outright fraud, states are finding they made plenty of innocent mistakes when paying out a record number of pandemic-caused jobless claims. Government unemployment offices, often understaffed on top of being overburdened, are beginning to discover a massive number of mistakes among those payments. In an effort to quickly push money out the door to the unemployed, state governments spent hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments to claimants and are now looking to recoup those payments from recipients. Overpayment notices have been mailed to some recipients asserting they had incorrectly reported wages, provided false information regarding job separation, or were unqualified for benefits under loosened restrictions. When governments correctly or incorrectly claw back those funds, inevitably nonprofits will be called upon to provide for the needs of those experiencing these increased financial pressures and fill the gaps in government budgets.
Helping Your Team Through a Crisis
Leadership requires much more than guiding an organization’s strategy and work. It also involves creating an environment that supports the members of the team. In a crisis, some aspects of leadership take on added importance. Listening, being supportive, and finding light moments – even when they seem few and far between – are vital.
These are among the insights shared by Linda Johanek, a Senior Associate with Morino Ventures and an Ambassador with the Leap Ambassadors Community. Johanek shares insights she learned from her time leading an organization that helped survivors of domestic violence and child abuse, and she includes insights from several other Leap Ambassadors.
Share Your Feedback on Form 990 with the IRS
Routine annual filing. Time-consuming headache. Key source of information on nonprofit finances, policies, and core activities. However you look at the Form 990, the IRS wants to hear from you. The IRS is looking at potential revisions to nearly six dozen forms, including Form 990, Form 1023, and Form 1023-EZ, and is inviting comments from you and the public by January 11, 2021. The IRS is seeking input on, among other things, whether the collection of information is necessary and has practical utility; ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Think filing public comments is difficult? It’s easier than you might think. Check out our quick guide on filing comments. These opportunities don’t come along very often, so be sure to share your feedback to help improve Form 990 by January 11.
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