Interest in not-for-profits’ governance practices from lawmakers, watchdog groups and the general public has been growing in recent years. If your board hasn’t reviewed its roles and responsibilities recently, now is a good time.
If your not-for-profit solicits funds online — or uses other fundraising methods that cross state boundaries — it may need to register in multiple jurisdictions. We’ve answered some commonly asked questions.
My charity receives occasional contributions from out-of-state donors. Do I need to register with those states? Yes, but only if you’re actually asking for donations in those states. The critical activity is soliciting, not accepting, funds. Remember, email and text blasts and social media appeals are likely to be considered multistate solicitations.
Individuals who report illegal or unethical practices may risk their careers, or take other kinds of risks, when they do. Whistleblower policies help protect them. No federal law specifically requires not-for-profits to have such policies in place, but several state laws do. And IRS Form 990 asks nonprofits to state whether they have adopted a whistleblower policy.
In recent years, the IRS has increased its scrutiny — including actual audits — of not-for-profits. Do you know what to do if your organization receives an audit letter?
What is an audit?
An audit begins with the initial contact from the IRS and continues until a closing letter is issued. Before closing an audit, an officer of your nonprofit, your CPA and the IRS agent will discuss the agent’s conclusions at a closing conference. Both the conference and letter will explain your appeal rights.
If your not-for-profit is “stuck” and you’re not sure how to move forward, consider adopting some for-profit business practices. The essential missions of businesses and nonprofits are different, but the ways to achieve them often are the same.
Make a plan
Your not-for-profit likely has a growing list of email addresses for donors, members, volunteers and other supporters. Are you making the most of it? If you send every one of your organization’s communications — donation requests, newsletters, meeting announcements — to everyone, you probably aren’t using these addresses as effectively as you could. Email segmentation can help you get the right messages to the right people.
Of the many afflictions that can impede a not-for-profit’s growth, one of the more deadly is “Founder’s Syndrome.” This occurs when a single individual — typically the founder, executive director or other long-term leader — wields a disproportionate amount of power and resists efforts to redistribute authority. Fortunately, there’s a potential cure.
Not-for-profits owe it to their causes and constituencies to uphold prudent fiscal policies. An investment policy designed to safeguard assets is critical to carrying out this responsibility.