Friday, June 25, 2010

Golden Rule of Board Resignations

Board Cafe • By Jan Masaoka • June 18, 2010
At some point you may resign from a nonprofit board before your term is up. You might be angry, disappointed, or just too busy. Don't botch your resignation: do it right.

Most often as board members we stick out our term limits and leave the board feeling good about what we''ve contributed. But there are also times when you resign before your term is up. Maybe you've missed a lot of meetings or maybe you're moving to another city. Maybe you're uneasy with the direction the organization is taking, or maybe you feel that as a board member you are treated like a "mushroom": kept in the dark and fed manure (!).

Regardless of your reason, you can just walk away quietly, or make a weak excuse, or you can use the moment to give meaning to your resignation, both to you and to the board.

Following are some ways to make significance out of your resignation: Read more here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

NY comes up last in volunteerism

The Albany Business Review reported that New Yorkers are not very beneficent when it comes to giving their time. Not at all.

In fact, the Empire State ranks 51st out of 50 states and Washington D.C. when it comes to volunteering, according to the annual Volunteering in America report.

Nationally, however, about 1.6 million more volunteers served in 2009 than in 2008, making this the largest single-year increase in the number of volunteers since 2003, when data was first collected for the study. The report is produced by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a government-sponsored nonprofit. Higher unemployment rates also increase volunteerism.

Nationwide, a total of 63.4 million volunteers contributed 8.1 billion hours of service in 2009, an estimated dollar value $169 billion. Overall, the volunteering rate increased in 2009 to 26.8 percent, up from 26.4 percent in 2008.

Volunteering data used in the annual report is gathered through the Current Population Survey, conducted monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Volunteers are defined as individuals ages 16 and over who perform unpaid activities for or through an organization.

The study showed that 2.9 million, or 19 percent, of New York residents volunteered in 2007-2009, compared with the national average of 26.8 percent. The Capital Region fared better, but still placed in the lower half of the rankings. It ranked 44th out of the 75 mid-sized cities that were studied for the report, with 27.1 percent, or 200,000, of its residents volunteering.

Compared with other mid-sized cities in New York, the Capital Region placed behind Binghamton, ranked 30th, and Poughkeepsie, ranked 41st, and ahead of 71st-ranked Syracuse. Nationally, Provo, Utah, ranked first among mid-sized cities and El Paso, Texas, was last. Utah was the top state for volunteerism.

Volunteers in New York contributed 405.5 million hours, or $8.5 billion worth in service from 2007-2009.

Read more: New York dead-last in volunteerism - The Business Review (Albany)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

United Way now one in Niagara

Buffalo Business First reported that two United Way agencies in Niagara County have completed a consolidation, creating a $1.6 million agency that will serve over 80,000 county residents.

The United Way of Greater Niagara brings together the United Way of Niagara and the Eastern Niagara United Way, which together support 75 different human service programs run by 21 service providers.

Carol Houwaart-Diez, executive director of the new group, says together the agencies will be able to cut costs for business services like insurance rates and rental property, with the savings going back into program allocations to benefit county residents.

As the agency completes the second phase of a needs assessment process, the services funded by the agency may also change, she says.

“Now we’re trying to find out the gaps in the community. Once we find that out, we will determine if there will be significant changes,” she says.

With headquarters in Niagara Falls on Military Road, the agency will shut down its full time Lockview Plaza site this month and open a part-time community service office in Lockport’s Bewley Building. The new organization has seven employees and a 20-member board of directors.

Companies in the region will have one Day of Caring event, one meeting for agency CEOs and one funding process – saving them time and effort.

Initially, the consolidation plan that began four years ago called for bringing together all three United Way agencies in Niagara County, but talks with the United Way of the Tonawandas fell through after members voted it down on two separate occasions.

Read more: United Way now one in Niagara - Business First of Buffalo

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

NYS has authority to review and approve health insurance rates

The Central NY Business Journal reported that the New York State Insurance Department again has the authority to review and approve health-insurance premium increases before they take effect.

Gov. David Paterson signed the bill allowing the reinstatement of the power today.
Since 2000, New York had regulated health-insurance premiums under a "file and use" law that "significantly" limited the state's ability to disapprove premium increases and allowed the insurance industry to regulate itself, the governor's office said in a news release.

The new law requires health insurers and health-maintenance organizations (HMOs) to make an application to the Insurance Department to implement premium increases.
The department would review the rate-increase applications, as well as the underlying calculations, to ensure that the rates are justified and not excessive, the governor's office said.

The law would apply to all rate increases taking effect on or after Oct. 1, 2010.
In addition, the legislation will immediately require health insurers and HMOs to spend more of every premium dollar they collect on medical claims.

In particular, the law raises the "medical-loss ratio," or the percentage of premium spent to provide medical care, from 75 percent to 82 percent for small businesses and from 80 percent to 82 percent for individuals.

In a statement released Tuesday night, the New York State Conference of BlueCross BlueShield Plans expressed "complete disappointment" over what it calls "government-imposed price controls." Read more here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Forum Features Discussion with NYS Comptroller and Strategic Alliances and Partnerships

The blog, Done by People, by Joe Brown, Principal and Founder of Slope Resources, LLC, offered the following recap of the "A Conversation with NYS Comptroller Thomas P. Di Napoli and Panel Discussion on Strategic Alliances & Partnerships."

On Monday, I had the opportunity to attend a highly informative and engaging forum which brought together government and nonprofit representatives to discuss the topic of strategic alliances and partnerships among nonprofit organizations. While the discussion focused on New York State’s nonprofit sector, the challenges, considerations, and ideas discussed are applicable to organizations nationwide. In the absence of a video or audio recording of the session, I wanted to share this detailed recap and my impressions of the session.

The event was sponsored by the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region and the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON) and held at the headquarters of New York State United Teachers (very nice digs, by the way) in Latham, New York, a few miles northeast of Albany.

Karen Bilowith, President and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, presided over the session. The approximately 75 attendees included representatives of various nonprofits, including arts, cultural, health, and human services organizations, as well as a number of funders and consultants (including yours truly). Following Ms. Bilowith’s welcoming comments, New York Secretary of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez provided brief opening remarks. Ms. Cortés-Vázquez assured the attendees that “most in government” recognize the importance of the nonprofit sector and rules and regulations pertaining to the sector should not be so onerous as to provide disincentives for staff, board members, and volunteers to participate.

I’m from the government, and…
Ms. Cortés-Vázquez then introduced the session’s keynote speaker, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The Office of the State Comptroller has responsibility for the review, approval, and payment of the state’s contracts with nonprofit organizations. Mr. DiNapoli noted the importance of the nonprofit sector to the state and its economy, citing 2006 statistics that the state’s approximately 24,000 nonprofits reported revenue of $133 billion and employed nearly 1.2 million people, or 17% of the state’s workforce. He quantified the state’s contractual bonds with the sector as consisting of nearly 31,000 active contracts totaling $14.6 billion, as of June 2009. Read more here.

The balance of the session was devoted to presentations and discussion by a panel consisting of:
■Doug Sauer, who has served as Chief Executive Officer of New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON) since 1980. NYCON’s membership represents approximately 1,600 charitable nonprofit organizations across New York State.
■Cristine Cioffi, who is a partner in the law firm of Cioffi • Slezak • Wildgrube P.C., but spoke primarily in her role as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Ellis Medicine, an organization which resulted from the recent merger of three nonprofit hospitals in Schenectady County.
■David W. Palmquist, who as Manager of the New York State Museum’s Chartering Program, oversees the chartering of museums, historical societies, and similar cultural organizations with educational purposes across the state.
The panelists responded to questions posed by Ms. Bilowith, as well as several questions from audience members.

Doug Sauer
While all three of the panelists presented interesting perspectives on the potential of various collaborative models for nonprofit organizations, I was particularly impressed by Mr. Sauer’s insight and candor on a number of fronts. Early in his presentation, he discussed the recent proliferation of nonprofits, describing the creation of thousands of new organizations each year, many of which are not active, and the resultant saturated environment. (I was reminded of a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which noted that the number of nonprofit organizations nationwide has increased by 90% to 1.2 million since 1996). Read more here.