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I have been the treasurer for my church for the better part of 10 years. It is an important job but one that requires a certain amount of specialized knowledge to do it properly which makes it very difficult to ever move out of the position. Having a firm like OSA&C to step in and do the detailed work allows our church finance committee to focus on making the decisions that are best for the church and not be concerned with the details of the books. What a relief!

William S. Hart, CFP, MBA
Retirement Strategies, Inc.

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Financial dashboards can steer your nonprofit toward financial success

Not-for-profits increasingly are adopting a corporate world tool: financial dashboards. A dashboard is a summary of an organization’s progress toward a specific goal over time — or a snapshot of its current situation. Dashboards are designed to help boards and other constituents visualize important metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs). But to facilitate informed, timely decisions, it’s critical to select the right KPIs.

Choosing the right KPIs

A nonprofit’s financial KPIs will depend largely on factors such as its revenue streams, key expense factors, budget and strategic goals. To include the most useful metrics, identify your organization’s “business” drivers and solicit input from your audience.

Additionally, determine which factors affect the reliability of your revenue streams — and which influence expense levels. Then create KPIs that monitor those factors. Think, too, about the level at which you want to track your KPIs. You could monitor them by individual program or function, or at the organizational level.

Looking at an example

Say that a performing arts organization’s board is concerned about financial stability and liquidity. The nonprofit’s primary business drivers are proper pricing and maximum attendance. Its dashboard might include KPIs such as an increase or decrease in operating results, the level of liquid unrestricted net assets, current debt ratio (total liabilities / total assets), and progress toward a desired number of months’ cash on hand (cash on hand + current unrestricted investments / average monthly expenses). The organization also would want to monitor the number of tickets sold and average revenue per performance.

Over time, this nonprofit likely would need to adjust its KPIs as its strategies, priorities or programs change. As many organizations have learned recently, what was “key” last year isn’t necessarily key in today’s challenging environment.

Considering popular KPIs

Certain KPIs are popular among nonprofits. These include:

Current ratio. This reflects your organization’s ability to satisfy debts coming due within the year. Divide current assets by current liabilities. A ratio of “1” or more generally means you can meet those obligations.

Projected year-end cash. Based on the current cash position plus budgeted cash flows through the end of the fiscal year, this projects liquidity and ability to satisfy upcoming commitments.

Year-to-date revenue and expense. This KPI measures actual results against a budget and lets you know separately if revenues and expenses are in line with expectations or within a reasonable range.

Program efficiency ratio. The ratio assesses an organization’s mission efficiency by showing the amount of funding that goes to programs vs. administrative or other expenses. Calculate it by dividing a program’s expenses by its overall expenses.

Meaningful metrics

By providing a target such as budgeted amounts, chronological trends or external benchmarks, you’ll make the metrics more meaningful for your audiences. 

If you have any questions on what KPIs to look out for and how they can affect your nonprofit, contact the Online Stewardship team of talented accountants at Lynn@OnlineStewardship.com

© 2020


Should your nonprofit accept that new grant?

Current financial pressures mean that your not-for-profit probably can’t afford to pass up offers of support. Yet you need to be careful about blindly accepting grants. Smaller nonprofits that don’t have formal grant evaluation processes are at risk of accepting grants with unmanageable burdens and costs. But large organizations also need to be careful because they have significantly more grant opportunities — including for grants that are outside their current expertise and experience.

Here’s how accepting the wrong grant may backfire in costly and time-consuming ways.

Administrative burdens

Some grants could result in excessive administrative burdens. For example, you could be caught off guard by the reporting requirements that come with a grant as small as $5,000. You might not have staff with the requisite reporting experience, or you may lack the processes and controls to collect the necessary data. Often government funds passed through to your nonprofit still carry the requirements that are associated with the original funding, which can be quite extensive.

Grants that go outside your organization’s original mission can pose problems, too. Managing the grant may involve a steep learning curve. You could even face an IRS challenge to your exempt status.

Cost inefficiencies

Another risk is cost inefficiencies. A grant can create unforeseen expenses that undermine its face value. For example, new grants from either federal or foundation sources may have explicit administrative requirements your organization must satisfy.

Additionally, your nonprofit might run up expenses to complete the program that aren’t allowable or reimbursable under the grant. Before saying “yes” to a grant, net all these costs against the original grant amount to determine its true benefit.

Lost opportunities

For any unreimbursed costs associated with new grants, consider other ways your organization might spend that money (and staff resources). Could you get more mission-related bang for your buck if you spend it on existing programs?

Quantifying the benefit of a new grant or program can be equally or more challenging than identifying its costs. Evaluate every program to quantify its impact on your mission. This will allow you to answer the critical question when evaluating a potential grant: Are there existing programs that can be expanded using the same funds to yield a greater benefit to your mission?

Do your homework

Grants from the government or a foundation can help your nonprofit expand its reach and improve its effectiveness in both the short and long term but they also can hamstring your organizations in unexpected ways. For help evaluating your options, contact the talented team of Online Stewardship accountants at Lynn@OnlineStewardship.com.

© 2020


Recently, the Federal Reserve announced that not-for-profit organizations now may apply for loans under the $600 billion Main Street Lending Program. Previously open only to for-profit businesses with more than 100 employees, the program offers low-interest loans with relatively relaxed repayment terms. If your organization needs funding to keep operating during this difficult period, a Main Street loan may be an option.

The Basics

Initially, the Main Street program offered loans through three credit facilities but has added two more specifically for nonprofits: Nonprofit Organization New Loan Facility and Nonprofit Expanded Loan Facility. The difference between the two is that the Expanded Facility makes larger loans to qualified applicants, such as universities and hospitals.

Eligible banks accept applications and extend loans, but the Fed takes a 95% stake in them. Like the Paycheck Protection Program, Main Street is funded in part by CARES Act funds. It is designed to help keep organizations operating and able to retain and hire employees.

Rules for applicants

To qualify for a Main Street loan, nonprofit organizations must be tax exempt and have:

  • A minimum of 10 employees,
  • Been in operation for at least five years,
  • Less than a $3 billion endowment,
  • Total non-donation revenues equal to 60% of expenses or more, 2017 through 2019,
  • 2019 operating margin of 2% or more,
  • Cash on hand for 60 days,
  • A debt repayment capacity of greater than 55%.

Loans have a five-year term and interest rate of LIBOR plus 3%. Interest payments are deferred for one year. Loan size depends, of course, on the size and financial health of your nonprofit, but amounts generally run from $250,000 to $300 million.

Right for you?

Even if your nonprofit has never taken out a loan, it may be necessary now during the COVID-19 crisis. But you’ll need to think carefully about your nonprofit’s ability to repay any loan. We can help evaluate your creditworthiness and repayment capacity. We can also suggest alternate funding options, including other loan programs. Contact our talented accounting team at Lynn@OnlineStewardship.com.

© 2020


An advisory board can complement your nonprofit’s board of directors

Your not-for-profit has a board of directors — so why would it need an additional advisory board? There are a few reasons. Some organizations assemble advisory boards to provide expertise for a specific project, such as a fundraising campaign. Other organizations use them to give roles to major donors and prestigious supporters who may not be a good fit for a governing board. Here are some other ways to use an advisory board and how to set one up.

Opening the door

Look at your general board members’ demographics and collective profile. Does it lack representation from certain groups — particularly relative to the communities that your organization serves? An advisory board offers an opportunity to add diversity to your leadership. Also consider the skills current board members bring to the table. If your board of directors lacks extensive fundraising or grant writing experience, for example, an advisory board can help fill gaps.

Adding advisory board members can also open the door to funding opportunities. If, for example, your nonprofit is considering expanding its geographic presence, it makes sense to find an advisory board member from outside your current area. That person might be connected with business leaders and be able to introduce board members to appropriate people in his or her community.

Creating a pool

The advisory role is a great way to get people involved who can’t necessarily make the time commitment that a regular board position would require. It also might appeal to recently retired individuals or stay-at-home parents wanting to get involved with a nonprofit on a limited basis.

This also can be an ideal way to “test out” potential board members. If a spot opens on your current board and some of your advisory board members are interested in making a bigger commitment, you’ll have a ready pool of informed individuals from which to choose.

Understanding their role

It’s important that advisory board members understand the role they’ll play. They aren’t involved in the governance of your organization and can’t introduce motions or vote on them. But they can propose ideas, make recommendations and influence voting board members. Often, advisory board members organize campaigns and manage short-term projects.

Advisory boards usually are disbanded after a project is complete. You may also want to consider eliminating an advisory board if it begins to require too much staff time and your organization can’t provide the support it needs. For more information on effective nonprofit governance, feel free to contact us at Lynn@OnlineStewardship.com

© 2020


Appealing to the next generation of supporters

Factors such as wealth level, education and even whether people volunteer, probably will tell you more about potential donors than their generation. But some broad generalizations about age can help not-for-profits target particular groups for support. The newest generation of adults belong to what’s being called Generation Z, and it’s possible to draw some conclusions about this otherwise diverse demographic.

Charitably inclined digital natives

Members of Generation Z typically are either in school or just beginning to launch careers. According to a study conducted by one market research firm, their contributions represent only about 2% of total giving. And their average donation tops out at $341 per year. Yet approximately 44% of Gen Zers have given to charity and they may be more driven to pursue social impact than earlier generations at their age. Many young people are hyperaware of what’s going on both in the world and their own communities.

As digital natives immersed in social media, Gen Zers make good peer-to-peer fundraisers. You might be able to harness the energy of this generation by sponsoring fun runs and similar events that require participants to solicit funds from friends and family members.

Many in this demographic volunteer or perform paid work for more politically oriented causes that they see affecting their own lives, such as gun control, climate change and racial inequality. Consider, for example, the teenagers and young adults who mobilized ongoing gun control campaigns in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Or the Black Lives Matter protests that have been largely led by young adults.

Content tailored to their interests

To reach Gen Z, forget Facebook and even Twitter. Teens and young adults favor platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, so you may need to develop different types of content for these more visual channels. The good news is that younger people tend to be more receptive to digital ads than their parents. But they expect outreach to be narrowly tailored to their interests, so be sure you rely on good data.

Members of Generation Z usually want to be more involved in charitable causes than earlier generations. They may not be satisfied with making one-time donations to nonprofits they barely know. To provide young adults with hands-on roles, create formal volunteer programs and consider setting up a junior board of directors.

Big dividends

Although most young adults aren’t in a position to make major donations now, you should regard this group as your nonprofit’s future. Cultivating their support and loyalty can pay big dividends down the road. For help in planning your nonprofit’s financial future, contact our talented team of accountants at Lynn@OnlineStewardship.com.

© 2020


Nonprofits: Carefully navigate the upcoming election

The 2020 presidential election is fast approaching and your not-for-profit has a stake in its outcome. But that doesn’t mean your organization is free to participate in campaign activities. In general, Section 501(c)(3)s risk losing their tax-exempt status if they participate in campaigning. However, there’s more nuance in the rules than you might suspect.

5 potential traps

Tax-exempt organizations can’t directly or indirectly act in federal, state or local campaigns either for or against a candidate or party. Here are several examples of activities that are generally off-limits:

1. Supporting a candidate or party for election. Your organization can’t get behind or oppose a declared candidate or third-party movement, engage in efforts to draft candidates, or perform advance exploratory work for a candidate or party.

2. Contributing to a campaign or endorsing a candidate. This includes direct financial support and indirect support, such as having your staff make calls on a candidate’s behalf.

3. Providing monetary support. Organizations are barred from donating funds to a candidate or party, and they can’t use another event to raise funds. Section 501(c)(3) not-for-profits are also barred from making loans to candidates or parties.

4. Offering support for support. You can’t ask for “support” from a candidate, political party or other political organization in exchange for your endorsement.

5. Distributing materials. Your nonprofit can’t distribute campaign materials or anything that tells recipient how to vote. This includes online communications.

5 acceptable activities

Of course, there are ways your nonprofit can participate in elections. For example, you can:

1. Sponsor a candidate appearance. If a candidate is invited for nonpolitical reasons — say, as a supporter of your charitable mission — make sure the appearance doesn’t turn into a campaign stop or fundraiser.

2. Hold a debate. If your nonprofit hosts a candidate forum, invite all the candidates, have an independent panel prepare the questions and provide every candidate with equal speaking opportunities. An impartial moderator should state that the views expressed within the debate don’t represent those of your organization.

3. Advocate a political issue. You can try to sway candidates to your way of thinking and encourage them to take a public stand. But you can’t endorse any of them.

4. Help build party platform planks. Your nonprofit can deliver testimony to a party’s platform committee, so long as you clarify that the testimony is strictly educational.

5. Launch a “get out the vote” drive. The drive must be designed solely to educate the public about voting and can’t promote or oppose a candidate or party.

Avoid penalties

Campaign-related offenses are punishable by revocation of tax-exempt status, but first-time offenders may be able to negotiate a less severe penalty. For example, you might agree to change procedures and stipulate that the violation won’t occur again. If your nonprofit spent funds on the banned activity, the IRS may impose excise taxes.

If you’re unsure about the acceptability of a proposed election-related activity, the Online Stewardship team can help.  Contact us at Lynn@onlinestewardship.com.

© 2020


Regaining your tax-exempt status if you failed to file Form 990s

There are many ways for a not-for-profit organization to lose its tax-exempt status — including participating in lobbying and campaign activities, receiving excessive unrelated business income and allowing board members to financially benefit from their positions. But the most common reason nonprofits lose their status is failure to file an annual Form 990 or 990-N for three consecutive years. If your organization has landed on the IRS’s revocation list for this reason, don’t panic. The process for reinstatement is relatively simple.

Getting good with the IRS

Assuming you lost your exempt status for failing to file, you can regain it with another filing. Contact us about submitting either Form 1023, “Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3)” or Form 1024, “Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(a),” based on your type of nonprofit.

Unless you apply for retroactive reinstatement, all of your organization’s activities between the revocation and the reinstatement date will be considered taxable. And all contributions made during that period won’t be deductible by donors. You may apply for retroactive reinstatement, effective the date of the automatic revocation, by filing the applicable form within 15 months or the later of the date of 1) the IRS revocation letter, or 2) the date the IRS posted your organization’s name on its website.

Providing reasonable cause

When you file the correct form, attach a detailed statement that provides reasonable cause for failing to file required returns in each of the three consecutive years. You should state the facts that led to each failure and the continual failure, discovery of the failures and steps taken to avoid or mitigate them.

You will also need to attach:

  • A statement that describes safeguards put in place and steps taken to avoid future failures.
  • Evidence to support all material aspects of those two statements.
  • Properly completed and executed paper tax returns for all taxable years during and after the three-year period your organization failed to file.
  • An original declaration dated and signed by an authorized person in your organization such as an officer or director. (See IRS Notice 2011-44 for the required wording.)

To expedite your application, write “AUTOMATICALLY REVOKED” at the top of the form and envelope and include the specified fee.

Serious repercussions

Losing your tax-exempt status can have serious repercussions. You’d likely owe corporate tax on any revenue as well as back taxes and penalties, and donors can no longer make tax-exempt gifts. So if your nonprofit’s status has been revoked, address the matter immediately. Contact us at Lynn@onlinestewardship.com for help.

© 2020


To survive the current crisis, your nonprofit needs multiple revenue sources

One of the strongest predictors of a not-for-profit’s long-term survival is multiple revenue streams. Many organizations with only one or two found that out the hard way when they failed during the 2008 recession. The same is likely to be true for nonprofits that do — or don’t — survive the current novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Road map to diversification

Financially stable nonprofits have a good mix of revenue sources, with no one source accounting for more than 25% or 30% of the budget. If you aren’t there, take steps to achieve the proper mix:

Perform and present your initial evaluation. Your board should evaluate current revenue streams as well as future plans and associated expenses. You can help board members understand the benefits of diversification by presenting them with multiple scenarios where costs are compared to revenues with and without current revenue sources. Nudge reluctant directors to embrace greater diversification by showing them how eliminating a revenue stream could jeopardize your mission.

Determine additional revenue sources. Consider a wide range of potential sources, weighing the pros and cons of each, including implications for staffing and other resources, accounting processes, unrelated business income taxes and your organization’s exempt status. In addition, assess how well aligned potential sources are with your mission. For example, has that foundation grant you’re thinking about pursuing ever been awarded to another nonprofit serving your population? Does the company that has proposed a joint venture engage in practices that don’t jibe with your nonprofit’s values?

Develop strategies for each new source. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, but you also don’t want to depend on too many “baskets,” because each new revenue stream will require its own strategy. Executing too many implementation plans can strain resources. Therefore, each plan should include initial and ongoing budgets, as well as any new systems, procedures and marketing campaigns that will be needed. It also should have a timeline.

Review and adjust as necessary. Take the time at the end of every month — don’t wait until year end — to closely review each revenue source. Is it living up to expectations? Is it costing more than expected or falling short of revenue projections?

Patience is crucial

The current pandemic environment has curtailed everything from major gifts to corporate giving, fundraising events to individual donations and foundation grants, so your nonprofit is likely hurting even if you have multiple revenue sources. But as society and the economy begin to recover, look for ways to make your organization more resilient. Diversification is an excellent way to do it. For help with necessary finance management and planning, contact us at Lynn@OnlineStewardship.com

© 2020


Is your nonprofit’s tap running dry?

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has put enormous financial stress on many not-for-profits — whether they’re temporarily shut down or actively fighting the pandemic. If cash flow has dried up, your organization may need to do more than trim expenses. Here’s how to assess your financial condition and take appropriate action.

Put your board in charge

Ask your board of directors to lead your review and retrenchment efforts. In addition to having oversight experience and financial expertise, board members have a passion for your organization and will do whatever they can to assist. They may already have employer backing for your nonprofit, and those companies may be willing to step up their financial support. Or board members may be able to tap their social networks.

The first order of business should be to review programs relative to your nonprofit’s mission. If you identify one that isn’t critical to your mission and is a drain on cash balances and staff resources, consider cutting it. Terminating a non-mission-critical program frees up funds for other initiatives or administrative necessities. If you can redirect clients to similar programs offered by other organizations, such changes can be made without a break in service.

Your board may also be able to liberate cash from your investment portfolio. Your nonprofit may have investments or idle assets that aren’t generating operating income — for example, donated real estate, collections and other nonmarketable holdings. Divesting these possessions can raise critical operating funds.

Look to your endowment

Another potential source of operating funds is your organization’s permanently restricted endowment funds. Under the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA), you may be able to spend what was once considered the untouchable original principal (or historical balance) of funds.

Access generally is available when the donor of the original gift is silent about restrictions or hasn’t specified that UPMIFA provisions don’t apply. In some cases, an original condition or restriction may no longer be practicable or possible to achieve. Your nonprofit should consult an attorney to learn whether this is an option.

If UPMIFA provisions don’t open up a source of funds, there’s another potential route — approach the original donor. Your organization can ask the donor to lift all or some of the spending restrictions so you may use a portion of the funds for operating costs.

We can help

These are only a few possible solutions for struggling nonprofits. If you know your nonprofit is in trouble, but don’t know how to start fixing it, contact us at Lynn@Onlinestewardship.com. Our skilled accounting team can work with your board to assess your situation and determine the best way to move forward. 

© 2020


Business charitable contribution rules have changed under the CARES Act, use it to your advantage!

In light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many small businesses are interested in donating to charity. In order to incentivize charitable giving, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act made some liberalizations to the rules governing charitable deductions. By helping spread knowledge of these changes, it might make pulling in necessary donations for your non-profit easier. Here are two changes that affect businesses:

The limit on charitable deductions for corporations has increased. Before the CARES Act, the total charitable deduction that a corporation could generally claim for the year couldn’t exceed 10% of corporate taxable income (as determined with several modifications for these purposes). Contributions in excess of the 10% limit are carried forward and may be used during the next five years (subject to the 10%-of-taxable-income limitation each year).

What changed? Under the CARES Act, the limitation on charitable deductions for corporations (generally 10% of modified taxable income) doesn’t apply to qualifying contributions made in 2020. Instead, a corporation’s qualifying contributions, reduced by other contributions, can be as much as 25% of taxable income (modified). No connection between the contributions and COVID-19 activities is required.

The deduction limit on food inventory has increased. At a time when many people are unemployed, businesses may want to contribute food inventory to qualified charities. In general, a business is entitled to a charitable tax deduction for making a qualified contribution of “apparently wholesome food” to an organization that uses it for the care of the ill, the needy or infants.  

“Apparently wholesome food” is defined as food intended for human consumption that meets all quality and labeling standards imposed by federal, state, and local laws and regulations, even though it may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.

Before the CARES Act, the aggregate amount of such food contributions that could be taken into account for the tax year generally couldn’t exceed 15% of the taxpayer’s aggregate net income for that tax year from all trades or businesses from which the contributions were made. This was computed without regard to the charitable deduction for food inventory contributions.

What changed? Under the CARES Act, for contributions of food inventory made in 2020, the deduction limitation increases from 15% to 25% of taxable income for C corporations. For other business taxpayers, it increases from 15% to 25% of the net aggregate income from all businesses from which the contributions were made.

CARES Act questions

Be aware that in addition to these changes affecting businesses, the CARES Act also made changes to the charitable deduction rules for individuals. If you have questions about any additional changes made to charitable contributions, contact us at Lynn@OnlineStewardship.com or (904)-396-5400. 

© 2020


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