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Supporting Your Faith with Fiscal Accountability


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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Want to Boost Income? Consider a For-Profit Subsidiary

Just because you run a not-for-profit organization doesn’t mean you can function on low or no income. Although your nonprofit’s tax-exempt status prohibits certain money-making activities, you may be able to create a for-profit subsidiary that isn’t hampered by such restrictions. In addition to producing income, a subsidiary can help you reduce taxable unrelated business income and limit legal liability.

Surplus support

Nonprofits must have a legitimate reason for forming a for-profit subsidiary. Fortunately, “legitimate” is broadly defined. You may create a for-profit subsidiary to generate revenue to support your nonprofit — whether surpluses are used for budget shortfalls, emergencies or new programs. For example, your historical museum may open an adjacent restaurant. After taxes and operating expenses, you may use surpluses from the restaurant for your nonprofit.

You just have to be careful not to distribute any of a subsidiary’s profit to board members or employees. That’s private inurement, and it’s illegal.

UBIT issues

Forming a for-profit subsidiary can also be a good idea if your nonprofit is subject to unrelated business income tax (UBIT). This is particularly important if you’re at risk of losing your exempt status because the IRS considers your gross revenue, net income or staff time devoted to unrelated business activities as too “substantial.”

Many nonprofits with income-generating real estate holdings form subsidiaries for this reason. If, for instance, a donor has given you a piece of commercial real estate and you want to develop the property and rent it to retail businesses, a separate for-profit entity is recommended. You’ll owe corporate taxes on the subsidiary’s net income, but you can use the after-tax profits for your nonprofit’s activities without fear of losing your exempt status or owing UBIT.

Legal concerns

You also may be motivated by legal concerns. If your nonprofit owns significant assets or offers services unrelated to your mission, a separate entity can insulate you from liability risks. This includes lawsuits alleging negligence and accidental injury that could prove financially devastating.

And if you run unique programs or initiatives with different management and staff requirements, a subsidiary can help prevent these sideline activities from overwhelming your nonprofit work. Finally, a for-profit subsidiary may provide your organization with funding opportunities that were previously inaccessible. For example, a subsidiary is generally in a better position to obtain bank loans and private investor money than a nonprofit.

Better alternatives?

If a subsidiary sounds like a good idea, be sure to take it up with your board. Board members must support the introduction of any subsidiary — and they may have valid objections that you haven’t considered. Also talk to financial and legal advisors who can help you decide if a subsidiary is the best option for boosting income, or whether better alternatives exist. Contact us for help with questions or concerns at Online Stewardship or our parent company, Patrick & Raines CPAs. You may reach out to Lynn by calling (904) 396-5400 or email her at or

© 2023

Joining Forces with another Nonprofit

A merger may seem like something that happens in the corporate world, where companies often combine to expand sales territory, gain competitive advantages and boost profits. But, in fact, mergers between not-for-profit organizations can offer similar advantages, including greater financial resilience and lower expenses.

Over the past several years — particularly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — many nonprofit hospitals and institutions of higher learning have explored and executed mergers. But even smaller nonprofits can benefit from the right combination.

Signs of success

Successful mergers are based on a foundation of solid motivations. You might decide to merge to establish the stability that will make it easier to pursue your mission. Such a union could lead to a stronger organization that’s better able to survive difficult times. You also might want to merge to reduce competition for funding.

A merger can help nonprofits achieve economies of scale that will make the merged organization more efficient, too. This might come, for example, from combining infrastructures — everything from staffing and board leadership to administration, information systems, human resources and accounting. A merger could also give you access to a wider network, as well as more perspectives and experiences to base decisions on. And it might enable you to provide more programming or add physical locations.

The best mergers usually occur when the two organizations share similar missions, values and work cultures. That doesn’t mean you and a potential merger partner must offer duplicative services, but you should at least complement each other. It’s also important to have clearly defined goals for the combination and to make prompt decisions to facilitate a swift integration.

Potential pitfalls

For all of the worthwhile reasons to consider a merger, it’s important to remember that mergers do sometimes fail. One common reason is that the merger itself, as well as the new organization, can cost much more than expected. In the short term, for example, you’ll need to finance transactional and integration costs.

Arrangements intended to rescue a failing organization are another red flag. In this scenario, you usually see a larger, more stable nonprofit swoop in to save a smaller counterpart that, despite its weaknesses, has something to offer. But a merger isn’t likely to solve problems such as poor leadership. The better approach in such a situation is for the larger nonprofit to acquire assets, or viable pieces, of the smaller organization.

Common factor

One critical factor in the success of any merger — for- or not-for-profit — is the assistance of knowledgeable, experienced advisors. Contact us to discuss your organization’s plans and we can help you assess whether a merger makes sense at Online Stewardship or our parent company, Patrick & Raines CPAs. You may reach out to Lynn by calling (904) 396-5400 or email her at or

© 2023

Build a better nonprofit board with term limits

Are your not-for-profit’s board members subject to term limits? If not, you might want to consider implementing what’s widely considered a best practice.

Some board members lose enthusiasm for the job over time or might even become ineffective or disruptive. Negative attitudes at the board level can easily trickle down and harm your organization’s programs and initiatives, not to mention its financial health. Then there are the board members who invest so much time and energy in your nonprofit that they risk burnout. Term limits give all of these board members a way to make a graceful exit.

Pros and cons

One of the great advantages of term limits is that they can help your organization build a more diverse board over time. They allow you to add people with certain skills and perspectives (such as financial or political expertise) as needed and make it easier to ensure your board represents its community’s gender, racial, economic, religious and other diverse groups. And as board positions open up, you can expand your circle of invested stakeholders beyond the usual core group of volunteers.

Another advantage is that term limits preempt “power hoarding” issues that can occur when authority is concentrated in the hands of a small, entrenched group. Sometimes, such cliques intimidate new members, as well as staff, and block necessary change. Regular turnover provides opportunities to eliminate domineering personalities and improve group dynamics.

Also, term limits can help prevent insider fraud. It’s generally easier for long-term board members who know an organization’s ins and outs to override internal controls and hide fraudulent schemes.

Term limits could have some disadvantages, however, including potential loss of institutional knowledge, expertise and donations from both board members and their networks. You could lose significant volunteer hours, as well. Regular turnover also requires time and resources. You’ll need to regularly identify, recruit and train new members and work to build the cohesiveness required for collaboration.

Setting terms

If term limits sound like a good idea, you’ll need to establish rules. Don’t adopt terms that are too long because it could discourage new members from applying. On the other hand, terms that are too short don’t give members sufficient time to make meaningful contributions, at least if they’re combined with tight limits on the number of terms a member can serve. Short terms also mean holding frequent elections.

You might, for example, allow two consecutive three-year terms or a total of six years with a minimum one-year hiatus between terms. To reduce disruption, structure it so that only one-third of the board departs at a time. Consider conferring emeritus status or establishing advisory boards to keep these departing board members invested.

Amending bylaws

If you don’t already have term limits, you’ll need to amend your bylaws to establish them. Contact us for help doing so or to discuss other governance issues at Online Stewardship or our parent company, Patrick & Raines CPAs. You may reach out to Lynn by calling (904) 396-5400 or email her at or

© 2023

Clean energy credits: what you need to know!


Harnessing the Power of Clean Energy Credits: A Guide for Tax-Exempt Entities

Under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA), tax-exempt entities have a unique opportunity to benefit from clean energy tax credits. In this blog, we’ll delve into what you need to know about claiming and receiving these valuable credits.

The Impact of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022

Starting with tax years commencing after December 31, 2022, eligible entities can opt to make an elective payment election. This election essentially redefines how certain credits are treated – instead of being nonrefundable, they are recognized as payments against federal income tax liabilities. Any excess credit can even be refunded.

Exploring Available Clean Energy Credits

To gain insight into which clean energy tax credits you can leverage, Publication 5817-G provides a comprehensive list of elective pay eligible tax credits. This resource serves as a valuable reference point for organizations looking to embrace clean energy incentives.

Pre-Filing Registration: A Vital Step

Before embarking on the journey of claiming clean energy credits, a pre-filing registration process must be completed. This step is crucial as it helps ensure that you are well-prepared to make an elective payment election on your annual tax return.

Applicable entities must have their own Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Tax Identification Number (TIN) to successfully navigate this process. It’s important to note that using or borrowing the EIN of a related entity is not permissible.

The online pre-filing registration process is set to be launched in late 2023. After the launch, you can initiate pre-filing registration once you’ve gathered all the necessary information. You can sign up at the clean energy website to get updates.

Completing Pre-Filing Registration

To complete the pre-filing registration, you will need to provide specific information about your organization, the applicable credits you intend to earn, and details about each eligible project or property that will contribute to the applicable credit. The IRS will review the information you provide and issue a separate registration number for each applicable credit property where sufficient, verifiable information has been furnished.

Remember, the registration process is not complete until you receive your registration number. Each entity making an elective payment election must possess a unique Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Making an Elective Payment Election for Clean Energy Tax Credits

Now, let’s walk through the steps for making an elective payment election to claim clean energy tax credits:

1.  Identify and Pursue the Qualifying Project or Activity: Start by determining which credit you intend to earn. This step sets the foundation for your clean energy journey.

2.  Determine Your Tax Year: If you haven’t already, determine your organization’s tax year. This decision will influence the due date for your tax return.

3.  Complete Pre-Filing Registration with the IRS: As mentioned earlier, this step is crucial in establishing your eligibility and ensuring a smooth process.

4.  Satisfy Eligibility Requirements: Ensure you meet all eligibility requirements for the tax credit and any applicable bonus credits for the given tax year. For instance, if you plan to claim an energy credit for a solar energy generating project, make sure the project is in service before making an elective payment election. You should also have all the necessary documentation to substantiate the underlying tax credit, including any bonus amounts that may have increased the credit.

5.  File the Required Annual Tax Return: Submit your annual tax return by the due date (or extended due date) and make a valid elective payment election. This includes properly completing and attaching source credit forms, form 3800 (including registration numbers), and all required return attachments.

By following these steps and staying informed about the opportunities presented by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, tax-exempt entities can harness the power of clean energy credits to make a positive impact on the environment while reaping financial benefits.

If you still have questions, contact the Online Stewardship team of accountants at 904-398-4747 or; or, call our parent company, Patrick & Raines CPAs, at 904-396-5400.

Cut taxes by reimbursing expenses with an accountable plan

If you’re looking for another way to attract and retain staffers that won’t bust your nonprofit’s budget, consider offering an accountable plan. It’s an easy and low-cost way to reimburse employees for out-of-pocket expenses free from income and employment taxes. Let’s take a look.

Reasonable reimbursements

Accountable plan reimbursement payments aren’t subject to income or employment taxes. That’s a big bonus for employees who, for example, travel frequently for work or often pay for work-related supplies out of their own pocket. Your organization can also benefit because reimbursements aren’t subject to the employer’s portion of federal employment taxes.

The IRS stipulates that all expenses covered in an accountable plan have a business connection and are “reasonable.” In addition:

  • You can’t reimburse employees more than they paid for any business expense,
  • Employees must account for their expenses, and
  • If an expense allowance was provided, employees must return any excess allowance within a reasonable time period.

Examples of expenses that might qualify for tax-free reimbursements through an accountable plan include tools and equipment, home office supplies, dues and subscriptions. Certain meal, travel and transportation expenses also qualify.

Establishing a plan

How do you establish an accountable plan? Although your plan isn’t required to be in writing, formally documenting it will make proving its validity to the IRS easier if it’s ever challenged.

When administering your plan, you’re responsible for keeping reimbursement or expense payments separate from other amounts, such as wages. The accountable plan must reimburse expenses in addition to an employee’s regular compensation. No matter how informal your nonprofit, you can’t substitute tax-free reimbursements for compensation that employees otherwise would have received.

The IRS also requires employers with accountable plans to keep good records. This includes documentation of the amount of the expense and the date; place of the travel, meal or transportation; the business purpose; and the relationship of the participants to your organization. You also should require employees to submit receipts for expenses of $75 or more and for all lodging unless your nonprofit uses a per diem plan.

Potential drawbacks

There are potential drawbacks to offering an accountable plan — for instance, increased administration time and costs. Contact us to discuss the pros and cons at Online Stewardship or our parent company, Patrick & Raines CPAs. You may reach out to Lynn by calling (904) 396-5400 or email her at or

© 2023

Make fundraising a year-round commitment

If your not-for-profit focuses all of its fundraising energy on the holiday season and end of the year, it’s not misguided. After all, 26% of charitable giving to nonprofits occurs in December, according to the 2023 M+R Benchmarks Study. But that means almost three quarters of annual donations need to be obtained during the rest of the year. Even if your December haul is much greater, you still risk experiencing cash shortfalls.

The best way to make fundraising an ongoing process with strategies you can use any time of the year is to build a fundraising plan.

It takes a team

The first step to a solid fundraising plan is to form a fundraising committee. This should consist of board members, your executive director and other key staffers. You may also want to include major donors and active community members.

Committee members need to start by reviewing past fundraising sources and approaches and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each. Even if your overall fundraising efforts have been less than successful, some sources and approaches may still be worth keeping. Next, brainstorm new donation sources and methods and select those with the greatest fundraising potential.

As part of your plan, outline the roles you expect board members to play in fundraising efforts. For example, in addition to making their own donations, they can be crucial links to corporate and individual supporters.

A flexible plan

Once the committee has developed a plan for where to seek funds and how to ask for them, it’s time to create a fundraising budget that includes operating expenses, staff costs and volunteer projections. After the plan and budget have board approval, develop an action plan for achieving each objective and assign tasks to specific individuals.

Most important, once you’ve set your plan in motion, don’t let it sit on the shelf. Regularly evaluate the plan and be ready to adapt it to organizational changes and unexpected situations. Although you’ll want to give new fundraising initiatives time to succeed, don’t be afraid to cut your losses if it’s obvious an approach isn’t working.

Get going now

Perhaps you’re gearing up for your year-end campaign (most nonprofits start planning in September or October). That doesn’t mean you should wait until the new year to build a more comprehensive fundraising plan. Your organization’s cash flow depends on steady income, so the sooner you put a plan in place, the better. For more information on fundraising, contact the Online Stewardship team of accountants at 904-396-5400 or

© 2023

Every Nonprofit needs a Disaster Plan!

Almost no region of the United States has escaped some form of natural disaster or extreme weather this summer. Although wildfires, floods and unusually high temperatures have grabbed the headlines lately — for good reason — your not-for-profit also needs to be prepared for such unnatural disasters as terrorist threats and mass shootings. It’s a lot to think about. But the better prepared your organization is for an emergency, the higher the likelihood that you can protect staffers, volunteers and clients from harm and recover operations in a timely manner.

Anticipating threats

No organization can anticipate or eliminate all possible risks, but you can limit the damage of potential risks specific to your nonprofit. The first step in creating a disaster plan is to identify the threats you face when it comes to your people, operations and technology. If you work with vulnerable populations, you may need to take extra precautions to protect your clients. For example, you might need a fire evacuation plan that provides special procedures for wheelchair-bound and senior clients.

Also, assess potential damages if your operations were interrupted. For example, if your city is vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding, what are possible outcomes regarding property damage and financial losses? How might you limit damages and unexpected costs by, for example, waterproofing your building’s foundation and maintaining flood insurance?

Team responsibilities

To flesh out your disaster plan, designate a lead person to oversee its creation and implementation. Then assemble teams to handle different duties. For example, a communications team could be responsible for contacting and updating staff, volunteers and other stakeholders, as well as updating your website and social media accounts. Other teams might focus on safety and evacuation procedures, technology issues (including backing up data offsite) and financial and insurance needs.

One of the most important components of your plan will be recovery. Think about how your nonprofit will get employees back to work and your office and services up and running again. You may need to plan in phases that can be rolled out depending on the extent of the disaster’s damage.

Limited resources

Smaller nonprofits may worry about how they can expend their limited resources to create a comprehensive disaster plan and take actions to protect their assets. Concentrate on the most likely emergencies. For example, if your nonprofit is located in the Northern Plains, you probably don’t need to worry about hurricanes or a big earthquake but do need to plan for the possibility of tornadoes. Increasingly, organizations in every part of the country must have procedures for fires and power outages due to extreme heat. For help with the financial aspects of a disaster plan that prioritizes your nonprofit’s specific risks, contact us for help with questions or concerns at Online Stewardship or our parent company, Patrick & Raines CPAs. You may reach out to Lynn by calling (904) 396-5400 or email her at or

© 2023

Nonprofits: Outsourcing HR could save time and money

Employers that outsource HR are no longer outliers. Approximately one-third of U.S. employers outsource at least one HR function, according to software company ZipDo. And for good reason: Many HR responsibilities, such as benefits administration and recruiting, have recently become more complex and specialized. If your nonprofit’s HR staff is still trying to do everything in-house, you may want to consider handing over some duties to outside professionals.

Potential savings and other benefits

First, decide which HR functions you would farm out — for example payroll; benefits planning and administration; leave management; recruiting; worker training; performance reviews; and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). These are all labor-intensive responsibilities where expertise counts. Transferring all or some of them to the right outside party could vault your organization to a higher level of professionalism and efficiency.

Next, gauge potential savings and other benefits. Even if the cost to outsource is more, you may decide that the extra dollars are worth freeing up staff hours for other initiatives. Also assess the drawbacks to outsourcing. Certain tasks may require an understanding of your organization’s culture and history to be effective. Plus, you need think about the impact of terminating HR people currently on staff.

Vetting vendors

Be sure you get buy-in from your management team and board of directors before you decide to vet HR vendors. When you start screening providers, ask questions about the scope of their service, how long they’ve been in business and how many nonprofit clients they have in your sector and of a comparable size.

Before choosing a vendor, make sure you understand what and how it charges — for example, by the hour or on retainer. And be clear about whether services will be provided on-site, off-site or in a combination of the two. It’s also important to set mutual expectations, including what the provider will depend on your staff and board to do. Once you’ve selected a vendor, ask your attorney to review the contract before you sign it.

Stretched too thin?

If you’re still undecided, here’s a sobering statistic that you might consider: The Society for Human Resource Management has found that nearly 75% of HR professionals feel their department is stretched too thin. Even if you don’t think outsourcing is the right choice for now, be sure to talk to your HR manager about workload issues. Unhappy HR staffers can affect your entire organization’s morale and your nonprofit’s ability to serve clients. Contact us for help with questions or concerns at Online Stewardship or our parent company, Patrick & Raines CPAs. You may reach out to Lynn by calling (904) 396-5400 or email her at or

© 2023

Be smart when accepting cryptocurrency donations

Several years ago, when cryptocurrency was still a novel concept, many not-for-profits chose not to accept crypto donations. Now, crypto is so ubiquitous that it’s difficult — and probably a mistake — to refuse it. Yet crypto remains a risky and even unstable form of currency. Here are a few things to think about when accepting these donations.

The basics

Cryptocurrency refers to a decentralized form of digital currency that’s tracked in a blockchain ledger. Unlike traditional currencies, the ledger doesn’t reside with a central authority, such as a bank or government, but across public peer-to-peer networks. The value of cryptocurrencies derives in part from their scarcity. In the case of Bitcoin, for example, the supply is limited to 21 million “coins.”

One of the most significant risks related to cryptocurrencies is their price volatility. Although Bitcoin has enjoyed periods of lower price volatility than even the S&P 500 index, it’s also capable of shifting in value more than 10% in a single day. Imagine a donation that drops that much in value within hours of receipt. Cryptocurrency prices can also shoot up rapidly.

Big price gains is one reason some owners choose to donate crypto holdings to charity — to avoid capital gains tax on the appreciation. But there are other benefits. Most traditional electronic donation apps charge transaction fees, but donors can avoid them by gifting crypto. The result: More money is available to serve your mission. Also, using the blockchain makes record-keeping easy, and without the hassle of currency exchange, global donors may be more likely to give to your nonprofit.

Containing risks

Given crypto’s price volatility, you need to contain the risks of accepting it. One way is through a third-party facilitator, such as The Giving Block, Engiven or Bitpay. These platforms allow nonprofits to convert crypto donations into dollars — before their value can fall. However, they typically charge a small fee, similar to credit card transaction fees.

If, on the other hand, you decide to accept cryptocurrency donations directly, and perhaps benefit from appreciation, you must create a digital wallet through a bank or mobile phone app. Wallets store the public and private keys required to send and receive coins. Be sure to implement internal controls and security measures to secure your keys and wallets if you go this route.

IRS requirements

When it comes to reporting, the IRS says nonprofits should treat crypto donations as noncash contributions on Form 990. You must file Schedule M if you receive more than $25,000 in noncash contributions (or contributions of art, historical treasures or similar assets, or qualified conservation contributions).

If you accept cryptocurrency directly and convert it to cash within three years after receipt, you’re required to file Form 8282, Donee Information Return, and give the donor a copy. If the donation is worth more than $5,000, your organization will need to sign the donor’s Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions.

Most benefit

When it comes to accepting crypto, don’t sit on the fence. Most nonprofits benefit when they accept donations in whatever form supporters want to contribute. However, you’ll need to establish crypto gift acceptance policies and vet any facilitator or service you want to work with. Contact us for help with questions or concerns at Online Stewardship or our parent company, Patrick & Raines CPAs. You may reach out to Lynn by calling (904) 396-5400 or email her at or

© 2023

Nonprofits: Special events call for tax planning

Tax reporting may be the last thing on your mind when planning a special fundraising event. But your not-for-profit should carefully track revenues and expenses and retain related documentation now to facilitate the reporting process later. Pay attention to the following issues.

What to report

Tax reporting for an event may require different — and more — information than financial statement reporting does. If your organization adheres to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), you usually must report revenue and expenses related to special events on your financial statements as special event revenue. For tax purposes, though, your organization may be able to report some of the event ticket revenue as contributions. For example, if attendees pay more for a ticket to a dinner than the dinner’s fair market value (FMV), the excess would be a contribution.

Tax reporting can require more granular information, too. You report special event data on IRS Form 990, “Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax.” If you’re reporting more than $15,000 in fundraising event gross income and contributions, you also need to complete Schedule G, “Supplemental Information Regarding Fundraising or Gaming Activities.”

Schedule G requires you to report amounts for cash prizes, noncash prizes, facilities rental, food and beverages, and entertainment. If your event includes gaming, you’ll have to answer a series of multi-part questions on Schedule G, too. In addition, you’ll need to allocate income and expenses between the gaming and fundraising event on Form 990.

How to handle donations and donors

Nonprofits often rely on donated services or facilities, as well as the work of volunteers. Although GAAP generally requires nonprofits to record such in-kind contributions and sometimes the value of volunteer time, the IRS doesn’t include them in contributions or expenses. Goods donated for an event, on the other hand, are reported as contribution revenue and, when used, as expenses.

Be sure to provide donors with information about the tax benefits they receive from participating in a special event. They might not be aware that their deductible contributions are reduced by the FMV of the benefit they receive. It’s generally up to you to report the value donors receive in a written statement, reminding them to deduct only the excess of their payment over the FMV. Specifically, you must provide the disclosure for payments of more than $75. Note that it’s the initial payment amount that triggers the obligation — not the amount of the deductible portion. Failure to make the disclosure can result in a penalty of $10 per contribution, up to $5,000 per fundraising event.

Even if it’s not legally required, you should routinely provide special event participants with a statement of the benefits they receive. You’ll make it easier for them at tax time, which could result in the kind of goodwill that leads to future support.

When to start organizing

Although it may seem like more work, planning for tax reporting while you’re still in the early stages of your event preparation will pay dividends later. If you need help collecting data or complying with IRS rules, contact us with questions or concerns at Online Stewardship or our parent company, Patrick & Raines CPAs. You may reach out to Lynn by calling (904) 396-5400 or email her at or

© 2023

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