It’s a Zoo Around Here

We go from the politician who seems to understand nonprofits (Dan Malloy, potential candidate for governor of Connecticut and the subject of my last blog) to those who seem pretty clueless about nonprofits. I’m speaking about the city of Tampa, which wants to reinvent the wheel. Late last year, a city audit revealed that the Lowry Park Zoo—recently rated the number one zoo in America by Parent’s Magazine—wasn’t the number one best managed nonprofit in America. Far from it.

The Read more

Four is Not Enough

 Last  week I got a call from a reporter from another part of the country asking for help.  The reporter, whose normal beat is science and medicine, was stuck looking at a 990.  And while she had gotten a lot of good information from the form, she wanted me to look at to see what I thought, see if she was on the right track, etc.  One of the first things that easily caught my attention was the list of board members.  Read more

Survival vs. Sustainability

As the daughter of two writers, I gained early on a deep appreciation for words. I learned early on the power of words and how subtle—and not so subtle differences—could be made by the mere substitution of one word for another.  Meetings can energize or enervate, and I worry for those who equate the outcomes. 

But my worry ascends to angst as I consider all of those in the nonprofit world who are making the mistake of seeing survival as a synonym for sustainable.  They Read more

Survival vs. Sustainability June 10th, 2009 0 Comment

Nickel & Diming Nonprofits

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Dateline Vermont:  if you work at a nonprofit that receives more than 50% of its funding from the state and you earn more than $60,000, there is a bill pending that would require you to take a 5% salary reduction.  (This money would Read more

Heads in the Sand (Again)

Last week, we sent out an e-mail blast with the subject line:  Does your board want to be the best?  While we always receive responses, there was an immediate one that was unique in both content and brevity.  It read, simply:  “No!”

After I stopped laughing, my concern kicked in:   I stopped and thought:  oh, maybe the writer was being serious.  Maybe he, let me call him Bob, and the board had zero interest in doing things right.  As opposed to how I Read more

Passing the Smell Test


What makes a nonprofit a nonprofit?  There are so many ways that people answer this question, most of which are incorrect.  There is, however, little argument that for many, it is the IRS 501(c)(3)designation is the determinant. Technically speaking, I’d agree:  IRS approval  is essential in  announcing yourself as a nonprofit.  But does that really make a nonprofit a nonprofit? I’d have to say no.  All it means is that you have passed the paper review by the IRS.  Theoretically, in Read more

Big Profits….No Taxes. The American Way?

According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal taxes between 1998 and 2005. And a whopping 68% of foreign companies doing business in the United States also paid no federal taxes during that same period. All while doing “trillions of dollars in sales.”

I must say, I am inclined to agree with Senator Byron Dorgan (D.,N.Dakota), who observed in response to the report, “It’s shameful that so many corporations make big Read more

IRS Form 990 Regulations – Compliance Schmompliance

Earlier this week, we hosted our first session explaining the new IRS Form 990 to nonprofits.  Have you ever seen a group of deer in headlights? 

Not a pretty sight. Nor is it going to be a pretty sight to get your board ready to answer all of its pages of questions with the “right” answer, and answered honestly.  After all, it is one thing to answer a question “yes” with a yes that means, “Yes, we have a policy.  We think we know where it is.” Read more