On Friday, I had the privilege of attending the Stronger Together conference, organized by Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group (NIAC), CompassPoint, and CalNonprofits. The sessions aimed to empower nonprofit leaders, with topics such as the overhead challenge, the economics of the nonprofit sector, legal issues for nonprofits, and other ideas for innovation and collaboration within the nonprofit community.
Here are some highlights from the sessions I attended:
- Morning Program– Jeanne Bell of CompassPoint noted her frustration with the notion that it is weak for charities to depend on philanthropy. Rather, the relationship should be viewed as symbiotic and mutually reinforcing, as private foundations are obligated to make distributions of their funds, while charities are charged with dispensing those funds through programs and services to communities.
- Nonprofit Overhead Challenge (Hydeh Ghaffari, Ann Goggins Gregory, Jan Masaoka)- Understanding each organization’s true costs is essential to determining the proper amount of overhead—one size does not fit all. Action should be taken to discern what overhead expenses actually are, to change the dialogue, and to stop relying on charity ratings.
- Economic Look at California’s Nonprofit Sector (Jan Masaoka)- Nonprofits account for 15% of California’s GSP, generate $208 billion in annual revenue, and make up the 4th largest industry by employment. Of those surveyed in the Causes Count: The Economic Power of California’s Nonprofit Sector Report, 73% of nonprofits met with public officials or staff, and 53% testified to a government body, indicating the force of nonprofits as policy advocates.
- Legal Issues for Nonprofits Changing the World (Rosemary Fei and Nayantara Mehta)- While private foundations may not engage in lobbying, a private foundation may make a general support grant to a charity that engages in lobbying, or a project specific grant, as long as the grant is not earmarked for lobbying. (See Analyzing Activities: Is it Lobbying?). Additionally, on the topic of fiscal sponsorship and lobbying, a Model A sponsor’s lobbying limit (either the Substantial Part Test or the 501(h) Expenditure Test) applies to all projects the sponsor houses. Although some sponsors authorize specific and equal lobbying amounts for each project, others may negotiate with advocacy projects for larger lobbying budgets that would not be permitted if the project was independent.