Sunday, October 31, 2010

"Nonprofit Spark": A Radio Talk Show for New and Emerging Nonprofits

"Nonprofit Spark" is weekly radio talk show through The Voice America hosted by Renee McGivern, a Minnesota-based nonprofit consultant. This show, launched in September, is focused on spurring dialogue on issues of emerging and new organizations. Check out her show live on Thursdays at 8am EST or catch up on past episodes on her show's webpage.

About the Host: Renee McGivern has 30 years of experience working in nonprofits and trade associations. She’s worn the hats of development, communications and executive director and also spent a great deal of her career designing training seminars for the newspaper industry. McGivern’s passion is to facilitate learning, communication and action so life works for people and organizations. “Nonprofit Spark is the first national radio show devoted to new and emerging nonprofits,” says McGivern. “It’s my dream job - to spark learning and action so leaders are effective at making a huge difference in the world.”

United Way Cuts Off Two Nonprofits, Invites 42 Others to Apply for Funding

The United Way of Central New York is cutting off two agencies from its funding stream – the Dunbar Association and Liberty Resources.

The United Way announced today it is inviting 42 nonprofits to submit applications for funding for a new three-year funding cycle that begins in 2011. The invites are going to nonprofits that passed a fiscal and management review conducted by United Way volunteers who are experts in finance, accounting, law and business.

Dunbar, which serves Syracuse’s black community, and Liberty, which serves people with developmental disabilities and the mentally ill, were the only two of the 39 agencies getting United Way funding now not invited to reapply for money.

Friends of the CanTeen, a youth program in Cicero which was seeking to become a new United Way-funded agency, also did not pass the review.

Frank Lazarski, president of the United Way, said he would not discuss why those agencies failed to make the cut until he meets with officials of those organizations next week to give them an explanation. Officials of those agencies could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

The final decision on which agencies are getting invitations was made by the United Way board today. Six of the agencies that passed the review are new to the United Way.


Friday, October 29, 2010

New York Nonprofit Press: Camp Finance

The New York Nonprofit Press reports that over 250 people turned out for this year’s Camp Finance hosted by the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON) on September 30th and October 1st.

The event, which was held at Mohonk Mountain House, featured a keynote addess by Tim Delaney, Executive Director of the National Council of Nonprofits on “The Future of Our Sector: State and National Trends You Should Know About”.

Elliot Pagliaccio, Assistant Comptroller for Strategic Planning & Program Effectiveness kicked off day two with a discussion on “Strengthening the NYS & Nonprofit Sector Relationship: Reforming Procurement & Prompt Payment in New York State.”

More than 25 workshops were offered in a series of “tracks” on such topics as Basic Nonprofit Accounting, Nonprofit Accountability & Compliance. Fundraising & Marketing, and Grantmaking Today.

Camp Finance also included the recognition of Edward S. Mucenski, CPA of Potsdam, NY as the 2010 recipient of the Michael H. Urbach, CPA Community Builder’s Award. The New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc. (NYCON) and the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA) co-sponsor the seventh annual award. The award recognizes exemplary achievements of a certified public accountant who serves on the board(s) of directors of charitable organizations.

Mucenski has been a Shareholder/Director in the firm of Pinto Mucenski Hooper Van House & Co., P.C. in Potsdam, New York since 1984 and is currently serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the firm. Prior to that time, he had worked for the firm of Ernst & Ernst in Syracuse, NY. He has served in a variety of board leadership roles over an extended period of time, including Chairman and Vice-Chair of the St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Centers; Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Canton-Potsdam Hospital; Treasurer of Mater Dei Foundation; and is past Treasurer of the Rotary Club of Potsdam. He also serves as a board member on Community Bank, N.A. and St. Mary’s Church Finance Council.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A United Way Quandry in Syracuse

A perspective of Ruth McCambridge on The Nonprofit Quarterly

The United Way of Central New York has been given the lowest possible rating of “1” by Charity Navigator for having higher than usual administrative costs and less reserves than the watchdog advises. This editorial on the website discusses the fact that the take from the campaign for the past two years has been smaller than anticipated and that this makes costs per dollar raised higher, but it encourages people to keep giving based on the organization’s reduction of costs. A woman I spoke with at the Compasspoint conference over a year ago suggested that if the recession dragged on nonprofits might end up facing lower ratings from watchdogs for just these kinds of reasons. Smart woman. This situation leaves us wondering if the oft cited “spend money to make money,” and traditional reserve calculations should apply as usual in these times. Thoughts?

Monday, October 25, 2010

United Way of Central NY gets lowest rating due to inefficiencies

The United Way of Central New York closely scrutinizes the finances of area charities to make sure donor dollars are used wisely.

But the agency’s own financial performance has not passed muster with an independent charity watchdog group, which says the United Way has spent too much on fundraising and hasn’t brought in enough money to sustain itself over the long term.

The local United Way was given the lowest ranking possible, a single star, by Charity Navigator. The independent nonprofit evaluates more than 5,000 U.S. charities based on their annual IRS form 990 tax returns.

The one-star rating, which means “poor,” is given to charities the group says perform far below industry standards and below nearly all comparable charities.

United Ways in Buffalo, Rochester and Albany all received three- or four-star ratings, which mean “good” or “excellent.”

Frank Lazarski, president of the United Way, said the low rating primarily reflects a sharp downturn in contributions triggered by the recession.

Lazarski said the local United Way — which collected more than $8 million last year to fund 39 agencies that feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and provide other human services — has already made changes that he hopes will be reflected in an improved rating next time around.

The watchdog group’s analysis shows the slice of every dollar raised by the United Way that goes to fundraising costs has been rising. The amount spent to raise $1 was 11 cents in 2007, 12 cents in 2008 and 13 cents in 2009.

The average amount spent by comparable charities in the Northeast was 10 cents, according to Charity Navigator.

Lazarski said he’s frustrated that the Charity Navigator rating is not based on the most recent data available, which he said show the United Way’s finances in a more favorable light.

The United Way’s 2010 fundraising expenses were more than $100,000 lower than they were in 2009, according to its most recently filed form 990.

The agency recently cut its own budget by 14 percent, or $243,000. It has reduced its staff from 28 to 25 and cut printing and other public relations expenses. The agency also has trimmed costs by using fewer paper pledge cards and more electronic pledge cards donors fill out online.

Factoring in those reductions in expenses reported on the United Way’s 2010 form 990, the charity spent about 8 cents to raise every dollar, significantly less than the 13 cents in 2009.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Leadership Greater Syracuse: 7th Annual Let's Get Social

Thursday, October 28th
5:30pm - 9pm
at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Click for info and to rsvp

We need your support more than ever… As you may know, The Onondaga County Legislature has recently cut All Authorized Agency funding -- including LGS -- for 2011, and therefore we are struggling to provide Scholarships and Tuition Assistance for the LGS 2011 Class.

With recent budget cuts and our struggling economy, LGS is striving to be more environmentally conscious!

Specialty Silent Auction Items Include…
Weekend stay @ Cresthill Suites - 2 nights, 1 bedroom suite
Mirbeau - 2 Night Getaway w/ two 50 min. massages, use of the spa facilities for both days and Continental Breakfast each a.m. w/ coffee & tea
One Week Stay - Runaway Beach Condo in Florida
Savannah Dhu Package
Private Tavern Party at the FX Matt Brewery (up to 20 people)
…And many more, so don’t miss out on this exciting event!!!

Kailey E. Spadafora
Executive Assistant/Marketing Coordinator
5703 Enterprise Parkway, Suite C
East Syracuse, NY 13057
Phone: (315) 422-5471
Fax: (315) 422-6455

It's time to apply for the LGS Class of 2011. Be a part of something special.
Make a difference in YOUR community.
Apply today at

To recruit, equip, engage and unite present and future leaders committed to making a difference in our community.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Job Opening: Executive Assistant, Onondaga Environmental Institute

Onondaga Environmental Institute, an environmental nonprofit organization in Syracuse, NY, is seeking a full-time Executive Assistant. The Executive Assistant is responsible for providing high level executive assistance and project administrative support for the Onondaga Environmental Institute President/CEO. This position coordinates technical and office administration and facilitates interoffice communications. Additionally, this position is responsible for overseeing and executing all administrative duties in support of a consortium of government agencies.

Applicants must have strong computer skills in Microsoft Office, a desktop publishing program, and internet research. The successful candidate will possess excellent organizational and time management skills. The ability to prioritize tasks and assess urgency of situations requiring executive attention is essential. This position reports to the President/CEO. Qualified applicants please email your resume and salary requirements to with Executive Assistant in the subject heading. The complete job description is available at:

Monday, October 18, 2010

7th Annual Let's Get Social--for Leadership Greater Syracuse

Date: Thursday, October 28th, 2010
Time: 5:30-9:30pm
Where: The Upstairs Banquet Room at Dinosaur's Bar-B-Que
Price: $75 per person, $125 per couple

Enjoy live entertainment with Colin Aberdeen and an open bar while bidding on fabulous one-of-a-kind items and everyday specialty items in our silent auction.

RSVP by October 25th by calling Kailey at 315-422-5471 or e-mailing

All event proceeds benefit Leadership Greater Syracuse, the areas pre-eminent leadership training and educational organization.

Click here for more info or to RSVP.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Candidates’ Forum on Disability Issues

Thursday, October 21, 2010
1:00 P.M. - 3:30 P.M.

The purpose of the forum is to educate people with disabilities, their family and friends, and the public about the candidates’ positions related to disability issues.
Free and open to the public!

1603 Court Street
Syracuse, NY 13208

1:00pm - 2:00pm:
Congressional Candidates
2:00pm - 3:30pm:
NYS Senate and Assembly Candidates

Who Should Attend?
People with Disabilities, Family Members, Advocates & Supporters

How Much Does Your Program Really Cost?

From the National Council of Nonprofits' Nonprofit Knowledge Matters October Newsletter:

Your Mission: What Does it Really Cost?

Too often the grant or contract a nonprofit receives to deliver a program or service, whether from a foundation or the government, simply does not cover the full cost of delivering that program or service. This problem is highlighted in the National Council's recent Special Report: Costs, Complexification, and Crisis: Government’s Human Services Contracting "System" Hurts Everyone. The report illustrates how government contracts that do not cover the full cost of services cut into the muscle of the nonprofit providing the services, and ultimately weaken our communities.
In fact, failure to cover the full cost of services and programs was the #1 problem uncovered by the first-ever national survey documenting the serious and widespread problems experienced by nonprofit human service providers under contract with local, state and federal governments. View the findings from the survey conducted by the Urban Insitute.

The "full cost recovery" problem is echoed by the experience of nonprofits receiving funding from private philanthropy. Foundation grants frequently fall short of covering the actual cost to the nonprofit of delivering programs and services covered by the grant. For instance, a survey by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) found that only 20 percent of foundations say that their grants "often or always" include the appropriate overhead to cover the amount of time grantees spend reporting on their grants. Read a national study by GEO.
In order for nonprofits to be sustainable this paradigm has to change.

Whether from the perspective of capacity builders, or nonprofits that are striving to build their own capacity, we should recognize that part of the problem – and a big step towards a solution – lies with nonprofits themselves. Here are three things you can do:
  1. Know how to calculate the full cost of delivering programs and services – not the "budgeted" costs (often a euphemism for anticipated or projected costs) but the actual costs of service delivery.
  2. Advocate for your organization by communicating the actual costs of program delivery to funding sources.
  3. Communicate to funders that shortchanging nonprofits by not paying the full cost of service delivery is a barrier to the sustainability of individual nonprofits.
The bottom line is that without knowing how much to ask for, and without receiving full cost recovery, nonprofits will never be able to build their capacity or provide sustainable services to our communities.

Wondering where to start? The National Council's Capacity Building Hub shares resources to help nonprofits understand and calculate the full cost of delivering their mission, and to help grantmakers understand the importance of full cost recovery.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

National Study Shows Government's Unfair Business Practices Hurt New York State Charities

Albany, N.Y. – October 6th, 2010 – The Urban Institute will be releasing a ground breaking national study this morning regarding government contracting and payment practices with human service nonprofits. The report, Human Service Nonprofits and Government Collaboration: Findings from the 2010 National Survey of Nonprofit Government Contracts and Grants, provides essential national and New York State data on contracting practices.

The study is based on survey data for 2009. It ranks late government payments to nonprofits in New York State as being the 9th worst in the country. Payments were commonly late 90 days or more despite the fact that New York is the only state in the country with a “Prompt Contracting” law designed to protect nonprofits from late contracts and payments. This finding reinforces data produced by the State Comptroller that shows that 90% of all state payments are late. The study also revealed that the processes of applying for and reporting on state contracts is seen as problematically complex and time consuming by over 70% of the nonprofits.

Other rankings specific to New York State include:

Ranked 11th in the list of worst offenders with respect to
mid-term changes to contracts.

Ranked 20th in having contracts that do not cover the full cost of the services being performed. Related findings include that 47% of the nonprofits report contracts requiring them to share the cost of full service and over 60% reporting limitations on reimbursement for administrative or overhead expenses incurred.

"Our state’s nonprofits have, historically, been resilient when it comes to putting mission and people first, often absorbing the financial loses and risks associated with doing business with government,” states Doug Sauer, Chief Executive Officer of the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON). He further observes, “These are very difficult times for all. Community-based nonprofits are on the front lines of the crisis in human needs that people across the state are facing. Sadly, the inability of our government leaders to responsibly manage their budgets and be fair in their contractual commitments, are now pushing many charities to the financial breaking point. In essence, government appears to be expecting charitable donors, who are also taxpayers, to subsidize its cash flow. ”

The problem has worsened. A recent survey conducted by NYCON shows that the over 80% of nonprofits report that the contracting and payment problems with the State of New York have worsened in 2010 over 2009. To cope with the state´s business practices, over 60% of charities have reduced services or eliminated programs. Most have had to draw on their charitable reserves and/or borrow money.

To help strengthen the partnership between government and nonprofits NYCON, working closely with the Comptroller’s Office and other State agencies, launched an “Ombudsman Program” to help nonprofits navigate the New York State contracting and payments process as well as, over time, improve the efficiency and timeliness of the State’s processing of nonprofit business.

“Not-for-profits are struggling to provide crucial services to New York families,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. "When state agencies fail to approve contracts and make payments on deadline, they make the problem worse. Many not-for-profits already face significant challenges, and when contracts are delayed and payments aren’t made, the situation gets even tougher."

"We need to fix this system,” stated Doug Sauer. “We call on all parties, including candidates for office, to commit to working together for responsible solutions.”

Complete study available now at

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gifford Foundation names Dirk Sonneborne its new Executive Director

Dirk Sonneborn, a certified public accountant who used to operate a regional venture capital fund, has been named executive director of the Gifford Foundation.

Sonneborn will replace Kathryn Goldfarb-Findling who is retiring at the end of this year.

Gifford is a private charitable foundation that has been supporting community needs in Central New York since 1954. Last year it had $20.3 million in assets and awarded $1.18 million in grants.

Sonneborn, 56, grew up in Albany, attended Utica College and moved to Syracuse in 1976 to work for an accounting firm. From 1993 to 2004, he was managing partner of Exponential Business Development, a venture capital company that helped nurture new businesses in Central New York.

Sonneborn said he became interested in the world of philanthropy while serving on the board of the Central New York Community Foundation. While attending a national conference by the Council on Foundations “ . . . I got bit by this bug,” he said. “I could see this cooperative spirit with which people gave money. There were a lot of similarities in the venture capital world.”

Read more

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Community to celebrate 30th anniversry, plans for expansion

The Daily Star reported that Pathfinder Village in Edmeston will not only celebrate its 30th anniversary Friday and Saturday, but also plans to expand facilities and services.

Pathfinder, a community for people who have Down syndrome or other developmental disabilities, was opened July 29, 1980, with about 40 residents, Paul C. Landers, chief executive officer, said Wednesday.

Thirty years ago, Pathfinder Village was started to care for children with Down Syndrome and develop their independence, Marian Mullet, retired founding chief executive officer, said Wednesday. Mullet said she has known some of the residents for decades, and she has seen them grow "smarter, happier and healthier."

Pathfinder's mission remains to foster meaning in each person's life.

"We have stayed true to our mission, and that's why we're successful," Mullet said. "It's a great story."

Read more here