The Inclusion of Special Needs Trust in Cures Act

Carefully tucked inside a larger bill passed by President Obama, is a tweak to the federal law which is designed for individuals with disabilities, to help them save money without much of trouble. HR 34, the proposed 21st Century Cures Act, is meant to help individuals with disabilities create special needs trust for themselves, rather than relying on others to do it for them. The previous rule mandated that such trusts can only be opened by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian or a court.

Approved unanimously by the US Senate last year, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act passed the House of Representatives in September. However, due to certain differences in the house version, the measure was returned back to the Senate. It was finally signed on December 13, 2016 by President Obama, after being bundled with the 21st century Cures Act, and was immediately brought into effect. Continue reading

FHA’s New Loan Limits for 2017

Home prices have risen steadily over the last year or so, in most U.S. cities. In some counties, the current median home value is significantly higher than FHA loan limits within the same county. This makes it harder for home buyers to find a suitable property that falls within the maximum size limits. In a recent statement, the FHA issued a proposed increase of loan limits across most areas in the United States in 2017 to reflect rising home prices.

This is great news for home buyers, as they have to pay for mortgage insurance; and it protects the lender in case he defaults on the loan. Because of the mortgage insurance, lenders offer FHA loans at attractive interest rates and with more flexible qualification requirements. The funds come in from a private sector mortgage lender, as is the case for any other type of loan; it only differs in that the government gives some level of insurance to the lender, to cover their losses in the event of borrower default. Continue reading

Non-Profit’s Privacy!

Non-profit organizations are less cautious regarding what they do online. To them, the internet is just a key mechanism to inform their community about their fundraising campaigns and projects. However, this enthusiastic embrace of the internet also has some negative consequences, which are not taken seriously by the non-profits. Thinking that the government does not have an access to what the non-profits put online is naive.

Many social networking platforms, such as Google and Facebook, deliberately have a built in surveillance system on their sites, and the connection that these Silicon Valley corporations have with the National Security Agency (NSA) is deeper than the non-profits realize. What the NSA can harness, Google and Facebook can release into the world, which can ruin you or your organization. The partnership of social networking sites and NSA is a powerful and unaccountable system that can have vast implications. Continue reading

Impact of Budget Impasse on Non-Profits in Illinois

Government leaders of Illinois failed to pass a state budget throughout the Fiscal Year 2016. With no budget, many non-profits are left stranded as they did not receive the state funding, entitled to them, even with valid contracts and performing the promised services. A day before the beginning of Fiscal Year 2017, state leaders passed a six-month budget, as a temporary measure, to fund services for the first half of 2017. This budget will end on December 31, 2016.

For the Fiscal Year 2016, non-profits providing programs that the state constitution mandated, were paid, but the non-profits providing non-mandated services were not. General Funds’ payments have also not been made for group health insurance in FY2016; those appropriations are also not included in the FY2017 stopgap budget. It has resulted in a backlog of unpaid health insurance claims of $3.3 billion, at the end of May 2016. This backlog will grow substantially in FY2017 if considerable resources are not added. Continue reading

How Non-profits Struggle with International Charities?

Non-profit organizations are vulnerable to terrorism financing abuse. With federal regulations designed to uncover financing of terrorism and stop money laundering, banks find it easier to close accounts than to work with some charities. Also, in some cases, banks have severed ties without warning or giving a chance to charities to appeal. Thus, charities helping refugees from the Middle East and Syria are facing hard times finding banks that are ready to work with them.

Presently, non-profits find it too prohibitive to operate, which makes it a matter of concern. Some organizations have already had their accounts at multiple banks closed. Whereas, others have started anticipating blockages or delays, if funds are going to or have any mention of Syria. These delays have significant impact on ground operations abroad. Bank interventions are preventing non-profits from fulfilling their missions, undermining the good name in the regions they seek to serve.

Restrictions placed on banks have created unexpected insecurity. Different states have implemented Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) controls, which limit any risk that non-profits carry. However, the actual level of risk this sector poses, or how effectively the existing controls can mitigate it, remains unclear. Raising risk awareness among financial authorities, institutions, and non-profits is the key tool to protect the non-profit sector from abuse.

The factors that are at play here include:

  • If a bank is found to help or fund a terrorist group by transferring money from the U.S., it faces stiff financial penalties, and possibly criminal charges.
  • Differentiating between a non-profit and financier of a terrorist group is hard. Though a bank can perform rigorous analysis of international non-profits, but it is probably cheaper for the bank to just look at the behavior and decide to cut ties with the non-profit.
  • Defending itself against accusations of aiding terrorist groups, even if innocent, is costly for a non-profit.
  • It is not possible for the banks to tell the non-profits what triggered the termination of their account. If they did, it could provide opportunities to the wrong people to work around their catches. The banks can also not directly ask the non-profit, “Are you a terrorist?”

However, it is not fair to blame banks for their reticence. Until it either becomes less costly to fund terrorist groups and money launderers, banks will not see the need to change their operations. It means that the costs of anti-criminal measures fall on charities. Non-profits will need to transfer money in ways that do not set off alarms. As long as the restrictions remain, non-profits will either have to create work-around solutions or will have to face further delays and account closures.

Many non-profits provide funds to communities outside of the United States with their charitable missions.  American non-profits operating abroad must understand (1) the laws the country they operate in; (2) complying with such laws; (3) risks of non-compliance; and (4) how to best protect their volunteers on the ground.

It is difficult for the non-profits in the U.S. to find support from foundations, corporations, and individuals and the search can be very time-consuming. This is where Private Grants Alert helps you. This one-stop resource brings you scores of new grant opportunities, all in an efficient online format that saves you time and staff hours.

Readers and subscribers will get essential details to prepare letters of intent and applications quickly. See more of what CD Publications has to offer for non-profit management and executives. You will get full contact information, any/all deadline dates, websites, typical dollar amounts available, geographic limitations and much more.

Fundraising tips that you should keep in mind

There are some things where spontaneity is highly desirable; however, ask any fundraising professional and they will tell you that planning a fundraising campaign is not one of them. One needs to have a detailed strategic plan prior to undertaking any fundraising campaign as it can be a big determinant of its success, even before a single dollar is raised.

However, it is just not good enough to have a rough idea of messaging, an arbitrary fundraising goal, or an incomplete timeline and some scheduled tweets. A good fundraising strategic plan should consist of an organized and complete story based on analytics which your team could use in assisting your campaign to be a lot more successful. Here are a few tips which could assist you in building one. Continue reading

President Trump and 10 Questions for Non-Profit Boards to Answer

Good governance, and efficient and effective management play the most important role when facing an impending period of instability. As we enter into a transition of the presidency, there will doubtlessly be substantive changes to the operating environments.

This should not be too difficult for the organizations that made their ways through the Great Recession with difficulty. Some organizations also experienced a storm of disastrous factors as the number of their donors and audiences relatively decreased over an extended period. For others, it happened soon after they made a large capital commitment, which created the sense of plummeting into a hole they had dug and whose bottom they could not touch. Continue reading

Student-Debt-Free Future for the Nonprofit Workforce – Where It Stands Today

Student debt is one of those cumbersome burdens that make the choice of a non-profit career path for an indefinite time a lot harder for just about every individual. It hurts all the aspects and stages of this otherwise humanitarian career path, including recruitment, retention, as well as an employer’s effort to maintain diversity in the workforce. As per a survey estimate, more than 42 million people currently owe student debt going well over $1.3 trillion. A lot of it has been because of dropping investment in colleges by the government, leading to a surge in the cost of education, and subsequently higher accumulated student debt year after year.

There is good news too for all those who are affected by the surging student debt amounts. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is the latest program introduced by the federal government, which makes it easier for everyone who wants to work with non-profit organizations or in other ‘public service’ job. The surprising thing here is that very few people know about this plan till date. Under this program, if you continue to make your student debt payment for a period of 10 years (120 payments in total), you get your remaining debt written off – just like that!

Here’s What You Got to Do

If you have taken student loan, work with a non-profit and are still under debt after 10 years, you need to go through certain parameters, such as:

  • Determine if you have qualifying loans and if your payment plan qualifies under the PSLF program.
  • Make sure that your employer qualifies as eligible under the program conditions. To be eligible, the organization must be registered as either of the following:
  1. Government agency
  2. 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization
  3. Public child/family service agency
  4. Peace Corps/AmeriCorps
  5. Tribal college/university
  6. Others as listed in Section 4 of the ECF (Employment Certification Form)
  • Track progress by submitting ECF through your (non-profit) employer to FedLoan Servicing. You have to get one form from every organization you worked during the duration. This form will include details for your tenure, as well as what your average work hours were per week.
  • Submit an ECF every year, even when you are working with the same employer. You can also keep track of your payments by checking your FedLoan account every now and then.
  • Once you have completed 120 months, you need to file the Application for Loan Forgiveness. Since this plan only came into effect in October 2007, the application form will become available by October 2017 (when first 120 months duration will conclude).

To get details about this program as well as other associated programs for children and youth funding, buy your copy of Children and Youth Funding Report, a monthly newsletter by CD Publications, newsletter publishers since 1961.

Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Code of Ethics

The GPA is a nonprofit membership association which is committed to serve the greater public good by practicing the highest professional and ethical standards. It basically refers to the standards or rules concerning the conduct of an individual or members of a profession. Usually, ethics is linked to honesty; however, when it comes to grant writers, the issue is a bit more complex.

Ethics Basics

The basic ethics in grant writing is pretty simple. Be honest – always tell the truth, the complete truth. This applies to both budgets and narratives.

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Preparing to Survive an Audit

The word, “Audit” plays a very crucial role for a grant receiver. An organization can be prepared for audits or be penalized for not being compliant with the audit requirements. To be compliant to the audit requirements, it is required that prior to receiving grants, the organization should establish an internal control systems and have well-defined performance measures facilitating grant management. Granting organizations should have an effective post-award process to assess the grant results and to manage the performance of the grant recipient. The recipient organization needs to demonstrate compliance and accountability for the donor’s satisfaction.

Best Practices for Grants Management Audit

Proper audit preparation is the key factor that determines how successful an audit will be. Inadequate audit preparation leads to penalties, excessive audit fees, delays in report publication, and non-compliance. The key areas you need to focus on to prepare for an audit are:

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