Déjà Vu

“Sadly, it’s much easier to create a desert than a forest.” -James Lovelock, scientist

Have you ever had that feeling before:  haven’t I already read this, didn’t I forward this on to my board, didn’t KNN send this out in a recent e-newsletter?  Reading the results of the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s recently released 2015 State of the Sector Survey gave me that feeling, because not much has changed. While many sectors are rebounding financially, many nonprofits still struggle to serve their communities. These are the national results, and you can also filter the results for Kentucky.

Twenty of our Commonwealth’s nonprofits completed the survey, and while not a huge number representing our state, the findings are not surprising and are troubling. The results indicate the greatest challenges facing the nonprofits completing the survey are:

  • Achieving long-term financial sustainability
  • Marketing, outreach and community engagement
  • Managing or pursuing growth
  • Offering competitive pay and/or retain staff
  • Increases in unavoidable costs (benefits, etc.)
  • Barriers to effectively and efficiently administering government contracts

Also not surprising are some of the issues nonprofits are having with their government contracts. While most report not having issues with late payments, late payments are very late and most certainly create difficulty with cash flow:

nff_survey_2014_chart (1)

Most of the articles summarizing the national results of the survey use words like “tightrope“déjà vu,” and “chronically brittle,” to describe the state of our nonprofit sector. The problem, Nonprofit Finance Fund suggested in its report, is rooted in poor financial management on a number of fronts: relying on delayed government payments and private funders, focusing on expanding programs rather than the financial health of the program and ignoring overhead costs.

It’s clear that there is much work to do to move beyond short-term survival and address the long-term viability of our sector, but I am encouraged. KNN, as your state association of nonprofits, is already an active partner with you on a number of these issues: the recent passage of HCR 89 to create a Nonprofit and Government Contracting Task Force that will get started this summer; professional development opportunities to stay ahead of the curve; outreach initiatives like KY Gives Day and cost-savings programs like KNN’s state association health plan and our unemployment insurance partnership.

So while I’m certain we’ve been here before (and we have), waiting for things to improve feels like we are watching paint dry. But there are opportunities to improve your nonprofit’s long-term sustainability – some of which exist through membership in your state association of nonprofits! Let us hear from you – how can we help?

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Danielle Clore
Executive Director, KNN

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I’m Starting at Home. Will You?

The work of dispelling the myths that plague our sector continues. It’s happening with a larger, national conversation and even more importantly – it’s happening with organizations like yours and mine.

On the national level, I urge you to read this open letter to Charity Navigator from my colleague Jan Masaoka, CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits. Jan’s post is about more than Charity Navigator and I hope you’ll use it as an educational opportunity for yourself, your board and key staff.

In Kentucky, KNN’s recent workshops about the new OMB guidance have provided vital information to organizations that contract directly with the federal government and nonprofits whose state and local grants and contracts include federal dollars. What we’re hearing from our members regarding the red tape they face is very troubling. The task force to be created with the recently signed into law HCR 89 to explore solutions for contracting issues is right on time! Here’s a great article on the new OMB guidance, and if you missed a workshop – we’re holding a webinar on May 8.

I’ve blogged about some of these issues before (here in 2014, here in 2013, and again in 2013), but I think it bears repeating on a consistent basis until each person reading this “gets it” – me included… This work of educating the world about the costs to effectively manage a nonprofit organization starts at home.  If your nonprofit is sending out a solicitation that tells prospective or current donors that 90 cents of every $1 goes directly to program delivery – is that true or is it creative bookkeeping? If your nonprofit is keeping quiet about the way you’re being treated with regard to federal, state and/or local grants and contracts for fear that you may lose the contract – how will solutions be created if we don’t find our voice?  If you are reading this email and your organization is not a current KNN member – how invested is your nonprofit in building a stronger sector to advance our Commonwealth? I’m guilty of shortchanging KNN and our sector in similar situations in the past and I’ve made the commitment to stop, and stop now.

I look at Spring as a time for renewal and I urge you to join me in a renewed (or new) commitment to truly knowing what it costs to run our organizations effectively, owning these costs as an investment in those we serve, finding our voice and standing with other nonprofits to advance Kentucky’s third largest industry. As I’ve said before: we need you and you need us. Our work is really just getting started and I hope you are on our team!

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Thankful, Though It’s Not Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! OK – this isn’t an April Fool’s Day joke and of course, it’s not Thanksgiving – but I’m still thankful!

I won’t get into everything I’m thankful for (and for that, you can be thankful), but I do want to specifically share my gratitude for the unanimous passage of HCR 89 and HB 440 by the Kentucky General Assembly and Governor Beshear’s signing of both into law. I’m thankful for the volunteers who helped with these efforts – work groups, committee members and board members. I’m thankful for the government officials and legislators who advocated for, sponsored and voted for these two legislative efforts. I’m thankful for you – those of you who called, tweeted, emailed, visited legislators and those of you who sent us words of encouragement, words of congratulations and positive vibes into the universe as we worked on the issues.

In addition to having a heart full of gratitude, we are still in awe that KNN was able to accomplish so much in such a short time – especially since this was our first year advocating on your behalf. I am also absolutely certain that KNN’s decision to transition to an independent 501 c 3 organization was exactly the right thing to do and at just the right time – not only for KNN, but also for our sector. Without making that transition, KNN would not have been able to lobby on these issues that impact your nonprofit and our entire sector.

I hope you will join me in my gratitude and take a moment in the next week or so to thank your legislators for their support of our nonprofit sector. Again, both HCR 89 and HB 440 were unanimously approved by both the House and Senate, though some legislators did not vote. You can see a full list of those voting on HCR 89 here and on HB 440 here, and get legislator contact information here. Legislators are home now – so calling them while in your district or email will likely work best. You can also thank Governor Beshear and Secretary Grimes for their support. Why is this important? Well, in addition to appreciating their support of Kentucky’s nonprofits, there is still work to do and we’ve advised you before – build relationships NOW so that we don’t have to ask strangers for favors later. Connecting with your legislators now about HCR 89 and HB 440 is always a WONDERFUL way to open the door to telling them more about your organization and the work your nonprofit is doing in their district.

Finally, now that the session has ended you may be wondering – what’s next? KNN is working on the details, but we know our next steps will involve identifying the names of individuals from KNN members who would to be submitted to the Governor for consideration for service on the nonprofit and government task force. We also know there will be numerous opportunities in person, in print and via webinar to learn more about how your nonprofit can take advantage of laws modernized with HB 440.

KNN is headed your way soon! Stay tuned for a KNN road trip across Kentucky in the next several months – we look forward to seeing you and thanking you in person!

Joining Governor Beshear are (from left to right): Steve Jennings, KNN board member; Bart Baldwin, KNN public policy committee member; Sarah Brandenburg, KNN staff; Noel Caldwell, Executive Director of Kentucky Business One Stop Portal, Secretary of State; Danielle Clore, Executive Director, KNN; Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Representative Linda Belcher (D– Shepherdsville); and House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards (D–Bowling Green).

Joining Governor Beshear are (from left to right): Steve Jennings, KNN board member; Bart Baldwin, KNN public policy committee member; Sarah Brandenburg, KNN staff; Noel Caldwell, Executive Director of Kentucky Business One Stop Portal, Secretary of State; Danielle Clore, Executive Director, KNN; Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Representative Linda Belcher (D– Shepherdsville); and House Speaker Pro Tem Jody Richards (D–Bowling Green).

Read the news release here!

Joining Governor Beshear are (from left to right) Lt. Governor Crit Luallen; Gretchen Hunt, KNN member, Ky Association of Sexual Assault Programs; Russell Harper, KNN board member; Sarah Brandenburg, KNN staff; Bart Baldwin, KNN public policy committee; Eileen O'Brien, KNN board member; Rep. Wuchner; and Danielle Clore, KNN executive director. (Photo: Kentucky Nonprofits Network/Kentucky House Republican Caucus)

Joining Governor Beshear are (from left to right) Lt. Governor Crit Luallen; Gretchen Hunt, KNN member, Ky
Association of Sexual Assault Programs; Russell Harper, KNN board member; Sarah Brandenburg, KNN staff;
Bart Baldwin, KNN public policy committee; Eileen O’Brien, KNN board member; Rep. Wuchner; and Danielle
Clore, KNN executive director. (Photo: Kentucky Nonprofits Network/Kentucky House Republican Caucus)

Read the news release here!

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The Marathon Continues

We’re almost at the finish line of our sprint – also known as the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly.  In case you missed it, KNN led the way on two pieces of critical legislation to advance our sector.  I am thrilled that both unanimously passed the House & Senate and now await the Governor’s signature.  A very sincere thanks to each of you who called, emailed, visited and/or tweeted your legislators to partner with us to make these victories for our sector possible.

While the sprint is almost finished, the marathon continues. For those of you who know me well, the fact that I’m using a running metaphor here is pretty funny– since I would only run if something or someone is chasing me! But seriously, KNN is excited to now look ahead to sharing more about each of these legislative efforts. We’re working on strategies for visiting with you across the state to be sure you are in the loop on these updates to Kentucky law that will impact each of us, as well as the opportunities created by the increased visibility of our sector during the session.

In the meantime, other priorities keep moving right along.  If you haven’t checked out our event calendar, there are lots of topics coming up that will strengthen your board, your fundraising plans and for those contracting with federal, state and/or local government – critical information you need to know, now!

This fall, the marathon continues with other events to strengthen and empower Kentucky’s nonprofits, including our annual Executive Retreat and KY Nonprofit Leadership Forum (mark your calendar for  October 27-28!).  In addition, we’ll round out 2015 with the third annual KY Gives Day on December 1. Stay tuned for information on this in the coming months.

It’s safe to say we aren’t taking off our running shoes any time soon.  We know you’re likely running a race of your own, so as we all try to keep up the pace, please know that we appreciate you, we’re here because of you and we’re fighting for you. We look forward to seeing you soon at an upcoming KNN event – in person or online!

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Danielle Clore
Executive Director, KNN

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Progress, Even on Snow Days

I have mixed feelings about all of this snow.  It is beautiful, but it has wreaked havoc on my to do list.  I wish I could tell you a snow break has allowed me to whittle my inbox down from its all-time high of 1,327 messages, but it hasn’t.

My kids and I are making fun memories with sledding and snow cream, but there are moments I am certain we’ll not survive another minute together in the same house

Then there’s the blessing and curse of technology.  I’m able to keep up with email, but I’m reminded that without consciously turning off my phone, I’m always “on,” even during igloo building.

And of course, in the back of my mind, I’m worried that KNN is running out of time on our legislative priorities in the 2015 General Assembly. I have to remind myself that the snow days are providing us with additional time to keep things moving.

The “control freak” in me finds these snow days disruptive, annoying, and frustrating – just like my inability to control and make sense of the many nuances and behind-the-scenes things at play in lobbying, many of which have little to nothing to do with the worthiness of the legislation.  So the side of me trying to lighten up, enjoy the ride, embrace new learning opportunities and live in the moment takes a deep breath, watches the beautiful red cardinal on a snowy branch outside of my window, and asks my kids, “Snow cream anyone?”

After all, the snow will melt, the 2015 General Assembly will come to a close and other items on the to do list remain.  I’m making progress…in more ways than one.

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I’m Still Learning

A few weeks ago, I watched as my seven-year-old son encouraged his great-grandmother to play a video game with him.  Gently, yet persistently, my grandmother assured him, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  Albert Einstein had a different perspective: “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”  Whether Einstein would have embraced playing Mario Cart on Wii Uor not, we’ll never know.  But I’ve decided to embrace Einstein’s perspective, and I really believe my grandmother has too – she just chooses to use crossword puzzles and Scrabble to continue learning.

Many nonprofits focus on learning, but that message is typically directed to stakeholders. We aren’t always so great at directing the message of continued learning back to ourselves as nonprofit professionals.

KNN’s increased focus on creating a strong, unified public policy voice for nonprofits has given me lots of learning opportunities.  As KNN launches an all-hands-on-deck effort to seek passage of HCR 89 to create a task force to examine and improve nonprofit contractual relationships with state government, there is much to learn.  While challenging at times, I am embracing the things I’m learning about the legislative process and lobbying – even things I dislike.  I am blessed to have the guidance and support of wonderful KNN board and public policy committee members.  Their combined expertise, my persistence to tackle this important public policy priority, and our legislative champions combined with your partnership on this important issue will be a powerful coalition working to secure passage of HCR 89 – or at least initiate a much needed conversation.

If you haven’t gotten up to speed yet on why this issue of nonprofit and government contracting matters to each of us, please check out my blog post from last week and this updated summary.

KNN will also be learning during this year’s third annual Kentucky Gives Day.  We announced last week that we are moving this statewide 24-hour giving event to December 1, 2015 to take advantage of the growing momentum and success of #GivingTuesday.  We will be learning alongside our members in this effort, so that we can continue to find the best ways to harness the power of social media to encourage online giving.

I once heard a speaker say that growth is uncomfortable – and I believe that’s true.  I also believe these learning opportunities will help KNN stay on top of our game by looking forward and making bold moves to advance our nonprofit community

If you will stand with us on this journey to continue learning and growing, I’m certain we will empower our nonprofit community and strengthen Kentucky.

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KNN Working on Passage of HCR 89 to Improve Contracting with Government

For ten years and counting, KNN leads the charge to bring nonprofits to Frankfort for our annual Kentucky Nonprofit Day at the Capitol. This year, as we grow our advocacy program for members, we have special news to share – KNN is proud to be actively working on and supporting our first piece of legislation! Please stand with us on this important work that impacts all nonprofits!

The concurrent resolution (HCR 89) would create a task force to improve nonprofit and government contracting.  This issue impacts many nonprofits directly, but also matters to our entire sector because it is an important start to needed discussions about how government and nonprofits work together.  Your nonprofit may not do business with government, but some day you may. More importantly, many of our nonprofits are facing many barriers as a result of unnecessary contracting issues, barriers that keep us all from working together to strengthen our communities. Make no mistake about it – all nonprofits are impacted by this issue.  I urge you to familiarize yourself with some talking points on HCR 89, contact your legislators and urge them to support this resolution.  Also, if you have a story about how issues with your organization’s state contracts have negatively impacted your ability to provide services, please let us hear from you!

We are proud to have Representative Addia Wuchner (R-Florence) and Representative Arnold Simpson (D-KY 65thDistrict) as co-sponsors of this concurrent resolution.  Wuchner’s experience in board membership with a number of nonprofits give her a first-hand perspective to champion this issue. She has also served on various task forces affecting education and poverty, and has been a health professional for 26 years. Simpson has vast experience serving on various house committees in addition to being a former city manager in Covington. The bi-partisan pair is well-equipped to argue our case for a task force to identify how we can better join forces with our state and local governments to serve Kentuckians.

KNN is also closely watching a bill that will modernize some of Kentucky’s business laws. This matters to all nonprofits in Kentucky because this bill includes several key clarifications to laws governing nonprofits. You may remember that in last year’s session, KNN was successful in working to stop passage of the KY Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act because the complete overhaul was developed with no input from the nonprofit sector.  Proactively, KNN convened a work group last fall that made its own recommendations for clarifying existing Kentucky law – without an overhaul.  These recommendations were posted to our website for your feedback and then shared with the Office of Secretary of State.  I’m proud to report these recommendations are the basis for the proposed clarification in this bill – a major win for our sector! 

Again, we are closely monitoring this proposed legislation and once it’s filed, KNN’s public policy committee will determine our position.  This legislation will affect how all nonprofits in Kentucky operate; stay tuned for more information as it develops!

KNN has long felt called to provide a strong, unified voice for nonprofits in Frankfort and in Washington, D.C., a calling that became one of the key reasons KNN transitioned from its home at the University of Kentucky to an independent nonprofit. With this transition, we are better able to enrich, protect, and advance nonprofits across the Commonwealth. We are honored to lead the way as your state association, but we cannot do it alone. Your voice is critical to protecting and advancing our sector!

I am, of course, sincerely hoping I will see you in Frankfort on Thursday, February 12 for our annual Day at the Capitol event. It will be a chance to meet the legislators sponsoring our work, connect with legislators in your district, and voice your support for HCR89 and other issues important to your nonprofit.  We look forward to sharing this milestone with each of you.

For those of you who cannot make the trip to Frankfort on February 12, I urge you to call/email your legislators and voice your support for HCR 89. Kentucky’s elected leadership is relying on you to tell them why it matters. They are relying on you to tell them how you are impacted. And they’re relying on you to tell them why Kentucky nonprofits need their support to better serve their constituents.

Please stand with us by joining us in Frankfort or by making a few phone calls.  Your support will strengthen all Kentucky nonprofits, one conversation at a time.

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Danielle Clore
Executive Director

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