5 Reminders for Nonprofit Leaders from Taylor Swift – Seriously…

Last month, I took my eleven year-old daughter to her first concert – Taylor Swift. I was about 11 years old when I attended my first concert. I can still remember singing Chicago’s hits from the nosebleed section of Freedom Hall with my best girlfriends. (Go ahead – take a little mental vacation and remember your first concert experience.) Attending a first concert with your child is a very different experience. Throughout the night, I kept finding myself conflicted between being a mom and getting caught up in the fun. Just as I’d get caught up in the shrieks and dancing, I’d wonder: Is this music too loud – what if I am damaging her hearing? Does she notice these male dancers rolling around shirtless on the stage (she did)? Oh gosh, does she really understand the lyrics she’s singing? And then, I really hope she understands the lyrics she’s singing…

We had a fantastic time – I survived and she loved every single minute of the experience! Thanks to Taylor Swift, here are a few reminders I received from the show that I want to share with my nonprofit colleagues:

5.  Establish priorities and stick to them. A fun twist on my Taylor Swift concert experience is that I WON our tickets – what an opportunity! To take my daughter to this show meant I was going to have to miss an important work meeting. One of the priorities I’d set for 2015 was to take advance of one-on-one time with my daughter while she was still willing to spend time with me. I decided that this commitment I’d made to myself had to take priority over a work meeting – and this was a very difficult decision for me. But looking back, when I think of my daughter’s face, her reaction to the show and the memories we made – I have no regrets for missing the meeting. Zero.

4.  Practice gratitude and kindness. Taylor made everyone in Rupp Arena, me included, feel like she sincerely appreciated us for being a fan. I left the show feeling like she was my new “BFF.” In a time when fear, ignorance, hatred, terror and intolerance seem rampant, practicing kindness and gratitude just feels good and it does good too. I’m going to remember to deliberately practice gratitude and kindness more often.

3.  Let loose every now and then. Having a good time and maybe embarrassing yourself a little is OK. Actually, it’s likely good for you. Some of you may not have issues with this, but it’s not always easy for me to “let go” and wave my LED armband along with 12,000 other fans. Whether a concert or another activity provides you with some freedom – I hope you’ll take advantage of it and enjoy it. I did.

2.  Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself. While this was my first Taylor Swift show, I am certain her first tour didn’t include a troupe of male dancers, a 360 degree rotating catwalk and (gasp) pop music. At any age, reinventing yourself is likely scary and probably difficult.  But sometimes it’s necessary for your career – and your sanity. I needed this reminder and I’m a work in progress.

1.  Surround yourself with people you trust. Throughout Taylor’s show, friends of hers share stories on jumbo screens about their friendship. There are personal friends from high school, friends she’s met as a result of her career, friends she’s met along the road from teenage angst and stardom. Even for such a young woman, Taylor swift has got this right – a support system of people you can trust is powerful. When I think about both my career in the nonprofit sector and my personal life, I know that surrounding myself with people I can trust to support me, challenge me, shoot me straight and make me laugh when I need it most has been the most important and smartest thing I’ve ever done. I will remember to cherish these people more. And I will remember how important it is that I am a trustworthy friend and colleague.

You may never make it to a Taylor Swift show and I suspect this one will be my last, but there was much for this “maturing” nonprofit executive to learn from this soon-to-be 26 year old. As we approach Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the the memories made with my baby girl, the reminders I needed for my personal and professional life and for the opportunity to share these reflections with you – our KNN members and my nonprofit colleagues.

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Five Reasons You Can’t Miss the 2015 KY Nonprofit Leadership Forum

2015-forum-logoI know how it is. You’re on the fence. Or if you’re more like me, you might be procrastinating. But it really is time to register for the 13th annual Kentucky Nonprofit Leadership Forum on October 27-28. Why? There are lots of great reasons but here are my top five.

  1. Breakfast with the Candidates – yes, you heard it right! KNN has confirmed that six of the seven candidates running for Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State will join us for a breakfast event prior to the Forum on Tuesday, October 27. This is a MAJOR opportunity for us to hear how these candidates envision the role of the state’s third largest industry in their plans for Kentucky and even more importantly, a MAJOR opportunity for us nonprofit leaders to be present and send the message loud and clear: I work for a nonprofit and I VOTE!
  2. Celebrate Innovation and Leadership! The Forum awards luncheon on Wednesday, October 28 will honor the winners of our annual awardsFoodChain of Lexington, Innovative Nonprofit Award; Wendell Strode of the National Corvette Museum, Distinguished Nonprofit Leadership Award; and Dr. Whitney Jones of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, Outstanding Board Leadership Award. Celebrating these recipients is a highlight of the Forum you don’t want to miss!
  3. Excellent sessions! Each year, it’s our goal to put together an agenda that provides you with timely and relevant sessions to keep you up to date, in the loop and on top of your game as a nonprofit leader – and 2015 is no exception! I’m thrilled to have fundraising expert, Kim Klein join us – she’s been on my list of speakers to host for years. Janet Ogden-Brackett with the Nonprofits Assistance Fund is going to share critical information we need to start fully understanding and better communicating the true costs of running our organizations. There are too many other great sessions to mention here, but I’m so pleased with the variety of topics and the quality of our speakers – a truly great investment in your professional development and your nonprofit.
  4. Networking! Attending the annual statewide convening of nonprofits in Kentucky is an important opportunity to connect with your colleagues. Whether it be to share ideas, find a listening ear, gain access to new resources or form a new collaboration – visiting with old friends and meeting new ones is a great feature of the Forum and another important investment in your career and your organization.
  5. We like seeing you! Seriously. Connecting with our members and potential members at the Forum is fantastic! Our communication with most of you is typically by email or phone, so the opportunity to meet and visit in person is a treat.

I know that taking time away from the office is tough to do and the investment of resources to register and travel may not be easy. I also know that in 12 years, I’ve not heard from a single nonprofit leader who has attended the Forum and not felt it was worth the investment (and if you are out there, I do want to hear from you)! Please take the time today to register for the Forum and the Breakfast with the Candidates event – both are an investment in you, your nonprofit, and our sector. I look forward to seeing you there!

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“Officially” Three Years Old

If you use social media, you may have discovered Facebook’s “on this day” feature or apps like Timehop and MemoirDCtools that help you relive and celebrate milestones, big and small. I love these daily reminders that make me laugh, make me miss my son’s blonde baby curls or my daughter’s toothless grin, help me relive a fantastically lazy vacation or make me think: “did I REALLY post that?!?”

Whether or not I get to relive a milestone through social media, I like to revisit even the small milestones to reflect on progress made or momentum lost, and more importantly – as opportunities to practice gratitude.  There has been plenty of research on the proven benefits of gratitude and as I shared in a blog this past spring, several important milestones have given KNN wonderful opportunities to practice gratitude.

One recent milestone last week and one coming up on Monday provide an opportunity for, you guessed it – gratitude.  While we’ve been partnering with you to strengthen the nonprofit sector for nearly fourteen years, Kentucky Nonprofit Network, Inc. will officially celebrate its third birthday/receipt of our 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt status on September 21. And last week, we celebrated two years in our modest office space with fantastic parking.

As I look back at the on the road to how we became an independent nonprofit, it’s been quite a roller coaster ride. As many of you who have had to scale back quickly or grow rapidly can attest, sometimes the most important thing you can do is buckle up. While there are days the transition seems like thirty years instead of three, I am truly grateful for the progress made, the victories won and even the bumps and potholes along the way.

Every time an organization renews their KNN membership, I am thankful.  When a new organization becomes a KNN member, I am excited to have another member on the team. When a nonprofit takes advantage of our state association health plan or an executive learns about the latest updates to KY laws for nonprofits because of our tools, I am proud of the resources KNN offers. When I see nonprofits contacting their legislators about issues of importance to them and our sector, I am energized. And yes, I have to be honest, when a nonprofit is utilizing KNN resources yet doesn’t feel the investment in membership is “worth it,” I’m disappointed and eager to convince them that the work of a state association of nonprofits doesn’t just happen – they need us and we need them.

As KNN reaches this three-year milestone, I’m thrilled to report that your state association is 534 members strong – and growing! The investments of membership dues, sponsorships, grants, donations, time, expertise, interest, energy and passion for improving the quality of life in our communities that each of you brings to this partnership to advance our sector is appreciated and energizing. So, I thank you.  And I am grateful for these milestones.

How do you reflect and celebrate your milestones? Let us hear from you.


P.S.  Not yet a member of your state association? Now is the perfect time…create a milestone and join today!

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Is Being Busy a Disease?

I may have a disease. According to this article, it’s called being busy.

According to my priest, being busy allows me to hide from my real life – the things that truly matter. According to my kids, DC headshot 2013being busy means mom “has to” check her phone way too often. I don’t know if it’s a disease or not, but I do know I’m trying to stop. Really. I’m taking very specific steps (albeit baby steps) to stop being so busy, stop feeling overwhelmed and find a way to bring some balance to my life.

This article from CNBC says if you are working over 55 hours per week, you’re so unproductive you might as well not be working at all. If this is true, it means I’ve been wasting lots of time being busy for years. You?

The article also says there are many reasons many of us succumb to the disease of being busy. One, the need to feel important and prove our worth, was so true early in my career. With maturity and necessity, this is no longer the case. But it’s become a difficult habit to break and with advances in technology, it’s just so darn easy. Once I had children, I ensured my personal life was just as busy as my professional life – and its not a behavior I consciously wanted to model.

For the last several years, KNN has hosted an annual retreat for nonprofit CEO’s and executive directors. As a result of last year’s retreat led by leadership and organization consultant, Lisa Williams, I took some very specific action steps. I turned off email notifications on my desktop and my phone – so when I’m working, I can focus and I’m not interrupted. It was tough, but I’ve survived and I do feel more productive. I also made a commitment each morning when I reach for my phone to first spend a few minutes reading from a daily devotional app – before I check my calendar or my email. This small step is an attempt to get my mind right before I start my day and it has definitely helped put things into perspective. I also attempted to change the way I make to do lists.  This has been a complete failure – I’m still a work in progress on this one!

At this year’s executive retreat, we’ll be learning how to sharpen our negotiating skills with Stoll Keenon Ogden attorney, Tom Williams, and Lisa Williams (no relation that I know of) will help us revisit the goals many of us set at last year’s retreat or in other settings. I’m anxious to hear from my colleagues on what’s working for them – and what’s not. Even if you didn’t attend last year, there will be much to learn this Friday. And if you aren’t a nonprofit CEO, Lisa will be presenting on this topic at the Kentucky Nonprofit Leadership Forum – if you are seeking a better work-life balance, her session is one you will not want to miss.

Now a confession: I am wrapping up this blog at 11:29pm. So much for my efforts to achieve a work-life balance! In fact, as part of my journey, I’m not sure I believe a complete work-life balance is possible any more. But I do believe I can do better because I deserve better, my family deserves better, my organization deserves better and so does my community. I’m a work in progress on many things and of all of them, setting boundaries between work and home is one of the most important things on my less than perfectly organized to do list.

I share my story on this blog because I know lots of you might have this disease too. And I know many young nonprofit leaders who want to avoid it. I hope you will break away from being busy and join us at Friday’s retreat or the Forum. And if you’ve conquered this disease and somehow have it all figure out, please let us hear from you – there are many of us who’d like to learn from you!

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Will Your Board Members Be Willing to Ask – Who’s the One?

Who’s going to be the one? Who’s going to be the person (or persons!) I can talk to today to advance KNN‘s mission? This is a question that I ask myself every morning.

While this might be a typical thought for most nonprofit staff members, this is also an important question for our board members to be asking. Who says? Well, KNN has listed being a “goodwill ambassador” as one of the key board member responsibilities for years (many governance resources do) and this responsibility has also been listed in KNN’s Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Kentucky guide since the program launched in 2011 – see page 25, #3. And now, what I look to as THE leading authority on nonprofit boards – BoardSource has announced its making this board member responsibility a highlight in the recent re-release of their classic, must-read guide for all board members – 10 Basic Responsibilities for Nonprofit Boards.

This re-release from BoardSource and some other tools are key pieces of a new phase of the Stand for Your Mission campaign. Many groups, including the National Council of Nonprofits have joined together to begin the long-term process of breaking down false barriers and promoting the advancement of nonprofit missions through everyday advocacy. This effort to better engage board members in advocacy will positively impact your public policy efforts, as well as your fundraising, public relations and connections with your communities.

The timing on phase two of Stand for Your Mission couldn’t be better. KNN’s advocacy and awareness work to build on the sector’s legislative victories in the 2015 General Assembly is in high gear and armed with these new resources, we hope you and your board members will stand with us and other nonprofits across Kentucky. Here’s what we’ve been working on:

  • KNN has convened a task force of cross-sector leaders to continue work on updating Kentucky’s laws governing nonprofits. Two of KNN‘s task force members join me in actively serving on the task force recently reconvened by Secretary of State, Alison Lundergan Grimes. Our goal is to collaboratively work on additional legislation in 2016 that will build on the updates made to KY law with House Bill 440. If you have feedback on issues you think need to be addressed, please let us hear from you.
  • KNN also recently submitted our list of recommended members to serve on the government nonprofit contracting task force, the result of another 2015 legislative victory, HCR 89. Four nonprofit leaders will be selected from our recommendations to serve with legislators and state government officials to identify much-needed strategies to streamline our sectors’ contracts with state government. It’s anticipated that the task force will begin meeting in early fall – stay tuned.
  • And I just returned from Baltimore where I represented my National Council of Nonprofits colleagues and our sector in meetings with the Forum of Regional Association of Grantmakers. These two leaders are planning a joint meeting to allow our state association and others across the nation to better collaborate with our philanthropic partners to advance our advocacy work. I am honored to be a part of this important inaugural effort.

So, even though our state legislature is not currently in session, KNN is actively working on your behalf. I look forward to having you and your board members engage with us to advance our sector. With these wonderful tools, including this handout I hope you will share with your board members, now is the perfect opportunity to get your board leaders standing for your mission and standing with our sector!

Please let us hear from you – how can KNN help you and your board members better engage in advocacy to advance your mission and our sector?

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ICYMI: Taking Advantage of the Updates to KY’s Nonprofit Laws

Last week, we shared resources about House Bill 440, the Kentucky Uniform Unincorporated Associations Act. This long-overdue first step to modernize the laws governing nonprofits in Kentucky was among many new laws passed in the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly that become effective on June 24.

If you want to take advantage of these improvements to our laws and missed our email last week, you can download the summary from our website here. KNN members receive an enhanced summary that includes specific action items for implementation and access to a free webinar to learn more (simply use your members-only login on the KNN site to access these tools and let us know if you need assistance. If you are not yet a KNN member, it’s easy to join today and receive access to these additional resources!

Continued work on these laws is a KNN priority for the 2016 legislative session. If there are issues facing your nonprofit that you think should be addressed, please emailus@kynonprofits.org.

The successful and unanimous passage of House Bill 440 is an excellent example of KNN membership dues in action! Membership in your state association of nonprofits means your nonprofit stands with us and other KNN members to help us continue to successfully advance and protect our sector. You need us and we certainly need you!

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Why Should I Care About State Solicitation Charitable Registration?

If you’ve heard anything about state charitable solicitation registration, you may be a little confused – I know I have been! Simply put, it is a requirement of most states that nonprofits seeking donations from their residents must submit specific financial and organizational information, usually on an annual basis.

This is not just for fun. States use this information to give the public access to information about charitable causes soliciting from them; ensure that these organizations are accountable and transparent; and protect their consumers and good-faith nonprofits. To accomplish this, state forms often require information on your finances, board of directors, legal status, mission, programs and organizational structure.

In Kentucky, nonprofits are required to register with the Kentucky Attorney General prior to solicitation, and there are a few exemption categories. Registration consists of the IRS Form 990 plus the IRS Determination Letter and the Articles of Incorporation. Annual filing of the IRS Form 990 is due when the same form is submitted to the IRS with no need to submit any IRS extensions. There is no fee for either initial registration or the annual follow-up. In Kentucky (and in any state in which you solicit), you will need to separately register professional solicitors and consultants – if you use them.

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia require that charities register to solicit in their state whether or not they are located in that state, unless they are in certain state-specific exempt categories (e.g., organizations with annual contributions of under $25,000, hospitals, and educational and religious institutions. Please note that this refers to exemption from registration and not tax-exemption). This means an organization with solicitation campaigns in multiple states may need to register in all of them. The exceptions are Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming – these states do not require filing. Overall, for initial registration, states require a completed registration form, financial documentation (IRS Form 990 or variation and reviewed or audited financial statements for larger organizations), organizational documentation (by-laws, articles of incorporation, and IRS Determination Letter) and a fee. Annually thereafter, most states will require a renewal form and annual financial reporting, plus a fee.

Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s not. The increased use of the internet as a solicitation tool, as well as efforts like KY Gives Day, has made state registration a big issue. Years ago, a group of state charity officials (NASCO) developed an outline known as the Charleston Principles, of how states may wish to carry out their registration requirements for online solicitation. In general, it says that organizations that have a way to solicit money immediately on their website or social media page (i.e., have a “donate now” button and a way to collect payment) and/or target residents of a particular state (or states) or get substantial, multiple or repeated donations in a state (or states) must register in the state – even if they do not have physical presence in the state. This also applies to follow-up emails to donors, sign-ups for newsletters and emails, and to email campaigns. Therefore, organizations that receive online donations may have to register in all states for which these actions apply. To make things more challenging, different states may have different definitions of “targeting” and “substantial.” Importantly, there are some readings of New York and New Jersey requirements that state that ANY online donate now button is a solicitation in their state and requires registration.

Overwhelmed and confused?  Well, you don’t need to be any longer because KNN is excited to announce that we’ve teamed up with a new online service, Simple Charity Registration to make the charitable solicitation registration process easier for our members! Simple Charity Registration helps your organization determine where you need to file, has you complete a questionnaire that auto-fills the appropriate forms and provides instructions on how and what to file and any fees required. Later, users receive email reminders of upcoming deadlines and can use their stored information for their next year’s filing. With KNN members-only pricing and an overall cap on the fees, this new benefit will save many of our KNN members hundreds of hours and potentially thousands of dollars

Click here for additional information or plan to join us on June 18, or July 16th at 10:30 am EDT for our monthly Ways You Can Save Webinar- register today!

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Danielle Clore

Executive Director/ CEO

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