Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Senate bill could spur charitable giving

New legislation, recently introduced in the Senate, would create tax-free "personal philanthropy accounts" to encourage pre-tax charitable giving. S 3881, introduced by Senators Isakson (R - Georgia) and Lautenberg (D - New Jersey), would allow workers to contribute up to $15,000 to nonprofits annually by payroll deduction.

By making these deductions "pre-tax," it increases the employee's take-home pay (compared to making the donation after-tax) by reducing the amount on which taxes are calculated. This, of course, is should act as an incentive to charitable giving in the workplace.

It will probably be the next session of Congress that will actually vote on this, in both the Senate and the House, but depending on the wording of the final bill it could be a good giving incentive, and a vehicle for nonprofits to base their annual campaigns on.

I learned about S. 3881 from the 501 strategies Nonprofit Blog. We are each members of the Nonprofit Blog Exchange.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's a dot-org world, after all

According to the Public Interest Registry (PIR), the folks responsible for the ".org" top-level domain, there are now over 5,000,000 registered dot-orgs worldwide.
"This is a significant milestone for the .ORG registry and we are excited that the number of .ORG registrations worldwide has increased by over 25 percent in less than 1 year," said Edward G. Viltz, President and CEO of PIR.

The .ORG domain, which has come to be associated with noncommercial activities, is the Internet's third largest "generic" or non-country specific top-level domain."
PIR, itself a dot-org and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has achieved much of the recent growth in dot-org registrations through promoting it in "developing regions" of South America, Asia, and Africa.

So, the question I have to ask you is this, "Has your nonprofit organization registered its dot-org name yet?"

Even if you don't think you need a web site (you do), you should be concerned about protecting your brand and your identity. That means, getting your organization's name (dot-org) before somebody else does.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

The Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants - #13

Greetings and welcome to the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants, edition #13. This carnival is the creation of Kivi Leroux Miller of the Writing 911 blog (and more). Each edition of the carnival is a collection of the best advice and resources that consultants and other support organizations are offering to nonprofits through their blogs each week. I am your guest host/consultant for the week, Ken Goldstein.

In choosing this week's entries, I wanted to focus not simply on what the authors had to say, but on the questions that their posts raise for other nonprofit organizations. Each issue raised here is important, but each also leaves room for us to question our own business practices and find new lessons to learn. So... on with the carnival!

"A Fundraiser" of Don't Tell the Donor submits Ashton Kutcher - the fundraiser and asks, "a celebrity, a movie promotion, and a myspace profile... tri-fecta?" When celebrities use their charitable gifts to promote their projects, is it still "philanthropy?" Check out the links, then discuss amongst yourselves.

Nancy Schwartz of Getting Attention (dot org) submits CDC's Verb Campaign to Get Kids Active Drops the Ball on Engaging Teachers and Parents. "[T]he end of the campaign comes just as the data is coming in, showing that it was surprisingly effective.... [E]ven though the campaign appeared to be working, Congress failed to renew funding, and now Verb's out of money." Have you experienced data coming in too late to save your nonprofit's program?

Mike Burns of Brody Weiser Burns submits Nonprofits and Sarbanes-Oxley 3. "An independent Audit Committee is the third principle outlined by the American Bar Association (ABA) in considering the corporate governance implications that arise from Sarbanes-Oxley reforms," she begins. Does your organization have an independent Audit Committee?

Leila Johnson of Data-Scribe Blog submits Grant Writing Tips from a New Funder. The four basic items discussed are: Show specific examples of success, Be positive, Do some research on the funder, and Address all of the application's criteria. Yes, you recognize these as pretty much common sense, but how many do you regularly follow in your grant writing habits?

Finally, as this week's host I also get to select a posting from the blogs I've been reading. Pam Ashlund of Non-Profit Eye wrote about Non-Profit Doublespeak: Excessive Compensation. Have you heard this complaint? That nonprofit executives are overpaid? Pam pulls no punches in comparing nonprofit CEO pay to for-profit sector CEO pay. Think you could do with a raise?

Thank you for joining us this week. For more information about up-coming carnivals, and to submit your own posts, please see the carnival home page.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

The Carnival is Coming to Town!

Well, maybe not to town, but to this blog.

On Monday I will be hosting the next edition of the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants. ... "What's a nonprofit consultant carnival?" ... It is a collection of the best advice and resources that consultants and other support organizations are offering to nonprofits through their blogs each week.

My posts have been featured in several previous editions of the carnival, and on Monday it will be my responsibility to choose the best recent postings from all the other nonprofit consultant blogs.

If you blog on nonprofit topics, you can still get in your entry... Go to to submit your post using the form there or send an email to npc.carnival AT yahoo DOT com with your name, your blog's name and the URL of the post (not your blog homepage). The deadline is tonight, Friday, September 15, 8:00 p.m. ET.

Come back on Monday to join us at the carnival!

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Delays in IRS Nonprofit Approval

Posted to the IRS' web site:
Where Is My Exemption Application?

Many exempt organizations and practitioners may have noticed an increase in the timeframe to process an application for tax-exempt status.

We apologize for any delays you may be experiencing and we are taking steps to decrease processing time. This delay is the result of a backlog of exemption applications.
The page goes on to explain the process and you can do about it (not much: "There is no need to call.").

Thanks to the Charity Channel's Don Griesmann for the alert.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Corporations Versus Nonprofits - A real question?

This morning I was searching out blogs with "nonprofit" as a keyword when I somehow stumbled across the "Esdena: Student Marketplace" blog and read a post called "Welcome back MIT! and Why Do People Hate Corporations." Now, I'm fine with the MIT part (welcome back to school), it's the rest of the post where the writer has some interesting things to say about our nonprofit sector.

The writer, Dominic Lee, says (in part - typos included):
I don't know about elsewhere, but at least here at Rice, people HATE corporations. Businesses and extreprenuers are seen as mercenary, greedy pigs that care only about money.

These people just never seem to remember their own parents probably will not have a job if it werent for these businesses...

There are several questions I want to ask:
Did Greenpeace invented Hybrid cars? Or did Toyota?
Did Friends of the Earth revolutionized the energy industry by introducing more efficient fuels? Or did BP?

My point here is, I believe for-profit corporations are more effective than non-profits organizations in achieving social means. ...
Okay. Good introduction. Good questions. Wrong conclusion.

First off, I don't hate corporations. I hate corrupt corporations, of which there appear to be many these days. But I am not a knee-jerk, anti-business death-to-McDonald's type. In fact, I am a small businessperson with two companies of my own, one of which is consulting to nonprofit organizations. So, while I am very much "in the nonprofit world" I am also a businessperson.

Back to the question ... "Did Greenpeace invented [sic] Hybrid cars? Or did Toyota?" Well, obviously it was Toyota (or Honda, or whatever). But it does not logically follow that Toyota is more effective at achieving environmental mission than Greenpeace.

Greenpeace is not organized to invent technology. They are not in the field of engineering. They are advocates and activists. Their mission is about education and getting the public involved in environmental issues.

Toyota is not organized to solve the world's problems. They are organized to devise and sell vehicles that are in current demand by the marketplace.

It's a fairly simple chain reaction:
Greenpeace (and others) influence public opinion on fossil fuels -> Public demands more fuel-efficient vehicles -> Toyota (and Honda, etc.) develop hybrid engines -> Toyota Prius becomes top seller.

I applaud Toyota for their work. I mean to take nothing away from it. But, it is the work of Greenpeace (and a dozen other major and hundreds of smaller nonprofits) that made the change in society that resulted in the Prius being a top seller.

The same chain of nonprofits influencing public opinion, to the public demanding something from the marketplace, also holds true for the Friends of the Earth / BP question. Thank you BP for coming up with cleaner fuels. But first thank you to Friends of the Earth for getting out the message and influencing the market.

This is how it works. Nonprofits influence the market. Corporations deliver in the market. They each play an important role. And then there are the thousands of things nonprofits do that have no market solution - or where the market is part of the problem - such as in the fields of hunger and housing.

Mr. Lee goes on to explain why corporations are better at achieving social goals:
Why? Because of tax breaks provided to companies when they make donations.

What? Yes, because of the tax breaks, very often, a company almost HAVE to donate some money. I mean, financially, they will have to pay anyway, they might as well build a good rep by donating those money they would otherwise in paying in form of tax.
Again, Mr. Lee states a fact (corporations give to nonprofits), but draws the wrong conclusion.

Corporate donations only make up about 4 to 5% of all charitable contributions. It's very nice, and we appreciate it very much, but this alone is certainly not what "achieves social means."

Final quote from the post:
... businesses will always donate to non-profits which fit the following criteria:

1. Have close connections with the corporations
2. Throw a good (by good, I mean luxurious most of the time) charity event
3. Able to create good PR for the business

Ok, so NONE of these 3 says anything about the non-profits ability to achieve their social goals.
Mr. Lee obviously knows nothing about the nonprofit sector, and his picture of us as providing nothing but good PR, tax breaks, and party invitations would be insulting if it weren't so laughable.

Mr. Lee, how about I ask you a few questions? Can you show me legitimate examples of where corporations have done a consistently better job of achieving the social goals of feeding the homeless, or rescuing wildlife, or fighting for civil rights?

Every social advance and achievement in this country over the past century was accomplished almost exclusively through the hard work and dedication of the nonprofit sector.

Yes, corporations have been involved (as they should be). But typically only after the change has been effected in the court of public opinion. The power of the marketplace to complete changes is incredible, and I mean to take nothing away from that. But, without the power of nonprofits to advocate for causes and lead the charges, very little would ever be accomplished in the area of social change.

You can disagree with me, but this is what I know.

crossposted to Random Thoughts, Notes, & Incidents

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Thank yous and horn blowing

Last week I completed an Interim Executive Director position that involved merging a small nonprofit child care agency into a larger one. (I will write more about that and the lessons learned in a future post.) Today, I received a wonderful thank you note from the [now former] board chair who hired me. I want to share part of that note and then use it to illustrate some points all nonprofits can learn from.

First, the note:
"Thank you for helping CFS during their interim phase. I appreciate everything you did to assist with the merger and make the transition so smoothly. I really appreciate the relationship and trust you developed with the staff as well. You did a fabulous job!"
Beyond the ego boost I enjoy from posting the note, there are a few things to point out:
  • It was hand-written,
  • it was mailed within a week of the end of the assignment, and
  • it was completely unnecessary.
Imagine if every person who came into contact with your organization got such a wonderful, personal, and timely note? I got paid for my work. What about volunteers, donors, and other visitors?

You know I love to do everything online, but a hand-written note always has more power to convey the personal touch more than any other medium we have to connect with our nonprofit's supporters.

The other lesson I want to point out here is what I did with the note. I posted it right here on my web site for all to see. I'm proud of it.

Does your nonprofit ever receive nice notes from clients or other constituents? What do you do with them? File them away? Or do you post them on your web site and quote them in your newsletter and use them as publicity?

We're always shy in the nonprofit world about blowing our own horns. We're much too modest for that kind of crass self-promotion. And we pay the price for that attitude. Break down the barriers of shyness and share your honors and kudos with the world!

Thank yous are few and far between in the world today. Enjoy them and make the most of them when you can. And don't forget to give out a few of them yourself. And that's today's little lesson.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

A YouTube for Nonprofits?

By now you've probably at least heard of YouTube - the web site where users upload their home made videos. It's now one of the most popular sites around, with a variety of videos from serious and professionally done to silly little personal rants shot on cell phone cameras.

This week I was introduced to a new site, called DoGooder.TV that intends to become somewhat of a YouTube for the nonprofit community.

The concept behind DoGooder.TV is that organizations can post their promotional videos about their cause and attract supporters through the web site. Unlike the amateurish productions that rule YouTube, DoGooder.TV features very well produced videos and a much cleaner interface.

The production quality of postings so far is due to the fact that the web site is the creation of See3 - a media production company that only works with nonprofits. You do not have to be a See3 client to post your videos, but it looks like the initial postings are all from their client list.

So - Should your organization be posting videos on either DoGooder.TV or even on YouTube? If you have already spent the money to produce a video (maybe you show it at fundraisers, maybe it's something you've provided to the local media), then I'd have to say post away! Get the most out of your investment by having it seen in as many venues as possible.

If you have not already produced a video, the value question gets a bit more tricky. What audience are you after? Is yours an organization that can realistically attract support from outside your immediate geography? Producing a video - at least, a really good one - can be a costly and time-consuming project. But, it can also be a great presentation tool, bringing your potential funders face-to-face (face-to-screen?) with your clients.

Should you post to DoGooder.TV? Right now, the site has just launched in "Alpha" testing, and has a bit of growth and expansion ahead of it. Posting videos is not free here (as it is on the advertising supported YouTube). These factors could each play a role in evaluating the cost versus the potential revenue.

A major benefit of DoGooder.TV over YouTube is that the visitors here are looking for nonprofits and service information. They are here because they want to get involved. Every surfer on DoGooder.TV is a potential donor. As the site grows and attracts more attention, that could make it well worth the posting fees.

Should you post to YouTube? If you've got a video, why not? Surfers here are not necessarily seeking out opportunities to donate or volunteer, but a well-crafted message (that includes a way for them to contact you) could catch the attention of somebody who does want to help. Best of all, it's free, and it only takes a few minutes to register and get your first video posted.

Either way, the point here is to keep an eye on new technologies, new media, and new opportunities for you to get out your nonprofit's message. Online videos may or may not be the right answer for you, but it is certainly worth looking into.

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