Author Archives: Dennis

Beach Cleanup Day Via Storify

SignUpatZumaBeach cleanup day in Malibu was a tiring but fun day.  My tweets throughout the day gave me an excuse to try Storify to combine them into one storyline.

Storify was relatively easy to use and could have included tweets from others, not just mine.  I recommend compiling tweets or other posts quickly after the event because even by the afternoon of beach cleanup day, there were many tweets to sort through which became a bit laborious.  Also, there’s a one week period before the tweets (or posts) are no longer available.

Click here to view my storify.  I recommend you try it.

Non-profit’s Trade Secrets

TVScreenShotIn a recent situation, the Red Cross maintained the confidentiality of what it deemed its trade secrets but may have damaged its image in the process.

Because much of the non-profit world takes a very different view and shares a great deal with others, this example stands out.

Now when one Googles “Red Cross”, several stories are about this issue.  The stories generally paint the Red Cross in a poor light.

Following Hurricane Sandy, the New York State’s Attorney General requested information as to how the Red Cross spent relief donations.

ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces journalism in the public interest, filed a public records request for the information the Red Cross provided to the New York AG (see link to article below).

After 0bjection by the Red Cross that its response to the New York AG was confidential and should be protected as “trade secrets”, the AG declined to release the information other than a small portion deemed not confidential.

In this and in other recent court cases, non-profit organizations have been granted confidentiality for information such as donor lists, operating procedures and internal strategies.

An article by Orrick’s Trade Secrets Group on JDSupra, the online legal magazine, highlights some key considerations on this issue.

“Two take-aways from these cases:

First, charities, non-profits, and publicly-funded entities should not ignore the opportunities they may have to protect their hard-earned donor lists and (maybe) other proprietary information as trade secrets.

Second, these types of organizations should consider their unique public relations concerns before claiming trade secret protection.”

The Red Cross is a big organization that gets donations from the broad, uniformed public so this issue is not likely to have much impact on it but for other non-profits, this is an issue to consider.

Copy and paste the link below to go to the Orrick article on JDSupra.

Copy and paste the link to the ProPublica article.


Tapping Young People’s Energy for Your Non-profit

MillennialsI was struck by two recent  articles in the magazine, Fast Company.

The first reported on a recent study, the Millennial Impact Report (link below), that young people in what is described as the “millennial” generation (people born in 1980’s through the early 2000’s) consider a company’s support for causes one of the top three reasons for agreeing to employment.


“Out of 1,514 respondents, more than 50% said that a company’s involvement in various causes influenced whether they accepted a job. It’s not the top factor that influences whether they take a job, but it ranks in the top three (what a company does and its work culture are the top two).”

“Once millennials have decided to work at a company, they’re more likely to stick around if they feel that their passions are fulfilled–and if they believe in the company’s mission.”

My takeaway is that for non-profits, creating an affiliation with companies may be a valuable and new relationship.  Your non-profit may be just what companies need to attract and retain millennial-age employees.

In the second article, we learn that this desire of young people to be involved in causes doesn’t stop with the millennial generation.  A new company, Venture for America (VFA), has successfully begun to channel these new graduates into productive relationships with non-profits.


“For the uninitiated, VFA was founded as a nonprofit in 2011 with a sweeping ambition to connect college graduates with startups who need smart talent. But it doesn’t stop there. After training and working in the trenches for two years, VFA’s “fellows” will have earned the chops to become entrepreneurs themselves, thereby seeding the need to place more college grads at new startups.”

“Today, three classes of VFA fellows in, the organization is making steady progress. Yang says this year VFA received more than 1,000 applications for 100 fellowships in Detroit, New Orleans, Cleveland, and Las Vegas, among other cities far removed from the startup locus of Silicon Valley.”

My last post suggested that non-profits need to use the Internet as part of its outreach and illustrated how its use can have outsized results.

This post suggest that the young people, who are the most active audience on the Internet, are generally highly receptive to becoming involved in causes, therefore, forming a great audience.

WordPress links are not working so please cut and paste the following into your browser.

Millennial article on Fast Company:

Millennial Impact Report:

Venture for America article on Fast Company:

Internet as Great Leveler

DavidGoliathUse of the Internet and social media to drive awareness of your non-profit and its goals can enable your campaign results to outperform expectations as shown by results of a study recently published in “Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly”.

The Internet and social media campaigns measured in this study defied the conventional wisdom about the campaign value and power of indicators such as contribution efficiency and organization size.

My takeaway from this article, therefore, is that the Internet levels the playing field to a great extent.

While this should be obvious to those of us familiar with the power and reach of the Internet, it should be a wake-up call for those not.

A new or small non-profit can effectively use a well crafted message delivered via the Internet and redistributed via social media to gain attention and donations well out of proportion with its size.

We’ve seen several impromptu campaigns go viral on the Internet to great success.

Many of the viewers of these Internet messages may not be easily reached by other means.

Even if your target donor base is older, wealthy donors not tethered to their digital screens, these mature donors likely have staffs and advisers who monitor worthy causes online and would search the Internet to evaluate a potential cause.

We probably all know well regarded, well established non-profits that have stuck with traditional forms of solicitation such as snail mail.

While these means will likely continue to produce results, they should be supplemented by new digital methods.

Copy and paste this link to read the article on EurekAlerts:

So, How Much Lobbying Can We Do?

SquarMilnerLogoOK, perhaps not a universal non-profit question.

But for those non-profits with the resources and inclination to lobby, this is a very useful article from SquarMilner, the accounting firm.

The WordPress link function is not working now so you’ll likely have to cut and paste the following link into your browser to get to the article. Sorry.

Power of Video Even in Another Language

Watch the power of video even when you can’t understand what they’re saying, at least I can’t.

Today reported the following: “Norwegian charity SOS Children’s Villages hit a viral nerve this week with an ad to raise money for Syrian children that has garnered 3 million views on YouTube in less than 24 hours.”


Click here to go to Today’s story.

New York State Not-for-Profits Law Gets Overhaul


MarcumBlogLogoGovernor Andrew Cuomo has signed the New York Nonprofit Revitalization Act of 2013 (“Act”) which is the first major sweeping change for New York’s not-for-profit entities in four decades. The intent of the new Act is to allow for an easier formation process, improve governance and operations, modernize not- for-profit corporate laws and reduce the reporting burden for smaller nonprofit organizations.

The Act applies to nonprofits incorporated in New York, however, the significant area of the Act relating to financial reporting and regulatory compliance applies to all nonprofits registered in New York for charitable solicitation purposes.

Nonprofit organizations have until July 14, 2014 to implement the new provisions. A summary of the most significant changes include:


  • Nonprofits are now required to adopt a Conflict of Interest Policy and every corporation with annual revenue in excess of $1 million with twenty or more employees must adopt a Whistleblower Policy as well. The policy must include procedures for reporting violations and it must be disseminated to employees, volunteers, officers and directors annually.
  • The Act prohibits nonprofits from entering into a transaction with a related party unless the nonprofit board determines the transaction is fair, reasonable and in the nonprofits best interest. The Act creates the definition and procedures for “related party transactions” and what must be considered when these types of transactions arise, such as exploring an alternative approach to the extent available, obtaining board approval by majority vote, prohibiting the participation of the interested party from deliberations and documenting the approval and alternative considerations. Furthermore, the Attorney General is given the power to enforce actions against unlawful transactions or transactions deemed unreasonable and not in the best interest of the nonprofit.
  • Reasonable compensation is still permitted within the Act, however, no individual can participate or vote in the committee or board meetings if their compensation is affected.  
  • No employee of the nonprofit may serve as Board Chair. This provision has an extended effective date of January 1, 2015 to allow more time to identify and appoint a new chair.

Financial Oversight and Compliance:

  • All organizations registered for charitable solicitation that are subject to the mandatory audit requirements with the Attorney General must have a designated audit committee of the board comprised of independent directors (newly defined in the statute) responsible for retaining an independent auditor and reviewing the results of the audit. The audit committee is also responsible for overseeing the adoption, implementation and compliance of the Conflicts of Interest and Whistleblower Policies.
  • The annual gross revenue threshold for triggering a mandatory independent audit is increased from $250,000 to $500,000 as of July 1, 2014. This threshold will be increased again as of July 1, 2017 to $750,000 and a further increase to $1 million as of July 1, 2021.
  • The annual gross revenue threshold triggering a review report by an independent auditor is raised from $100,000 to $250,000 as of July 1, 2014. However, the Attorney General has retained the right to request an audit after reviewing the report.


  • Nonprofits will be permitted to send board and membership meeting notices by fax or email. The use of videoconferencing is also now permitted for board members participation in meetings unless restricted by the corporation’s certificate of incorporation or bylaws.
  • Electronic communication may be used for waiver of notice, proxy designations and for members and directors to give unanimous written consent in lieu of an in-person meeting.

Corporate Law:

  • The Act eliminates the Type A, B, C and D classifications to either “charitable” or “non charitable” entities. Those nonprofits previously formed as Type A, B, C or D are not required to submit any filings for this new classification. Types “B and C” and some Type “D” which were formed for charitable purposes will automatically get the classification of “charitable”. Type “A” and all other Type “D” entities will be considered “non- charitable”.
  • The new law streamlines certain corporate actions such as amending the certificate of incorporation, mergers, sales of significant assets, and dissolution by allowing the Attorney General to approve such transaction in lieu of obtaining court approval.
  • The Act changes the requirement for certain organizations with an educational purpose whereby they no longer have to file with the New York State commissioner of education unless they are a nonprofit operating school, library, museum or historical society. This would not apply to colleges and universities. 

Nonprofits affected by the Act should review their internal control policies and governance practices to update based on the new requirements going into effect for 2014. Let Marcum’s nonprofit team assist in developing an understanding of the statutory changes so that your organization is informed and compliant.

A special thanks to article contributor Marla Esan, Senior Manager, Tax & Business Services.



Carolyn Mazzenga
Long Island

Janis Cowhey McDonagh
New York

Ronald Finkelstein
Long Island

Donald Butler

Sheri Lejman

John Schuyler