January 20, 2013

Meet US(T) Mondays- Adam

After spending years working at a major electronics retailer—yeah… you know… the really BIG one. Now imagine working there on Black Friday—as an Operations and Sales Manager, Adam was ready for a change.

“I really liked the idea of supporting organizations that make a difference,” he explained.

Having served the members of UST first as an Operations Manager and then as the Director of Operations, Adam has been exposed to a whole new side of the nonprofit world while working with the Trust. But his success at easily adapting to a new challenge wasn’t unprecedented—he once had to repair his fuel line with a tire patch kit and electric tape to make it home from a camping trip in Death Valley, California—or unexpected. “I appreciate the feeling that comes with overcoming an unexpected obstacle,” he explains, “and I like having the opportunity to test myself.”

Of his move to UST, Adam recalls, “I was fascinated by the variety of organizations that were members of UST: schools, museums, zoos, assisted living centers, mental health associations, symphonies, hospitals…the list goes on and on. And I realized that my definition of ‘nonprofit’ had been really narrow.”

Taking that newfound knowledge to heart, Adam expanded his volunteer and nonprofit experience by doing work with both Habitat for Humanity and the United Way which allowed him to better “appreciate their focus on the communities that they serve.”

Growing up as part of a Navy family that moved around with his father, a career Navy man, a lot, Adam also supports and admires the efforts of programs like the Wounded Warrior Project because he recognizes the need “to honor and serve those who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.”

“One of my favorite childhood memories is having my dad surprise us by coming home early from a nine-month deployment,” he remembers.

And, in fact, family features prominently in many of his stories.

He often begins stories with “My wife…”, and even goes so far as to tell new Trust employees that she features prominently in many of his stories, so that they know who he is talking about when her name pops up. Similarly, his children feature prominently in his office, with mugs designed by them, pictures, and artwork proudly displayed. And, luckily for them, Adam jumps at the chance to learn with, and teach them something that amazes them… makes for a good story as well.

Have questions about Adam or want to know more about how the UST Operations Team works? Follow #MeetUSTMondays or send us your questions at info@chooseUST.org!
January 13, 2013

Meet US(T) Mondays- Cheryl

Cheryl- Account Executive

For the past 16 years Cheryl Jones, VP, Account Executive, has fought relentlessly to help UST thrive. Responsible for all of the personal sales contacts, new business partnerships with state and national nonprofits, and the continued growth and success of the Trust, Cheryl works closely with Donna Groh, the Board of Trustees, and the 75-plus Sponsors that help make sure nonprofits across the country aware of their choices when it comes to funding unemployment.

“I’ve been in the insurance industry for more than 25 years and I jumped at the chance to work with a client whose values I identified strongly with,” explained Cheryl. “I fought hard to make Unemployment Services Trust—which was still HSUT and NNUT—my client and I still love it.

“I have always called UST my ‘Ben & Jerry’s,’ meaning that it’s a great ‘product,’ with great employees which allows you to have a lot of fun at work.”

A frequent traveler for work, Cheryl jumps at the chance to spend time at home relaxing. “I spend so much time traveling for work that when I am home I like to take it easy and be with my friends. I have been very lucky to have traveled to every state and to have met so many interesting people. I used to say that I learned geography by following the Grateful Dead around the country, but really I am thankful every day that I have a job that allows me to go places and meet so many people. I don’t know what I would do if I had to sit at my desk 5 days a week.”

Having completed her dream house in the past couple of years, Cheryl explains, “I would much rather entertain at my house than go out, so I like to use my frequent flyer miles to bring my friends and family out to see me so that I don’t have to get on another plane in my time off.”

Even her perfect weekend revolves around being close to her home, and family and friends. “The perfect weekend would be getting up and exercising then going for a walk or bike ride and having friends over for dinner; if I couldn’t do that though, I would like to be on the water either rafting, boating, snorkeling, walking along the ocean or whale watching.”

Have questions about Cheryl or want to know more about how the UST Operations Team works? Follow #MeetUSTMondays or send us your questions at info@chooseUST.org!
January 06, 2013

Meet US(T) Mondays- Donna

You know their names, and you may even know their voices, but we’d like to introduce you to the “real” UST team! Join us over the next few weeks for #MeetUSTMondays! >In July 2009, Donna Groh joined UST as Executive Director. With broad experience in not-for-profit organizations, associations and healthcare, she is known for her expertise with strategy development, change management, nonprofit governance and board development.

“Even before I joined UST as the Executive Director I had known about the Trust from a previous employer and felt encouraged by what we do,” explained Donna of her earliest encounters with UST.

“While I was with my former employer, Holly Smith-Jones, my predecessor at UST, was a board member for the organization I worked at and helped us make the decision to join the Trust. I remember that I liked what UST does for nonprofits, and at the very height of the Great Recession, I saw it as a challenge to join the Trust and take it forward.”

But working with the Trust isn’t the only thing that Donna does. An avid world traveler Donna has been to all continents except for Antarctica—a blemish she hopes to remove from her wayfarer record in 2014 when she will travel from South America down to Antarctica.

When at home with her dog Murphy—a constant companion—Donna enjoys cooking and entertaining. “My daughter is always in charge of cocktails and I am in charge of the buffet.”

Describing her perfect dinner party, Donna imagines an eclectic group of people that would create a great dynamic. “The meal would be catered by Mario Batali who would, of course, also be a guest.”

“I would also invite Abby Wambach, my favorite female soccer player,” Donna said, admitting that while she was a terrible player herself, she was a decent coach.

“Then I would invite Sherlock Holmes because I love the way his mind works, and Jude Law because I like the way he looks. Clive Cussler because of his adventure stories, and David Foster who has created more hit music sensations than anyone else. Bette Midler would round out the group,” she concluded.

Prior to joining UST, Donna was the Executive Director of Toastmasters International and before that Director of Operations & Business Development for the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Previously she served as Vice President/COO of the Irvine Medical Center. She has a BS and Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and has completed coursework for an Ed.D in Organizational Leadership from Pepperdine University.

If you have questions for Donna, or want to know more about how the UST team works, follow our hashtag (#MeetUSTMondays) or send us your questions on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter!
December 19, 2012

The Impact of UI Claims- Part III

Wondering what kind of impact unemployment claims will have on your nonprofit in 2013? Trying to decide if staffing changes will make a difference in your budget? Well, we’ve got answers!

What Will Affect My Organization During Unemployment Peaks?

The Number of Employees at your Organization. Since smaller organizations may have made smaller contributions into the state-run UI trust fund, even one benefit claim can have a significant impact on the organization’s future experience rating.

The Filing Date of the Benefit Claim. The filing date of a claim determines the base period which determines the former employee’s wages that will be used to calculate their UI benefit payments. In the majority of states, the base period is the first four of the last five completed quarters worked.

For example, if Sally H. worked for Organization ABC from December 2004 to January 2013, and filed a base period claim in February 2013, your organization would be charged for her UI benefits based on her wages from 4th quarter 2011 to 3rd quarter 2012 (or approximately Oct. 2011- Sept. 2012).

The Amount of Wages the Employee Earned. Like most taxable areas, the higher the wages your former employee earned, the higher UI benefits they’ll receive once approved. And, in turn, the more high wage earners you have with high benefit payments, the faster your organization will see an increase in employer taxes.

The Amount of Benefits Paid to a Former Employee. Whenever employees stop receiving benefits before the full amount runs out—usually because the employee has found a new job and stopped collecting—it positively effects your experience credit and tax charges.

It is important to note however that not all employers are subject to paying unemployment taxes and some, like 501(c)(3) organizations with 10 or more employees, have alternative cost saving options available to them that can help reduce the price of unemployment at their organization. To find out if a better option exists for your organization, contact us at info@chooseUST.org or request a complimentary Savings Evaluation today.

Want more information? Send us your questions on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook!

December 18, 2012

The Impact of UI Claims- Part II

Wondering what kind of impact unemployment claims will have on your nonprofit in 2013? Trying to decide if staffing changes will make a difference in your budget? Well, we’ve got answers!

What Will the Unemployment Office Look at When Determining the Eligibility and Cost of a Claim?

The Type of Employer your Organization Is. A few nonprofits are not required to pay unemployment claims under IRS tax code 501(c)(3). But if you have employed four or more individuals in some portion of a day in each of twenty different calendar weeks, in either the current or preceding calendar year, you must pay into the unemployment system, and your employees are eligible for benefits. Regardless of whether you are exempt or not, it is highly encouraged because it provides financial security to your employees should they lose their job through no fault of their own. If your organization is required to pay (or reimburse) the state for unemployment claims, the unemployment office will continue examining the claim to determine the eligibility of your former employee.

The Type of Employee Involved. Not all employee types qualify to collect unemployment benefits. For example, part-time workers or independent contractors may not qualify for unemployment benefits. However, if an employee is misclassified or other errors occur during the claims review process your organization may be held responsible for benefits paid to the former employee.

The Number of Places the Employee Has Worked. If a former employee worked for several employers within the base period*, the charge to your organization—and the effect it will have on your taxes—may be less because it would be split among all of the employers identified in the base period claim.

The Length of Time the Employee Worked at your Organization. The longer an employee has worked at your organization, the more likely it is that your agency will shoulder the brunt (and eventually all) of the base period claim effects.

The Nature of the Employee Separation. Whenever a new benefits claim is filed, the unemployment office determines whether or not a former employee meets eligibility requirements to collect benefits under state law. In some cases, the unemployment office may determine to provide benefits to an employee you don’t think should collect based on the nature of the separating event, and your organization is able to contest these at an unemployment hearing. Proper documentation is crucial to winning the case so you must be prepared, and some nonprofit trusts like UST will even provide you with a case representative to help you with court cases. (Nonprofits who used a hearing representative had a 72.3% win rate compared to 57.4% for employers who did not**).

It is important to note however that not all employers are subject to paying unemployment taxes and some, like 501(c)(3) organizations with 10 or more employees, have alternative cost saving options available to them that can help reduce the price of unemployment at their organization. To find out if a better option exists for your organization, contact us at info@chooseUST.org or request a complimentary Savings Evaluation today.

Want more information? Send us your questions on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook!

Missed a Part? Read Part I here. Read Part II here.

* Base period claims are those in which a claim form is sent to EACH employer for which the claimant worked during his base period (usually the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the beginning of a claimant’s benefit year). So if your former employee is hired for only a short duration by another employer, you both may liable for a portion of their benefits.


** Source: Equifax Workforce Solutions
December 17, 2012

The Impact of UI Claims- Part I

Wondering what kind of impact unemployment claims will have on your nonprofit in 2013? Trying to decide if staffing changes will make a difference in your budget? Well, we’ve got answers!

Why Does Unemployment Insurance Matter?

Unemployment insurance was designed to provide jobless workers—who lost their jobs through no fault of their own—with weekly income during periods of unemployment. Lasting up to 26 weeks in normal circumstances, the payment amounts vary by state and are determined in part by state-dictated taxable wage bases. For most employers, the rate contributed is hinged on their “experience rating.”

The experience rating of each organization takes into account:

  1. The employer’s size,
  2. The amount the organization has paid into the state UI tax system, and
  3. The amount of UI benefits collected by former employees in a given period of time.


For employees, unemployment benefits provide a form of financial protection that helps them pay household expenses while looking for their next job. And, in extreme cases, unemployment benefits may enable them to continue paying for basic necessities until they are re-employed.

For nonprofit employers, paying UI taxes to the state or reimbursing benefits paid by the state provides the peace of mind that goes with knowing that employees will be financially taken care of if a bad economy, lost grants, or withdrawn financial support forces your organization to let someone on your team go.

It is important to note however that not all employers are subject to paying unemployment taxes and some, like 501(c)(3) organizations with 10 or more employees, have alternative cost saving options available to them that can help reduce the price of unemployment at their organization. To find out if a better option exists for your organization, contact us at info@chooseUST.org or request a complimentary Savings Evaluation today.

Want more information? Send us your questions on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook!

Want more info? Read Part II here, and Part III here.
December 12, 2012

Matching Employees Jobs with Pay

How much are your employees worth? And what would you do without them?

If you don’t know the answer to both of these questions, it might be time to take a look at how traditional job evaluations are giving way to salaries that are now based on market pricing and a little flexibility.

Turning away from traditional job evaluations that looked at job ranking, job classification, point factor, and factor comparison, many newer job evaluation tactics take into account the fact that people are more fluid in their careers and no longer care how their job is evaluated—so long as they’re being paid fairly. New salary determination methods also take into account that you should never pay more than the job is worth to you.

For nonprofits, especially those where employees give their all to change the status quo and to make a difference for your mission determining salary scales based on market pricing might not be a bad idea.

But nonprofit market pricing doesn’t always compare to the for-profit side where employees may have an easier time paying off their cars, homes, and bills, as well as enjoying that extra dinner out and more vacations.

When you’re ready to set salaries for your nonprofit staff, make sure that you (and Human Resources) know:

  • The upper limit of what each job is worth to your organization and how that compares to other companies in your area
  • What the lowest acceptable wage you could pay—for that job—in your market is


After determining those, it’s time to evaluate the pay structure of your nonprofit employees using a base job salary and base area salary.

Because more jobs are opening up in the for-profit sector—jobs that can often afford to pay employees higher salaries with better benefits and more stability—it’s important that you take into account more than just what job surveys suggest is a fair salary range. Consider questions that look at your employee’s health and happiness while doing this—i.e. would $1500 a month pay the rent or mortgage for your volunteer manager? Would they be able to afford their base bills too? Or would they be left commuting long hours because they couldn’t afford area rent? Do you know how that would affect your agency?

State economic development offices and regional development agencies can help provide up-to-date and accurate state and regional pay information that can then be broken down by skill level and neighborhoods. The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a similar database that can help you determine fair pay scales for your employees.

Your best resource is always other area nonprofits though. Although they might not cover the same mission that you do, other nonprofit employers can help you determine if your pay scale is fair. All you have to do is ask a few of the right questions!

Consider asking these questions in addition to those you think of on your own:

  • What type of industry do your employees work in?
  • What types of job titles do you have at your nonprofit?
  • How many employees work for your nonprofit?
  • What level of education or experience is required for your employees?
  • How long would you like a new employee to work for your organization?
  • How long do the majority of your employees stay with your nonprofit?
December 09, 2012

$2M in Unemployment Benefits go to Inmates in Missouri. Wait…What?!

In early October, after a 3-month cross matching study, it was reported through official channels that nearly $2 million in unemployment benefits were paid to 1,100 people in county jails or state prisons throughout the State of Missouri. $43,000 of that went to a single inmate in Missouri’s Cook County Jail.

While the recipients may now face state and/or federal criminal fraud charges in addition to their previous charges, the overpayments in Missouri are simply a small indication of the larger, systematic overpayments—more than $13.7 billion this year!—that are a regular occurrence across the country.

Unfortunately there is little that can be done to force those who have maliciously collected improper payments to repay their debt, which has further weakened the already unstable UI system. And, as is to be expected in an employer funded tax pool that has already been maxed out in many states, the overpayments—whether intentionally improper or not—have strained the ability of businesses to further develop, which has prevented necessary workforce expansions. And ultimately continues to hurt the economic recovery.

Although unemployment benefits only provide a portion of a jobless workers former wages (when properly collected), the benefit funds allow those still looking for work to continue supporting themselves by paying for basic household and living expenses, which has allowed nonprofits that serve those hardest hit by the financial depression to reach a greater portion of the population most dependent on their services for basic living needs.

According to the Congressional Budget Office though, more than $250 billion have been spent on unemployment benefits in the last five years, with more than two million jobless workers currently receiving expanded UI benefits from the Federal Government, which totaled $94 billion in the last fiscal year alone.

For nonprofits still paying into the state’s pooled UI tax system, continued overpayments and the high cost of paying for the unemployment trends at other, larger companies, further creates a drain on much needed monetary resources that could be better directed back toward their founding mission.

To learn more about how your nonprofit can opt out of the state’s UI tax system and reduce unemployment costs request a quote today.
December 04, 2012

What is UI integrity – and why do I care?

It’s a familiar situation. A notice arrives informing you that your long-term employee, recently let go due to an unavoidable loss in funding, has filed for unemployment. “Oh,” you think, “nothing to do here. Of course Bob is entitled to unemployment benefits.” You set the notice aside and go about your day.

But wait, what’s wrong with this picture? You may not realize it, but disregarding that notice has just exposed your organization to serious risks.

UI Integrity

What is UI Integrity? Depending on which state you work in, it may already be familiar, but if you haven’t seen the impact of this federal legislation yet, it’s coming. Passed as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011, compliance with UI Integrity provisions is required of all states no later than October of 2013.

UI Integrity was designed to address one of the biggest weaknesses of Unemployment Insurance funds nationwide: the persistence of unemployment benefits paid in error. In fiscal year 2011 alone, nearly 12% of unemployment benefits nationwide—approximately $13 billion dollars—were paid in error. While a common conception is that benefits paid in error are the result of bureaucratic incompetence, the truth is that most of these unwarranted payments occur when the state awards benefits to an applicant whose claim is later overturned. Frequently, the decision to award benefits is reversed when the employer offers information that wasn’t provided to the state in response to their initial request.

To address this problem, UI Integrity requires employers to provide complete and timely information for all unemployment claims in response to the state’s first request. And to make sure the reform yields the necessary savings, this law has teeth. Any employer that fails to provide a complete and timely response to a claim loses any hope of relief from charges attributable to that claim—even if you ultimately win the claim, you’re still on the hook for any benefits paid to the claimant.

Even more alarming, if the state identifies a pattern of failure to provide complete and timely responses, your organization and your claims administrator are at risk of permanently losing valuable protest rights and/or facing monetary penalties.

The bottom line on UI Integrity is that your organization has to be prepared to provide a response to every claim, every time.

At UST, our goal is to do everything we can to help minimize our members’ unemployment costs. As a claims administrator, we help nonprofits respond in a timely manner to all unemployment claims, which gives us the best opportunity to save more funds for our members’ missions. Learn more about UST claim management here: http://www.chooseust.org/claims-savings/
November 27, 2012

AICPA Audit Clarity Standards are Coming: Planning for Possible Changes in Your Audit Engagement

by Guest Blogger Barry T. Omahen, CPA, Managing Partner, Lindquist LLP Certified Public Accountants

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has issued new standards that may impact your future audit engagement. Statements on Auditing Standards (SAS) Nos. 122–125 (referred to as “Clarified Auditing Standards” or “Clarity Standards”) introduce changes that go into effect for financial statement audits for periods ending on or after December 15, 2012.

For most entities, that means the standards will be effective for the year ending December 31, 2012, or later.

Some changes may affect all audit engagements

  • Auditors are now required to review the terms of the engagement with you annually, even if you have a multi-year engagement letter.
  • Management’s responsibilities are spelled out more clearly in the engagement letter as a result of the new standards, but management responsibilities are unchanged.
  • The audit team is now required to ask you more questions regarding your legal and regulatory framework and to review correspondence with licensing or regulatory agencies, if applicable.
  • All confirmations are now required to be in writing (verbal confirmation is no longer an option).
  • Internal control communications (management letters) will now include a description of the potential effect of significant deficiencies or material weaknesses that the auditors identify through their procedures.
  • The audit report (opinion letter) has changed, with added headings to distinguish each section and a more complete description of management’s responsibilities.


Certain changes may only apply in unusual circumstances

  • When performing an audit on your organization for the first time, auditors are now required to perform and document various procedures on opening balances and consistent accounting procedures.
  • If your organization uses a financial reporting framework (previously called basis of accounting) other than Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), your auditors will need to discuss the appropriateness of the framework and may perform additional procedures regarding related-party transactions.


Some of the benefits of the clarified auditing standards include enhanced communication between your team and your auditors, improved audit quality and increased confidence in the audited financial statements.

These new standards will require auditors to redo much of the system evaluation work and memorandums that they carry forward from one audit to the next. As such, it’s encouraged that you work closely with your auditor to make these changes as smooth and efficient as possible!

For a more detailed version of this article, refer to Lindquist LLP’s website: http://www.lindquistcpa.com/AICPA-Audit-Clarity-Standards-11092012.htm



Barry T. Omahen, CPA, is Lindquist LLP's managing partner based in the firm’s San Ramon office. Barry specializes in serving the audit, accounting and reporting needs of not-for-profit organizations and employee benefit plans. He serves as the partner in-charge of the firm's quality control review and audit and accounting practice. He can be contacted at (925) 498-1546 or bomahen@lindquistcpa.com.

Lindquist LLP provides this information for general guidance only. It does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.
November 18, 2012

Do Your Employees Love What They Do?

Do your employees wake up every Monday morning dreading the day? Or do they come to work full of energy and ideas that they’re ready to implement? If it’s the latter, your employees may well love what they do, which gives your organization a leg up over unhappy competitors. Read on for a list of 7 things that show your employees love their jobs.

  1. Employees actively help one another out. When your employees regularly work together it suggests a couple of things that create a successful workplace. One, it suggests that they feel collaborative efforts are worth their time and energy, and two it suggests that they feel confident in the skills and opinions of their peers.
  2. Employees regularly suggest—and implement—new ways to help your organization and your mission succeed. When your employees come in first thing Monday morning with fresh ideas they’re ready to put into action it shows that they’re not only thinking about work outside of their M-F workday, it shows that they’re committed to improving the foundation that your organization has already laid.
  3. Employees like one another. Have you ever heard of the airplane test? Basically it says that when meeting—or interviewing—someone new you should ask yourself how you would feel being stuck on an airplane with them. If you’re happy to be sitting next to your companion the flight will go well. If you aren’t, it probably won’t.
  4. Employees feel confident in approaching upper management with concerns and new ideas. Having a strong connection with upper management suggests that your employees not only feel valued within your organization, but also that they know that your organization will take their ideas into consideration when planning next steps—a big plus!
  5. Employees happily share credit with one another. Former President Harry Truman famously said that “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
  6. Employees regularly exceed expectations. If your employees are going to work because they have to, your organization may be stifled by their lack of enthusiasm and contribution, but if your employees are coming to work because they love what they do, chances are they will regularly exceed expectations because enthusiasm and hard work are a very reactionary combination.
  7. Employees know what they do matters and that it makes a difference within the organization. For most employees a secure knowledge of who they are within the organization, how their work matters, and how it makes a difference to those outside of the organization equals happier work life self-esteem.


How do you measure employee happiness? Would you add anything to our list? Tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!
November 07, 2012

Making Sure that Talent Management Works for Your Nonprofit

Understanding talent management and succession planning at your nonprofit is about more than just knowing where your next hire will come from and planning for transitions. It’s all about understanding the non-negotiables, the employee skills and talents that are necessary for the continued success of your nonprofit. And, in the long run, it’s about carefully planning for the future ahead of each critical position.

Building your Talent Management Capabilities

Successful agencies don’t simply happen overnight, and neither does successful succession planning. It’s important that key people within your organization recognize that people will leave, employees will retire, and key positions will need to be filled ASAP. When this recognition happens, you can begin approaching succession planning within your agency as an opportunity to train and support talented employees in a way that moves their career forward.

When you are open and up-front with employees about the opportunities available for them at your organization, you position yourself and your Board for success. But you also get employees involved in the talent management of your agency.

Getting employees on board early and often, means that they’ll be prepared to do the work required to grow to their aspirations. It also helps ensure that they’ll understand the steps required to get a promotion and help new hires assimilate to your mission. To do this you must start with an internal review of your existing talent management steps and be prepared to change them as necessary.

Internal Review

To get started, begin considering what you’re doing now to develop the people within your organization that you know you would like to groom for future leadership. Ask questions that will help you gain understanding and insight into areas which they need strengthening in, and prepare to demonstrate the importance of investing in their development to others within the organization.

Some questions to consider before you begin explaining the importance of talent management and succession planning might include:

  • What is your average turnover/tenure rate?
  • How do you identify internal talent with a high potential to take on leadership roles?
  • How do you measure their performance and support their growth?
  • What would you do if a key member of the agency gave a two week notice today?
  • What problems or obstacles would their successor encounter before they are fully integrated into the agency?

Plan Overview

As you get past the planning stage and actually begin drafting a plan overview, make sure that you remember key items such as visible support from key management and Board members that strong succession plans often include. Lastly, make sure that key leadership criteria with incorporated information from focus groups and industry best practices, and agency accountability and follow-up options should also be included in your plan.

Defining Success at your Agency

Before you get too deep into writing the plan overview and creating the framework for your organizations talent management though, it’s important to determine what the most vital positions are.

You’re first thought might be to say your agency couldn’t survive without the Executive Director, or the CFO, but what about the Intake Coordinators, Fundraisers, and front-line workers your agency couldn’t live without?

While determining which positions are most important at your organization, be careful that you’re not only including top management, top performers, or current, well-liked employees. Include positions that are crucial to the daily functions of your organization and give these the highest priority for review based on the risk the organization runs with each vacancy.

Once the most important positions are determined, develop a success profile for each position that identifies the knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience a new hire would have to have for this critical role. Now might also be a good time to take a look at the performance assessments that have been conducted on this position- regardless of the employee within the position- over the last few years. (Learn more about setting the stage for an effective performance Assessment here.)

Developing the Talent

Now that you’ve determined the most critical positions within your organization and developed success profiles for each of them, you’re ready to begin figuring out how to develop the employees you would like to groom for these positions.

You’re goal in this should be to identify and develop internal candidates that may be potential successors for specific positions. These potential successors should match:

  • Your needs as a nonprofit agency
  • The skill set that they can or will be developing
  • The employees aspirations for their future

If an employee you think might be worth developing doesn’t match on any of the above three points, begin developing outside connections that expose you to the potential employees that would help fill the gaps in your agency.

Throughout this step you’ll want to use performance management tools that integrate organizational data outside of the typical performance review to help build a complete profile of the individual that is in the position. A more comprehensive talent inventory that involves multiple aspects of the position will allow you to identify skills gaps at the departmental level and systematically identify the people with qualifications that fill those gaps.

Recruiting and Hiring the Right Talent

Before finishing your succession planning, make sure that you have identified the timing and process for bringing new people into the organization, particularly for your critical roles. Because successful recruitment occurs long before a vacancy occurs, the profiles and assessments you create now will help you identify the types of skills and talents that your organization thrives because of.

Read the original Capability Company report here.

November 04, 2012

Nonprofits and the Criminal Element

In late 2010, nonprofits earned more than $670 billion and employed more than 1 in 12 Americans. However, recent screenings have revealed that nonprofits don’t tend to hire employees with criminal backgrounds.

Whether intentional, or unintentional, only 5 percent of those who were screened by Lexis Nexus Risk Solutions had ever been involved in any kind of criminal activity. But more than 1-in-5 of those who had a criminal background had been convicted of serious charges, including drug-related offenses, sexually-based crimes, kidnapping, and murder.

Nearly 1,200 nonprofit employees who were given background checks during the study had been convicted of murder. There were also 600 kidnapping offenses included in the audit.

Every year, Lexis Nexus combines forces with thousands of nonprofit agencies across the United States to conduct background checks and gather information designed to better protect nonprofit organizations in the event of a bad, or worse, accidental, criminal hire.

New EEOC Guidance May Soon Change This

In April, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission approved new guidance on criminal background checks that requires all employers to individually assess whether an applicant’s past criminal conduct is job related or consistent with business necessity before throwing them out of the hiring pool.

For nonprofits who have encountered problems with employees whose criminal background prove not so distant, and for those who protect clients from criminals, the new rules will be jarring because the EEOC provides only 2 circumstances in which an employer can meet the “job related and consistent with business necessity” on a consistent basis. The first occurs when an employer is able to validate the criminal conduct screen for the position in question. This can only be done in accordance with the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures Standards if the data about the candidates’ criminal conduct, as related to their work performance, is available and can be validated.

The second, more time consuming and personal, option requires that a nonprofit employer must develop a targeted screen of all applicants considering the nature of their crimes, the time elapsed, and the nature of the job available. The employer must then provide applicants excluded by the screen the chance for an individual assessment to determine whether the policy, as-applied, is job related and consistent with business necessity.

The individual assessment would further require that the candidate is notified that they have been excluded from consideration because of a criminal conviction. According to the EEOC, the notice would have to include an opportunity for the screened candidate to demonstrate that the exclusion should not be applied based on the particulars of the candidates’ circumstances.

The employer must also consider their appeal with merit to the particular circumstances that are revealed during the consideration period.

What It All Means

Thankfully, the same study that found that only 5 percent of those employed by nonprofits have criminal backgrounds found that the number of nonprofit employees with criminal backgrounds has declined for five consecutive years, dropping from 7 percent in 2007 to 5.3 percent in both 2010 and 2011.

According to the study, which is called The Power of Positive Information, “The results… demonstrate that our background screening programs are working for nonprofits and underscore the importance of continued screening vigilance at nonprofits since nearly one-fourth of the records included in the audit were for serious offenses.”

More importantly, the study shares several best practices and program recommendations including:

  • Developing a standard screening policy that’s automated across locations to boost program efficiency and effectiveness
  • Volunteer rescreening, which keeps organizations updated about any evolving risk
  • Expanding minimum screening requirements to supplement a national criminal database search with a country-level search to enhance program strength.


To learn more about the study or how you can better improve the security of your nonprofit, visit http://www.lexisnexis.com/nonprofit for the full study.
October 25, 2012

Organized Nonprofit Sector Linked to Lower Local Unemployment Rates

In a study finding that probably won’t shock anyone working with a nonprofit, it has been found that an organized nonprofit sector is linked to reduced unemployment rates in the surrounding community.

By categorizing an organized nonprofit sector to include the number of nonprofits per capita in each community and the degree to which nonprofits directly engage local residents, the study, “Civic Health and Unemployment II: The Case Builds,” presented three key findings:

  1. There is less unemployment within counties that have a higher density of nonprofits than in similar counties that have a lower number of nonprofits,
  2. Social cohesion, or “the level at which citizens trust, talk to and help neighbors, and socialize with family and friends,” is another strong factor in preventing unemployment, and that
  3. The organizations most likely to be linked to lower rates of local unemployment are those that “provide direct, tangible benefits to their members” and those “whose supporters perceived themselves as genuine members.”


Further emphasizing the importance of an organized nonprofit community that is involved with those in the local area, the study suggests that while nonprofits directly contribute to a lower unemployment rate by creating jobs, there also appears to be a ripple effect in which organizations that engage with local residents create a change in the local unemployment rate.

Released by the National Conference on Citizenship this study may well become highly influential for those who most often are called upon to discuss the importance of establishing strong nonprofit sectors. And although it doesn’t offer all the answers as to why organized, involved nonprofits are able to directly impact unemployment rates, there will undoubtedly be more information to come in the next few months as the unemployment rate continues to trend downward.

Read the original NPQ article here.
October 22, 2012

New LinkedIn Features Let You Connect to Potential Board Members Online

Every great nonprofit is built on great employees, which are often built by a great leadership team, but finding that great leadership can be incredibly difficult if you don’t have a wide net of already established nonprofit-focused connections. Thankfully, Board Connect, the newest social media program from LinkedIn looks like it will be able to help make the pain of a Board search a thing of the past.

By allowing nonprofits to connect directly with potential board members, Board Connect, a project of the Social Impact division of LinkedIn, aims to help you build a stronger Board of Directors that bring the ideal set of skills and expert knowledge to every nonprofit organization.

While it is only available to a select group of nonprofit organizations at this time —notably those in the fields of social entrepreneurship and education leadership— LinkedIn has dedicated a lot of time and energy to ensuring that the program is a success.

For instance, the Board Connect program provides nonprofits with free access to Talent Finder, one of LinkedIn’s premium accounts focused on finding top candidates across the site, access to an exclusive educational webcast, and an invitation to join the Board Connect Group. While participation is limited to registered U.S. nonprofits, the new program will help better connect the right people—with the right Human Resources, Marketing, and Business experience—to your organization.

Focusing on deepening relationships and cultivating connections by creating a stronger network of connections for your organization, LinkedIn bills itself as the perfect platform to connect with the people and resources every nonprofit needs to accomplish its mission.

What do you think? Is LinkedIn the right online platform to connect nonprofits with potential Board Members?

And, when the program becomes more readily available, will you consider using it to find a new Board Member? Will it significantly change your Board Membership or the methods you use to search for them?

Sign up here.
October 17, 2012

Unemployment Benefits Changes Considered For Households with Annual Incomes above $1 Million

When unemployment insurance benefits were first offered in the 1930s, the question of whether an employee deserved to collect was fairly straightforward. The answer simply revolved around whether or not an employee had lost their job through any fault of their own, whether they were available for work, and whether they were actively looking for work.

Three questions—questions that could be solved with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’—determined who could, and who could not, collect unemployment benefits.

In recent years though, the question of which employees deserve to be able to collect has become a much more complicated topic as budgets have been restricted and more and more jobless workers apply for unemployment benefits.

But now, another complicated topic of discussion has arisen: Should millionaires that meet all other standards be allowed to collect unemployment insurance benefits?

First debated on the Senate floor after a Congressional Research Service report revealed that almost 2,400 people with annual household incomes topping $1 million, and another 954,000 with incomes topping $100,000, received unemployment insurance benefits in 2009 the question has received shocked attention.

While these groups only make up 0.08 percent of the 11.3 million U.S. tax filers who reported unemployment insurance income in 2009, the report was released after about 1.1 million people exhausted their jobless benefits during the second quarter of 2012. The timing of the release served to further drive home the importance of finding a long term solution for state unemployment insurance trust funds, many of which have run low, as another 4.6 million jobless workers filed for benefits.

As the nationwide jobless rate continues to remain around 8 percent, and more jobless benefits run out, the question of who collects unemployment benefits must be definitely answered. But, what other questions will the answer reveal?

Read the Bloomberg News article here.
October 16, 2012

Keeping Virtual Employees on the Same Page

When working with virtual teams telecommuting from many different places, it quickly becomes apparent if your team is on the same page…or not. Questions pop up about the final direction of a project. Important deadlines aren’t met in lieu of less important ones. Information isn’t shared with all the people who need it.

Even though they sound small, these little miscommunications can spell out a much bigger problem.

Whether you learn that not everyone knows where a project is going, or you learn that not everyone knows what is going on with the big annual project, it’s important that your team communicates clearly to keep misunderstandings or the lack of shared information from ruining your ability to achieve the group goal.

Thankfully, thousands of simple tools exist to help you keep your team on the same wavelengths. Tools are nothing without rules though, so keep these in mind when working with your virtual team:

Don’t overdo it! Don’t throw too much information at your team. If you’re asking a question that only requires an answer from one person, drop everyone else from the email unless it’s vital they also hear the answer.

When you pump too much information at your team at once, the important stuff is likely to get lost or overshadowed. And, if you’re sending out too many irrelevant emails, it’s likely that people will be less likely to prioritize your communications.

Check availability. The fact that your employees work from somewhere other than the office doesn’t mean that they’re less busy. Even if you can see that they’re online, or that they aren’t currently on the phone, extend them the courtesy of asking if they have the time to devote to whatever it is that you want to go over.

By simply expecting that your employees are hard at work helping your mission succeed, you’re more likely to allow them to get their job done right.

Make it easy. If your team is currently running 5 different instant messaging programs, and using 3 separate email accounts to get their jobs done, there’s a high likelihood that things are going to get lost in the shuffle.

Make it easy for your team by paring down your communication channels to something more manageable for everyone. One instant messaging program, one email software, and one phone line can help keep everyone up-to-date without slowing down your communications.

Build relationships. Whether you encourage your team to join the rest of your nonprofit in the office once a month or you ask them to set up their own time to meet and have a virtual coffee, encourage your team to get to know each other one-on-one. More than anything else, having a personal relationship and a companionable dialogue with one another can reduce flare-ups and misinterpretations between co-workers.

Ragan’s HR Communication has more ways that your team can nurture positive communication habits between virtual team members. Read their article here.

Need to beef up your HR services? Check out pan for HR tools.
October 03, 2012

There Are Worse Things You Could Do…But Not Many

Everyone knows that employees are your most valuable asset. Your relationships with them—both individually and as a working group—determine the productivity and success of your agency.

But many nonprofits put relationships with employees at a lower level of importance than relationships with donors and other funding sources. Ultimately this common mistake undermines the entire organization and detracts from your mission because it creates a counterproductive work environment.

To begin fixing these botched relationships, and celebrating your employees for who they are and what they do, we’ve put together the top 3 things NOT TO DO.

1. Playing favorites: We all know you have favorite employees. Whether they’re your top performers, best friends, or just people you really like for the job, don’t treat them any differently than you treat the rest of your employees.

Better yet, treat the rest of your employees the same way you treat your favorites.

2. Not giving employees a forum for voicing suggestions: If you want employees to know that they’re valued members of your organization encourage them to make suggestions to improve your operations or the way that their job is handled.

More importantly, take the time to recognize and implement the best suggestions. This will motivate employees to improve working processes and implement new activities.

3. Lack of communication with employees: Open and easy communication helps build the strongest relationships within your agency.

However you accomplish it, make sure that you’re present and easy to get in touch with when employees want, or need, to talk.

Connect with us on Facebook, on Twitter @USTTrust, or on LinkedIn and tell us what other things you would add to the list.
September 30, 2012

(Tele)commuting and Nonprofit Employees

More and more, virtual offices are becoming the norm for nonprofits as gas, office space, and traffic jams put a priority on your work time and budget, not to mention employee morale. But what’s the best way to determine who would be a strong telecommuter? And how do you know that your agency is ready to take the leap into a virtual office space? More than that, how do you manage a virtual office from your physical location?

According to an article by The NonProfit Times, studies about telecommuting have shown that virtual offices work better for some organizations than others based on employees, manager expectations, and employee performance of day-to-day operations.

Telecommuting has not proven to be a success in situations where managers are skeptical of, or hostile to, the very idea, says The NonProfit Times. But Jill Dotts of the American Heart Association explained at the recent Association of Fundraising Professionals 49th International Conference that if you are looking to develop a virtual office space, you should look for employees who possess the following traits:

  • Top performers
  • Results focused
  • Strong communicators
  • Disciplined
  • Self-directed/ Self-driven
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Proficient in technology
  • Proficient in administration
  • Possessing a sense of urgency about the work they do and the overall organizational goals


Employees who are able to organize their day, achieve much more than is expected of them, clearly communicate what they did and why it mattered, and believe in your organization’s mission as much as you do are most likely to work well from home.

Dotts also suggested that before you think about offering a virtual office to any of your employees, you should think about preparing a ROI analysis and baseline to determine the actual benefits of having telecommuting employees. Included with this she recommends that you shore up an infrastructure to make their telecommute feasible, establish a program and standards that could apply to any future telecommuting employees, align performance objectives with their time in the virtual office, restructure communications to accommodate telecommuting, and prepare for changes in implications for management and your overall organizational culture.

Read the full article here.

But this still leaves us with the question of how to manage a virtual office. How do you ensure that your employees are doing their best, and meeting organizational goals when they’re working from home?

Much of it comes down to communication and trust. If you can’t rely on an employee to communicate well and meet organization objectives, telecommuting might not be a good solution for your nonprofit. But, if you believe that your employees are going to continue to be high-performers from their virtual office, and they have shown that they can maintain strong communication portals from another location, go ahead and start planning for your virtual offices!
September 27, 2012

The Value of a Professional Reading Group at your Nonprofit

Time is critical at every nonprofit we’ve ever seen, so we understand that managers and front line staff often don’t have time to keep up with the latest, newest, and most recently groundbreaking changes to the sector.

But falling behind can mean you miss valuable ways to help meet the needs of those you serve.

In fact, our guess would be that everyone at your organization probably agrees that staying up-to-date is important for the continued success of your agency. But how do you manage the flow of information while still being waist-deep in meeting the ever-growing needs of your nonprofit community?

Bridgestar suggests starting a professional reading group. A suggestion UST's whole Division of Nonprofit Research heartily agrees with.

But, simply starting a professional reading group doesn’t guarantee its success. And, if you’re not sure of the reaction that managers and front line staff will have to a reading group that requires them to read and digest more information than they already are, start with small steps.

  1. Send interesting articles to those that they are most relevant to. If you read an article about new nonprofit hiring trends, don’t send it to the entire staff, send it straight to those who work on your hiring staff or have a vested interest in sector hiring trends. If you send an article that’s only relevant to one part of your organization to everyone, people will stop paying attention to the articles you send. It’s like crying “wolf.”
  2. Offer a weekly reading list that compiles information about your nonprofit sector to those that indicate an interest. An optional reading list is a no-pressure way to get people in the habit of reading professional materials on a regular basis, and is a great step toward building your reading group. It also sparks discussion among your staff about the included articles which can lead to greater group productivity and knowledge.
  3. Offer incentives to employees who are reading a relevant book and are willing to share their new knowledge with the group. As straight forward as this is, it might be one of the most difficult steps to achieve since it requires reading longer, and often more complicated, material that must then be shared with the larger group. But if you find people willing to do it, capitalize on it. Even if they’re too busy to come in and share with a large group all at once, ask them to write out their thoughts and include them in the employee newsletter or at a regularly scheduled meeting.
  4. Ask employees to contribute articles and information they think is valuable! This again capitalizes on your employee’s involvement, and encourages them to become involved in the continuing education of your agency. By asking for their input you also interest a larger group of people and expose yourself to new reading materials and sector news without having to continually hunt things down.


If these steps show promise and you’re getting a good response from enough people, suggest to your employees that a reading group should be formed to help your nonprofit stay on top of new developments and innovations.

If scheduling is an issue and causes your employees (or volunteers) to balk, offer several different reading group times that allow employees with different schedules to still meet with each other once a quarter or more often if there is time. Or try pre-recording group input and making it available online. This is the time to be creative in getting people on board and involved because the more your employees invest, the more they'll be able to tout the strengths of the reading group to employees who haven't joined yet.

Bridgestar suggests that when you finally start your professional reading group you:

  1. Gauge interest before springing a reading group on your employees.
  2. Keep the group small; aiming for only 5 to 8 people at each meeting. Think about recording the meetings and making them available to people who didn't attend the meeting.
  3. Have group participants report back on what they’ve learned. And how it's impacted their work.
  4. Build your organizations library and refer to it often. Even if you save everything on a bookshelf in your break room, make sure that your employees are able to access the information library. If it's kept up-to-date, you'll make an even bigger impact on your staff.
September 26, 2012

New Mexico Seeks Unemployment Insurance Fund Fix

In late March, New Mexico’s Gov. Susana Martinez reactivated a long-dormant council in hopes of fixing the state’s rapidly shrinking unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund. Since 2009, the fund has dropped from more than $500 million to $60.6 million.

Like many states desperately trying to save their funds from insolvency, legislators in New Mexico passed a bill last year that would have slashed unemployment benefits and hiked the premiums businesses still in the tax-rated state system would have to pay. Martinez, however, eliminated the higher premiums and signed a new bill this year that approved lower rates through 2013.

Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D- Albuquerque) is warning, though, that the state will soon have to borrow from the federal government at a high interest rate because employers only paid $197.8 million into the fund last year. And with more than 40,000 employers drawing from the fund, the remaining $60 million won’t go far.

For nonprofit agencies still in the state system, there are other options, such as leaving the state to join a Trust, like the Unemployment Services Trust (UST), that can help save more money and gain greater predictive control over yearly budgeting.

In fact, New Mexico nonprofits that leave the state system and join UST save an average of $3,483 a year.

To learn more about your opt out alternatives, visit http://www.chooseust.org/501c3-unemployment-alternatives/ or sign up for the an upcoming Exclusive Nonprofit Savings webinar.

Read the full Albuquerque Journal article here.
September 24, 2012

5 Things Your Nonprofit Should Know About Unemployment Insurance

Last week our partners over at the Maine Association of Nonprofits (MANP) published the following article in their e-newsletter and on their blog. We're excited to share this with you because it does an excellent job of breaking down the top 5 things that Maine every nonprofit should know about unemployment insurance.

And, because keeping unemployment costs low is vital to so many agencies across the U.S., we've added state-by-state information for taxable wage bases, and a general overview of the unemployment insurance program that applies to all states.

MANP Help Desk FAQ: 5 Things Your Nonprofit Should Know About Unemployment Insurance



by

We get a variety of questions related to unemployment tax – also known as unemployment insurance – and encourage nonprofits to be proactive in learning about this system.

What is Unemployment Tax?

>The MDOL provides a helpful overview of the program, and this summary: “Unemployment is an insurance program providing temporary, partial wage replacement to workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. The program is funded by Unemployment Taxes paid by employers based on the amount of wages paid for covered employment. The Unemployment Tax is paid on the [taxable wage base] an employer pays to an individual in a calendar year.” (Read our overview or see what your state's taxable wage base is.)

Is Your Nonprofit Liable?

501(c)3 nonprofits are exempt from federal unemployment taxes, but may be liable for state contributions if they meet something called the “4 for 20″ provision. This provision is triggered when four or more individuals are employed on the same day for 20 weeks in a calendar year, though not necessarily for consecutive weeks. It is important to note that who is considered “employed” for these purposes is not always straightforward – see #4 below.

Why You Should Consider Coverage Even If You’re Exempt

While many nonprofits in Maine are very small and potentially exempt, MANP encourages all nonprofits – as a best, ethical practice – to pay into the unemployment tax system or alternative coverage (see #5) to protect their current employees. At the very least, your employees should be made aware of whether or not you provide unemployment coverage. Unemployment compensation is a safeguard for people – and our communities as a whole – against the potential economic and emotional domino effects of losing a job.

Why Independent Contractors May Still Be Considered Employees

There are different rules and tests used by government agencies to determine independent contractor status, because different agencies are responsible for separate aspects of law. For the purposes of unemployment insurance, the Maine Department of Labor uses something called the “ABC test”, which makes it sound simple, but is more complicated when applied to real situations. The ABC Test establishes criteria that an work relationship must meet in order to for the services of that individual to not be considered employment. The three parts of the ABC Test relate to employer control/direction of the worker, place(s) of business or courses of business, and proof that the worker is independently established in the trade. A nonprofit may have to pay unemployment taxes even if IRS or Maine Revenue Services determine that, for income tax purposes, individuals may be independent contractors. Nonprofits should be familiar with this FAQ resource on Independent Contractors, and with this guide about Independent Contractors and the ABC test.

Cost-Saving Alternatives

The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) provides an alternative to paying into the Maine unemployment tax system, and can be a cost-saving option for nonprofits, especially those with more than 10 employees. Through UST, agencies directly reimburse the state only for the claims of their former employees, rather than paying the state unemployment insurance tax which covers all Maine employees. (You didn't think we'd take this one out, did you?)

This post does not constitute official or legal advice. A version of this article originally appeared on blog.nonprofitmaine.org.
September 19, 2012

Georgia Unemployment Rate Remains Dismally High

For the 59th month in a row, the Georgia Department of Labor has announced that the unemployment rate, at 9.3 percent, remains higher than the national average. Only 7 states, including Washington D.C., have a higher unemployment rate.

For nonprofits, this isn’t the worst of the news.

After falling below 9 percent in April for the first time in more than 3 years, the rate has begun a steady climb upward again, negatively affecting nonprofit employers throughout Georgia by simultaneously increasing cost and need. Compounded by the state’s depleted unemployment insurance trust fund and an outstanding loan balance of more than $742 million that is still owed to the federal government, nonprofits are facing a higher possibility increased unemployment taxes in 2013.

Because Georgia quickly depleted its unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund, the struggle to provide benefits has hurt employers and jobless workers as the state has made large cuts to benefits and steeply increased the overall unemployment costs paid by employers.

Further adding to the coming financial strain, the interest on the federal unemployment trust fund loan cannot be paid from the unemployment tax fund and must instead be paid from other state revenues, causing further financial stress for legislators.

To pay it, the Georgia legislature passed SB 347 earlier this year, which, in addition to cutting jobless benefits and increasing unemployment benefits paid out by employers, includes provisions to:

  • Assess employers an unemployment insurance tax on the first $9,500 of each employee’s wages, up from the current $8,500, beginning January 1, 2013.
  • Assess employers a solvency tax, called the Statewide Reserve Ratio surcharge, whenever the balance in the state’s unemployment fund falls below a specified level.
  • Reduce the number of weeks jobless workers can collect unemployment benefits from 26 to a period ranging from 14-20 weeks depending on how high the statewide unemployment rate is.


While this legislation makes Georgia one of 11 states that have cut jobless benefits in the past year by reducing the duration and level of payouts and by restricting eligibility, the legislation may ultimately harm nonprofits specifically as it forces unemployed workers to turn to nonprofits for aid, while also increasing the amount that agencies must set aside to pay for unemployment costs of their own.

For nonprofit organizations still in the state tax system, there are other options available though. Since 1972 nonprofit employers have had the exclusive ability to opt out of the state system and reimburse directly the dollar-for-dollar costs of only their own unemployment costs.

By safely leaving the state’s pooled liability system and paying only for their own unemployment costs, many nonprofits- particularly those with 10 or more employees- can save up to 50 percent off of their UI taxes and gain greater predictive control over yearly budgeting. In fact, Georgia nonprofits that leave the state system and join UST save an average of $14,321 a year.

Learn more about your nonprofits money saving alternatives, or sign up for an upcoming webinar to learn how UST can help your nonprofit reduce SUI costs.

Read the original Savannah Morning News article.
September 16, 2012

5 Questions Every Employee Wants Answered

According to Ragan’s HR Communication News there are five questions that every employee wants—and needs—to have answered to be feel confident and successful in their position within your nonprofit organization.

For you, answering these questions is critical to creating an invested workforce that sparks the creativity and drive that your mission thrives on. Answering the questions also gives employees a sense of who they are and where they fit in your agency, which leads to more productive, and innovative, workdays.

  1. What is expected of me? This question may seem obvious, but if you don’t have a clearly developed job description that outlines how each position fits into the overall organizational goals, and how the position is critical to reaching your mission goals, employees may feel that they’re just floating in the void. By clearly laying how a position fits into your nonprofit goals, you allow your employees to actively engage in making your nonprofit a successful place to work. If you haven’t yet, read this to learn more about developing strong employee objectives.
  2. How am I doing? Don’t structure your nonprofit so that employees are only getting feedback on the things they do wrong—it’s disheartening and keeps people from extending themselves. Make sure that managers are regularly scheduling meetings with the employees they oversee to give regular feedback on how the employee is doing. And ensure that when employees do something awesome they hear about it! Employees want to have regular feedback (both good and bad) and if they don’t get it from you, they may find another nonprofit that does offer them the opportunity for growth.
  3. Where do I stand? Schedule a formal evaluation of each of your employees every year. An expansion of question 2, this allows you to discuss their accomplishments, opportunities for further growth and improvement, and the challenges that they’ve dealt with. This annual assessment meeting also allows you and your employees to review what is expected of each of them and how this has changed in the past year.
  4. How can I improve? As we’ve said before, you must give employees the opportunities to gain more professional skills and understanding if you want them to stay with your nonprofit for the long haul. It’s vital to keeping employees happy. But, offering opportunities for improvement also allows you to further the mission of your nonprofit. By strengthening every member on your team, you become more able to meet new situations head on.
  5. How can I grow and challenge myself? A more focused version of question 4, this question allows you to re-recruit employees by reminding each other why the fit works. Find out where they want to go in their career and determine how this fits in with your organizational assessment of their abilities. Whether this means you add to an employee’s daily duties, you move them up in the organization, or whatever else works for you, re-recruiting employees challenges both you and them to create a high-performance, high-quality workplace that is even more focused on your mission.


Answering these questions is only part of a strong employee retention policy though. What other steps do you take to keep employees engaged and excited about your nonprofit?

Read the original Ragan article here.
September 10, 2012

California’s Unemployment Insurance Interest Payments Pull from Disability Funds

In 2009, the California unemployment insurance trust fund became insolvent. Now, almost four years later, the state continues to borrow heavily from the federal government and other state accounts to cover the deficit and make payments on the ever-increasing interest.

In California, where a 10.8 percent unemployment rate is reported with general good feelings, unemployment insurance presents more than one challenge to nonprofits as the state’s UI fund continues to fall deeper into insolvency. With plans to borrow more than $312.6 million from the state Disability Insurance Fund, how will nonprofits remaining in the state UI system counter the hefty bill coming at them?

While there is no good answer, nonprofits which have 10 or more employees are urged to consider leaving the state system to become reimbursing employers who only pay for the costs of the claims submitted by their former employees.

Because the financial recovery continues to trudge along for nonprofits, many of which cannot expect to return to pre-Recession levels of funding for 10 or more years, according to a recent study, it is important that nonprofit leadership continue to successfully assess the options available to them.

Nonprofits: What We’ve Learned

When the state UI fund ran out of money in 2009, during the height of the financial crisis, California had an unemployment rate of 11.3 percent—the fourth highest in the country—and about 1.75 million unemployed workers. Today, the rate remains still high at 10.8 percent.

But many nonprofits made it through the Recession relatively unharmed and in fact were able to raise their hiring 5 percent over a three year span as more help was needed by beneficiaries.

Although a high number of small agencies were forced to close, and many medium-sized agencies had to merge with larger organizations, nonprofits are used to tightening up their belt loops and surviving tough financial times to continue providing benefits to their community.

How can this knowledge be used to help California and other states facing high UI costs?

With the largest unemployment insurance deficit in the nation, cash-strapped California has already borrowed from the state Disability Fund once before, but little is being done to systematically change the way that the state releases funds for UI. (Both loans must be repaid within four years of their initial borrowing date, but no way to repay them has been presented.)

Counter-intuitive though it may be, by removing your nonprofit from the state UI tax system and instead paying only for your own UI claims you allow your agency to do more with the money you have and for the mission you’ve committed to. This action, in a small way, also calls for UI reforms across the nation as more nonprofits leave the state system for the cost savings found in self-reimbursing.

To learn more about how you can leave the state system and become a reimbursing employer, visit www.ChooseUST.org/501c3-unemployment-alternatives/ or sign up for an upcoming webinar.
September 09, 2012

Generosity in America: Driven by Location, Gender, and Income

Having made huge waves in headlines across the United States, the recent report “How America Gives” has nonprofits and donors alike reassessing how they interact with charity, and where charitable funding is most likely to come from.

Take a moment and ask yourself about your perceptions of who in America gives the most from before this study came out.

Would you have been mostly likely to assume that the very rich gave the most, or that the middle class and working poor gave the most? If you guessed the first, you, like many of those culling through the study results, would have been in for quite a surprise. Throughout America, those who live among the needy, who see the specific needs of others on a daily basis, are more likely to give a higher percentage of their median discretionary income to charitable causes.

In short, the study found that:

  • The very rich aren’t the most generous donors. People who live segregated from the needs of others are less likely to donate to charities because they have no reason to think about it and see no significant impact from their gift.
  • Tax incentives that promote giving make a significant difference in how much charities are able to pull in. Charities in states that incentivize giving reap far greater donations across the board.
  • Religious giving changes the entire landscape of charitable donations. Highly religious areas tend to give more to charity, and churches, than less religious areas.
  • There is an association with politics. The eight states that ranked the highest for fundraising voted Republican in the last presidential election, while the seven lowest-ranking states were overwhelmingly Democratic. See the politics of giving breakdown.
  • Older women are far more generous than older men, but women are not asked to give as often as men are.* Although women make less than their male counterparts on average, for every $100 donation given by an older, affluent man, a woman of similar age, income and other characteristics donates $256.


Perhaps most importantly the study leads to the suggestion that as the nation continues to recover the cities and states with the most generous residents may be in a better position to offset unemployment and other financial setbacks.

Find out how generous your city is, and see how your state stacks up in terms of overall giving.

*This was found by researchers at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. Read the full findings of how women interact with philanthropic causes here.
August 22, 2012

North Carolina UI System Provides Example of What Not to Do

When the federal government established the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system after the Great Depression, it was designed to support workers who, “through no fault of their own” lost their jobs. Established to ensure that the economy could recover in the face of massive job losses, the state UI system is supposed to be a safety net.

The system is far from perfect though.

For instance, the system is intrinsically flawed for many nonprofit employers who face little to no job-turnover and who remain a part of their state system. Featured in a recent report, the North Carolina UI system has provided one of the strongest examples of why eligible 501(c)(3)’s should consider opting out of their state UI system, as allowed by federal law.

After borrowing more than $2.4 billion from the federal government to meet their UI responsibilities after their UI Trust Fund became insolvent during the Great Recession, North Carolina has begun leveraging their high interest payments on state UI participants.

Like many states which were unable to meet their UI obligations, the burden of reimbursing the federal government for the full loans falls on all employers within the state, whether or not any of their former employees are currently collecting unemployment benefits.

No state reached insolvency overnight though.

Long before the recent recession, states resisted “indexing” or raising their unemployment taxes from year to year. Things were good, the economy was stable — why should they make adjustments? But while employers enjoyed low taxes, in the long run they were being set up for a much bigger fall in the future. And that’s when the Great Recession hit. Not only had states failed to maintain an adequate UI cushion, employers would be double-hit by the recession in having to lay off workers to cut costs, and then pay higher unemployment taxes as a result. According to a 2010 Government Accountability Office report, “Long-standing UI tax policies and practices in many states over 3 decades have eroded trust fund reserves, leaving states in a weak position prior to the recent recession.” Not that states weren’t warned. Even in North Carolina, the Budget and Tax Center reports that it “conducted a thorough analysis of the unemployment insurance system in March 2007, before the start of the Great Recession, warning of the long-term unsustainability of the system as implemented and suggesting reforms.”

More than ever, systems today must be built that can better weather economic downturns and large, prolonged layoffs. Adequate funding levels must be re-attained so that states rely less on the federal government for funding support to meet benefit payments. A system must also be built which maintains its ability to support the economy with wage-replacement levels that are adequate in supporting workers seeking work.

While innovative programs must continue to be introduced to help place jobseekers in new positions, an overhaul of many state UI systems would better support nonprofit employers who remain in their state tax-rated UI system whether they are too small to opt out, or if they feel safer in the state system.

However, because 501(c)(3)s have the exclusive right to opt out of their state UI system in favor of becoming a reimbursing employer that pays directly for former employees’ UI costs, many already experience a greater savings because they aren’t paying for the state’s interest on federal loans, or subsidizing larger employers’ UI costs.
August 21, 2012

New York Tells Employers They’ll Have Lower UI Interest Assessment Surcharge…

…Leaves out the Part where Employers are still Paying for the State’s Insolvent UI Trust Fund.

In December 2007 when the Great Recession officially began, it’s doubtful that anyone could have predicted how quickly New York’s unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund would become insolvent. But, a mere 24 months later, in January 2009, the state began borrowing heavily from the federal government to cover the increasingly high cost of unemployment benefits being paid throughout the state.

Now, more than $4 billion in debt is being leveraged on employers as interest payments once again come due.

As required by law, all employers within the state UI system will be required to pay a portion of the interest by way of an “Interest Assessment Surcharge” (IAS) that New York began charging last year. And, although the principal balance won’t come due for some time still, employers who remain within the state UI system will have to pay the surcharge- based on their total taxable wages of Oct.1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011 multiplied by the IAS rate of 0.015 percent- no later than 30 days after the date of their bill.

While the surcharge will be capped at $12.75 per employee, the increase will result in higher overall unemployment costs.

For nonprofit agencies still in the state system, there are other options, such as leaving the state to join a Trust, like the Unemployment Services Trust (UST), that can help save more money and gain greater predictive control over yearly budgeting.

In fact, New York nonprofits that leave the state system and join UST save an average of $12,465 a year.

To learn more about your opt out alternatives, visit http://www.chooseUST.org/501c3-unemployment-alternatives/ or sign up for an upcoming webinar at http://www.chooseUST.org/webinars.

For all questions about how the surcharge will affect your nonprofit if it remains in the state UI system, call the Employer Accounts Adjustment Section of the UI Division at (888) 899-8810.
August 20, 2012

State Unemployment Funds Could Have Been Better Managed Says Report

At the end of July the National Unemployment Law Project released a blistering analysis which found that much of the financial burden facing 30 states which will have to pay back nearly $1 billion by the end of September could have been avoided with better planning.

According to the analysis, had each of the states forced to borrow from federal funds enacted more responsible financing of their funds leading up to the Great Recession, fewer states would have had to slash the safety net created for jobless workers through unemployment insurance benefits. The report further details how excessive tax giveaways and breaks for many employers left many states with depleted unemployment trust funds that were unprepared for even a modest downturn.

Citing evidence from 1995 to 2005 in which 31 states reduced employer contribution rates by at least 1/5, the report reveals that while employer tax rates fell to a historic low in the decade leading up to the recession, the combined balance in all state trust funds was half the amount experts recommend.

Funds were so abominably low, Michigan and New York even had to begin borrowing from federal funds before the recession had even officially begun.

The trend continues today. As of yet, few states have made significant changes to the structure of their unemployment insurance funds which would prevent another mass borrowing or would allow them to reinstate a fully funded unemployment trust fund in the next few years. Only Alabama has done enough to predictively repay the federal loan within the next few years.

For employers that have paid increasingly high unemployment taxes the news can come as a shock.

Although tax rates for employers within the state unemployment insurance system have increased substantially since 2009, the higher payments have done little to cover the increased benefits payments and the high level of interest being charged on federal loans, much less build up the level of reserves available.

To combat the continued depletion of funds, many states have even shifted the blame onto those found jobless by reducing benefits and eligibility across the board. Not surprisingly, each cut has severely jeopardized the capacity of unemployment funds to insure families and stabilize the economy during swift downturns, which has led to further increases in tax payments made by employers in the state system.

Thankfully, nonprofits with 10 or more employees have the exclusive ability to opt out of the state UI tax system and reimburse the state only for the benefits paid out to their former employees. This protects the benefits paid out to nonprofit employees, while simultaneously reducing the operational costs of unemployment, which allows nonprofits to do more for their mission.

For a complimentary overview of how UST could help your nonprofit reduce unemployment expenses and lower improper payment rates, please sign up for an upcoming webinar, or fill out a Savings Evaluation today.
August 15, 2012

Connecticut Ready to Collect Special UI Assessment Fees

In December 2007 when the Great Recession officially began, it’s doubtful that anyone could have predicted that over the next several years almost 35 states would face insolvent unemployment insurance (UI) trust funds.

For Connecticut, and its pool of steadily increasing jobless workers, it took just over two years.

And now, three years after reaching insolvency, the price of the state’s debt is being leveraged on all employers remaining in the tax rated state system.

Although the principal balance of the $632 million loan isn’t yet due, employers are already being called on to cover the interest payments for the debt. For nonprofits remaining within the state UI system, their organization can expect to add approximately $1.70 per thousand dollars of taxable payroll, or about $25.50 per full time employee to their 2012 UI taxes.

As required by law, all employers within the state tax system will be billed directly for this assessment on or about August 1, which must be paid by August 31. Paid outside of the normal state UI system, this additional fee will add on to the gross overpayment of more than $162 million made by Connecticut in the past three years.

For nonprofits still in the state system, there are other options, such as leaving the state to join a Trust, like the Unemployment Services Trust (UST), that can help save more money and gain greater predictive control over yearly budgeting.

By reimbursing the state dollar-for-dollar the claims of only their own former employees, nonprofits that join UST are able to stop overpaying in the state tax system and do more with their money. In fact, Connecticut nonprofits with 10 or more employees can expect to save an average of $10,484 a year after joining UST.