January 30, 2017

[Podcast] How Digital Strategy Enables Nonprofit Growth

Through the Noise interviewed Kiki L’Italien, CEO & Founder of Amplified Growth, to provide nonprofit employers the latest digital marketing tips they need to reach and engage current and potential members. Listen below or check out the full library of podcasts.

Podcast Description: This podcast discusses why it’s important to understand and utilize SEO and SEM—search engine optimization and search engine marketing—when looking to amplify your nonprofit’s voice. Kiki L’Italien explains how to get to know who you are trying to reach, where they spend their time, and how to meet them where they are.

Amplified Growth is a DC-based digital marketing consultancy specializing in SEO, social media, and content strategy for associations and commercial clients. To learn more about Amplified Growth, visit their website at http://www.amplifiedgrowth.net.

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To stay up-to-date on the latest best practice tips and cost-saving ideas just for nonprofits, sign up for UST's monthly eNews: http://www.chooseust.org/enews
January 27, 2017

Tips for Training and Welcoming New Employees

Transitioning into a new job with a new boss in an entirely new environment can be one of the biggest transitions we experience as an adult. It is often an exciting time but also comes with a blend of emotions reminiscent of the first day of school.

First-time impressions are everything from both the perspective of the employer as well as the new employee. Training is a key component when welcoming new staff and can go a long way if done right. Some ways to help a new employee adjust:

1. All Inclusive Tour. The standard company tour is an essential part of a new hires first day on the job but including the unexpected such as a stroll to local hotspots - the best coffee house or favorite lunch spot - will help ease new employees’ nerves by allowing them to unwind a bit and will help in making them feel more welcome.

2. Make Connections. Meeting a dozen people in one day can be overwhelming so break down introductions over the first week and by departments. Include a cheat sheet that includes some background information on each person with names, titles and any known tidbits - favorite baseball team, hobbies, etc. This will also help to kick-start the process of building relationships.

3. Wine and Dine. Make sure new employees have lunch plans the first few days on the job. Once with you and then with other members of the team they’ll be working closely with or even with other members in the office that you think they should meet. Again this will make them feel welcome and at ease rather than sitting alone and feeling awkward.

4. Provide Resources. Have a Welcome Guide with checklists, sample documents, FAQs and a list of go-to-resources that will help new hires get acclimated before they're off and running. Things like annual reports, marketing plans, the company newsletter and internal contact numbers for tech support and human resources among others. Easy-to-digest information that isn’t over-whelming helps to ease the stress associated with the transition.

5. Make Yourself Available. When faced with a steep learning curve anyone can get frustrated so make yourself available. Starting a new position is stressful enough, so making time to check in can make all the difference in the world. A no-fail way to make an employee feel like a part of the team is by making them feel comfortable in their new environment.

There’s no debate over the nerves associated with starting a new job so the more time you devote in the beginning, the faster you’ll have an at ease team member who feels welcome and wants to stay.

January 20, 2017

Webinar Recording: It's Time to Update Your Employee Handbook

Are you dreading updating your employee handbook? You’re not alone! Most of today’s HR professionals can agree that employee handbooks can be a handful.

Presented by ThinkHR, this on-demand webinar will cover some best practices for creating an employee handbook. This one-hour presentation will go into detail about:

  • Content every handbook should have plus content you might want to include and why
  • How handbooks can help maintain a vibrant company culture
  • New laws that impact employer policies
  • How the Trump Administration may impact employer policies

Watch the webinar recording today: http://links.thinkhr.com/O0y0S9nW0100WKRC0G09eoT

This webinar offers 1 HRCI and 1 SHRM-approved credit. Want access to more HR-certified webinar opportunities and a live HR hotline? Visit www.chooseust.org/thinkhr/ to sign up for a FREE 30-day trial of the UST HR Workplace, powered by ThinkHR.

January 17, 2017

HR Question: Time Off for Religious Holidays

Question: We do not give our staff floating holidays and only observe 10 holidays per year. How do we allow for staff who observe various religious holidays the time to do so, without giving them more personal time than staff who do not?

Answer: Employers are required to accommodate time off for religious practice, but are not required to pay for the time off. For employees who are nonexempt, the company should work with the employee to determine how much time off will be needed, and decide whether they will require the employee to use his or her available personal time off (PTO) before taking the unpaid time off for religious accommodation. It is important to note that although your policy needs to be applied consistently, different religions will require different amounts of accommodation. As a result, your pay practices should be consistent and aligned with the requirements of the religion. If employees requiring religious accommodation are exempt and taking partial days off, deductions may be made from their accrued paid time off banks and they must be paid their full salary according to FLSA rules.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial here.

December 22, 2016

[Free Webinar] New Year, New President, New HR Challenges

President-elect Trump’s agenda for employment law is still being formulated, but one thing is certain: change is coming. Business managers and HR practitioners need to be ready, and we can help.

Presented by ThinkHR, this webinar will explore the practical impacts employers need to know now in the following areas:
  • Affordable Care Act regulations and reporting
  • Immigration status verification and reporting
  • Wage and hour changes EEOC enforcement and reporting activity
  • Paid family leave
  • And more!

When: Two dates available (Thursday, January 5th or Tuesday, January 10th at 8:30 am PDT)

Register: http://pages.thinkhr.com/HR-in-2017-Webinar.html

Register Now

This webinar offers 1 HRCI and 1 SHRM professional development credit. Want access to more HR-certified webinar opportunities and a live HR hotline? Visit www.chooseust.org/thinkhr/ and sign up for a FREE 30-day trial of the UST HR Workplace, powered by ThinkHR.

December 14, 2016

7 Simple Steps to a Well-Balanced Work Life

With employees constantly striving to prove their invaluable skill sets, along with the rise of technological advances, employers are finding it more and more challenging to get their employees to slow down and take well-deserved breaks from their work responsibilities.

Often equipped with fewer resources and a smaller staff size, nonprofit employees tend to feel overworked and stressed out. Because high stress levels can lead to a domino effect of general workplace unhappiness and high turnover rates, it’s imperative that employers take the time to encourage a balance between their work and personal life.

Here are 7 best practices that will help your employees maintain a proper work/life balance:
 
  1. Set the example. Rather than just preaching the importance of taking time off from work, you need to take time off yourself and avoid work communications when you’re off the clock.
  2. Encourage vacations. Vacation days are meant to be used. In case your employees are too “busy” or nervous to take their allotted vacation time, make sure you let them know that you want them to take a relaxing break from the office.
  3. Have flexible work hours. If possible, allow your employees to work from home, outside or at a nearby café every now and then. You can also let them create their own work hours, rather than strictly enforcing a typical 9-5 schedule.
  4. Give time management tips. Provide training on the latest methods for organizing priorities or keeping track of both short term and long term tasks. This should help increase work efficiency and lessen the amount of time your employees work outside the office.
  5. Develop personal relationships. Ask your employees about any upcoming trips they may have or what’s new with them. Having consistent conversations with your team will help you gauge whether or not they’re feeling burnt out or overwhelmed at work.
  6. Implement interactive breaks. Whether it’s a quick game of charades or a weekly company lunch, set up fun breaks throughout each month so that your employees have something to look forward to.
  7. Ask for suggestions. No one knows what employees want more than employees themselves. Request feedback on what methods help them stay de-stressed and happy. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and will respond positively when you implement their ideas.


As a supervisor, your responsibility is to make sure that your employees have the tools and positive work environment they need to efficiently work through their day-to-day tasks. Taking the time to check in with your staff and encourage a balanced lifestyle will not only help your employees stay sane, but also improve general organizational productivity and growth. ​
December 06, 2016

HR Question: Handling Employee Requests for Steep Pay Increases

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Question: One of my best employees is asking for a raise because he found salary data on the internet that he believes shows he is underpaid. How should I handle that conversation? I don’t want to lose him, but I doubt he is that underpaid.

Answer: Handling this type of discussion on such a sensitive subject can be difficult, but it is also an excellent opening for a frank conversation with that employee about his professional needs while you get direct feedback about his view of his job and the company. We recommend this approach:
 
  • Involve the employee’s manager in the discussion and have him/her lead the conversation with the employee.
  • Treat his concerns with respect and schedule time with him to discuss his issues. He may have been searching the internet for jobs as well as salary information.
  • Let him know that he is valuable to the company and you want to hear his concerns and review the salary data that he has compiled.
  • Prior to that meeting, review your company’s reason for paying the employee at his current salary. The compensation rates are probably due to a number of factors, including your compensation survey data, your internal company compensation strategy, and his performance level. For example, your company’s strategy might be to pay below market level because your benefits or time off plans are so rich.
  • If you are satisfied that you are paying him the proper compensation for this job that is aligned with all of the internal company equity considerations, then think about how you will present that information to him during the course of the conversation. If you believe that there may be some valid concerns about his level of compensation, discuss those concerns in advance with your boss and Human Resources and consider what may be done to ensure his compensation is adequate.
  • Try not to minimize the salary data that he is bringing to you to discuss. The information on the internet can be very broad, general and tied to a job title (that could be very different that what the employee is actually doing in your company) where the data your company uses is probably carefully matched to the industry and the specific job description’s duties and responsibilities.
  • You can point out that general compensation surveys can be misleading and may not consider the total compensation package being offered, especially if you have more specific information that you can share with him about how his total compensation package was derived.


During the course of these types of conversations, although compensation may be mentioned as the presenting problem, often the issue is really not that: You could find that the issues are more about the job itself, development opportunities, career goals, or other considerations. Consider the complete picture and be prepared to have a career development discussion with the employee about where he currently fits in the organization, what additional skills he may need to move his career in the direction he wants it to go, or other considerations.

The keys to these types of conversations are to treat the employee with respect and not dismiss his concerns without a good discussion of all of the relevant factors. Assure the employee that you value and respect his contributions to the business and want to do all you can as his manager to help him be productive and feel good about his contributions to the business.

This Q & A was provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace—a cloud-based HR platform provided to UST members at no additional cost. If you’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, get your toughest HR questions answered by signing up for a free 30-day trial
December 02, 2016

Effective Executive Onboarding

Organizations can spend several months and significant resources searching for and interviewing a new executive leader. Yet, after the position is filled, the onboarding process often does not receive the same level of effort and energy as the hiring process which leaves new leaders vulnerable - a costly risk for any organization but more so for a nonprofit whose funds are already limited.

All organizations should dedicate considerable thought and resources to managing the transitions of their senior leaders. When hiring and readying top executives, having a strong onboarding program can help improve the odds of success and longevity for those individuals. Onboarding should be well-organized and tailored to your senior team so that new leaders know exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect in the weeks to come.

Onboarding programs should be systematic and essential, not organic. Having a transition timeline and Welcome Guide with checklists, sample documents, FAQs and phased transition plans provides a roadmap for the onboarding experience. Core topics should include unique aspects of the organization, company culture, team building and legal matters. Preparing easy-to-digest information that is packaged into short segments allows new leaders to personally identify the areas in which they desire additional, more in depth training.

We can’t say enough how critical planning is in equipping new leaders to successfully fulfill all expectations of them in their new roles. You can make your onboarding curriculum indispensable by leveraging the experience and wisdom of past leaders who can provide real guidance to incoming staff. Taking them on a personal tour of your organization, allows them to acquire a holistic perspective on your nonprofit and an introduction to board members as well as key partners is pivotal early on so a personal connection to the organization starts to manifest well before any first official meetings.

Don’t wait to see if a new leader can succeed with little to no preparation or support and don’t ask them to attend generic onboarding sessions such as Leadership 101. They have to view the process as an essential element and not a throwaway task.  Instead, zero in on your particular culture and the processes driving your organization and be sure to offer ongoing opportunities for learning and engagement during the executive’s first year.

Onboarding can often times be overwhelming and intense regardless of the size of your organization. Taking the time to develop a structured onboarding plan helps to ease the stress associated with transition and helps to ensure that your next nonprofit leader will have the tools necessary to succeed and continue the legacy you’ve already built.
November 29, 2016

Tips for Handling Employee Pay Issues Caused by Mother Nature

Although warmer weather is on the way for most organizations across the U.S. it's always the right season to think about how to handle employee relations and pay issues that arise when your organization is forced to close due to inclement weather.

What should an employer do? Pay employees to stay at home? After all, in most cases, they are not at work through no fault of their own. Many businesses, however, do not have the financial resources to pay employees not to work. What follows are the rules regarding paying employees who miss work due to Mother Nature, along with some practical tips. From an employee relations perspective, the more generous you can afford to be to your employees who are suffering as a result of a weather-related disaster, the better. Employees (and their families) do pay attention to how they are treated, and a little extra time off and compassion for individual circumstances can go a long way towards enhancing employee loyalty.

If the company has no power and sends employees home for the day, should they be paid? And does it matter if the employee is exempt or nonexempt?

In general, there are two sets of rules for paying employees depending upon their classification under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as it relates to eligibility for overtime. With nonexempt employees (those eligible for overtime pay), there is no obligation under federal or state law to pay for time not worked. However, under certain state laws, employers may have an obligation to compensate nonexempt employees under call-in/reporting pay laws, especially if the employees were not advised that they should not report to work and were denied work upon arrival at the workplace.

These pay obligations vary by state. With respect to salaried exempt employees who must be paid on a “salary basis” under the FLSA, employers may not make salary deductions for absences that result from an employer’s partial-week closing of operations, including closings due to weather-related emergencies or disasters. The bottom line is that exempt employees must be paid their full salary if they perform any work in a workweek and only miss work time due to the employer’s closure of operations. Closures for a full workweek need not be paid if no work is performed.

Are these rules different if the company can tell the employee not to come to work the next day?

For nonexempt employees, if they are told in advance not to come to work and the employees stay home, then the employer is under no obligation to pay them for the time off. The employer and the employee can choose to use accrued paid time off to compensate the employee for the missed workdays.

For exempt employees, the “salary basis” rule still applies. In some cases, the employee may be working from home during the bad weather days. If state laws permit employers to do so, employers may deduct from the exempt employees’ accrued paid time off balances to resolve the issues related to “salary basis” compliance. The employer should ensure, however, that these employees have not done any work from home during the office closure prior to deducting time from the accrued paid time off bank balances.

If an employee is on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, do those “bad weather days” count against the employee’s 12-week allotment of time off?

The FMLA regulations are silent about bad weather office closures. However, the regulations do allow for situations when the employer’s business stops operating for a period of time and employees are not expected to come to work (plants closing for a few weeks to retool, mandatory company-wide summer vacation, etc.). In that case, the week the business is closed and no employees are reporting to work would not count against the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement. If the business is closed for a shorter period of time, the general thinking is that the FMLA regulations relating to holidays would likely apply. Under those rules, if the business is closed for a day or two during a week in which the employee is on FMLA leave, then the entire week would count against the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement. If, however, the employee is on intermittent FMLA leave, then only the days that the business is closed and the employee is expected to be at work would count against the leave entitlement.

How do we handle attendance issues where the office is open but public transportation is not available due to the weather and employees cannot come to work?

If the business remains open but employees cannot get to work because of the weather, employers will need to consider their own attendance policies and practices in determining what flexibility to give employees as it relates to attendance. Employers may encourage employees to car pool or assist them in establishing alternative methods of transportation to get to work.

Under the FLSA rules as they relate to pay, however, employers do not need to pay nonexempt employees if they perform no work. For exempt employees, if the business remains open but an employee cannot get to work because of the weather, an employer can deduct an exempt employee’s salary for a full day’s absence taken for personal reasons without jeopardizing the employee’s exempt status. Employers cannot, however, deduct an exempt employee’s salary for less than a full-day absence without jeopardizing the employee’s exempt status.

Does a company have to allow employees to work from home (exempt or nonexempt) if the office is closed due to bad weather?

No, the employer does not need to allow employee to work from home, regardless of their FLSA status (exempt or nonexempt). The employer can make those decisions based upon the work that can be done remotely and based on the needs of the business. The employer should have clearly communicated policies and expectations regarding working from home during office closures.

Be Prepared

The bottom line is that every employer should think about the needs of the business, its financial resources, and employees’ needs and have plans in place to manage business issues due to inclement weather. Thinking through what the wage and hour laws require and developing your policies and then applying them consistently and fairly with all employees can reap huge dividends in employee loyalty and retention.
November 23, 2016

[Podcast] Mergers & Acquisitions for Nonprofits

Through the Noise interviewed Melissa Panagides, Senior Manager of Management Advisory Services at BDO USA, to discuss mergers and acquisitions within the nonprofit sector. Listen below or check out the full library of podcasts here.

Podcast Description: This podcast breaks down the difficult questions that surround a company acquisition and provides expert information on how to plan ahead, manage expectations, and how to support the people within organization during this difficult time.

BDO USA, LLP is known primarily as an accounting firm. The Management Advisory team supports organizations that are going through or considering change and focus on helping organizations identify the right technology for their needs by transforming their business. In addition, they help to plan and implement mergers and acquisitions for organizations across the globe.  To learn more about BDO USA, visit their website at www.bdo.com.

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To stay up-to-date on the latest best practice tips and cost-saving ideas just for nonprofits, sign up for UST's monthly eNews: http://www.chooseust.org/enews
November 18, 2016

What is the General Consensus of the Nonprofit Workplace?

Great places to work actively support their associates to do their best by honing in on employees’ skills, strengths, and interests, thus maximizing their potential for growth. Having a strategic approach to talent management and an overall commitment to workplace culture has clear benefits, namely a greater level of employee engagement that leads to a significantly lower turnover rate and higher productivity.

In line with a recent Bridgespan report, the 2015 UST Nonprofit Employee Engagement & Retention Report revealed that nonprofit employees have a high level of job satisfaction and engagement—with 85% of non-supervisory respondents reporting being “Satisfied,” “Highly Satisfied” or “Extremely Satisfied.” The Bridgespan Report, which was based on a Leading Edge “Employee Engagement Survey” specific to Jewish nonprofits, showed us that there are striking similarities with nonprofit organizations in general when it comes to employee engagement regardless of sector.

Both reports show that employees are motivated first by the organizations mission. Having a clear understanding of how employees work directly contributes to advancing the company mission is key to job satisfaction and can be fostered by reinforcing a culture with mission-based accomplishments.

In descending order, the Bridgespan report listed management practices, work-life balance, advancement opportunities and good leadership as ways to keep employees engaged. This information aligns with the UST survey results that ranked job satisfaction factors as culture, flexibility, a sense of purpose in work and benefits.

It’s imperative that nonprofit organizations continue to educate themselves on the latest engagement and retention strategies. By defining your organization’s core values, communicating them regularly, establishing rewards for demonstrating them, and ensuring they are part of an employee’s experience from the interview all the way through their career will help to foster a more positive workplace culture at your nonprofit,

Want to learn more about the latest nonprofit turnover and employee engagement trends? Get your free copy of the “2015 UST Nonprofit Employee Engagement & Retention Report” today.

November 16, 2016

Ready or Not, Here Comes Change

Change can be either good or bad... but if you don’t know what is changing and when, your organization is at serious risk.

UST helps nonprofits efficiently manage such risk through its industry-leading HR Workplace—a cloud-based compliance library that keeps you up-to-date on urgent regulatory changes that can impact your nonprofit’s operations.

Rather than wading through thousands of internet search results, UST participants can readily view which laws are applicable to them by utilizing the HR Workplace’s state-specific search engine. Additionally, the newly added compliance calendar automatically notifies employers of key filing deadlines at both the state and federal level.

Wouldn’t you like the confidence that comes with having the latest regulatory requirements, specific to your nonprofit, at your fingertips?

To test-drive the most popular HR tools, including the live HR hotline, employee handbook builder and compliance calendar, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial today.

If you’re a 501(c)(3) with 10+ employees, submit a free Unemployment Cost Analysis online and find out whether UST can help your nonprofit avoid costly legal fees and save significantly on administrative costs for 2017. For more information, contact a dedicated UST cost advisor at 888-249-4788.

November 09, 2016

Nonprofits Win 84% of Protestable Unemployment Claims with UST

With the expert guidance of a dedicated unemployment claims advisor, UST participants avoid missing deadlines and making significant claims overpayments.

Santa Barbara, CA (November 8, 2016) – The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) today announced that 84% of protestable unemployment claims are won by program participants—an astounding 8% increase since 2012. Because every UST member is assigned a state-specific claims representative, who’s well-versed in the latest unemployment laws and claims filing protocols, these nonprofits are able to contest avoidable claims costs and funnel their savings back into mission-driven initiatives.

501(c)(3) organizations are allowed by federal law to opt out of the state tax system, and instead pay only for the unemployment benefits claimed by former employees. Although these nonprofits no longer share in the excess costs of state taxes that subsidize for-profit employers, they must properly manage their unemployment claims to meet deadlines and avoid costly penalties. UST’s devoted claims representative helps 501(c)(3) employers stay on top of every claim by organizing documentation, protesting improper claims, and providing on-demand support.

“Managing unemployment claims can be both a confusing and draining process, especially for nonprofits that often lack the employee bandwidth to efficiently track their claims,” said Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST. “By providing our members with claims experts, who walk them through everyday best practices for managing claims from start to finish, our participants are left with a worry-free process and more cash in their pockets.”

In addition to receiving expert claims advice, UST participants possess exclusive access to a robust list of claims management resources, including 100% claims representation at hearings, audits of state charges, consultations for strategic staff planning, e-Filing capabilities, and online interactive training—all of which are designed to lower unemployment costs and alleviate paperwork burdens.

In just 4 years, the number of claims protested by UST members has increased by 5%, leading to more wins and more money for the nonprofit sector. Compared to the national average cost of an unemployment claim, UST members experience an average of 55.8% in savings per claim.

If you’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with 10 or more full time employees, submit a free Unemployment Cost Analysis form by November 15 to find out if UST can help reduce your unemployment liability for 2017.

November 08, 2016

Important Information about Affordable Care Act Reporting for 2016

The final forms and instructions that employers will use for 2016 reporting under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have been released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Employers that provided basic healthcare coverage on a self-funded basis in 2016 are required to report the names and social security numbers (SSNs) of all covered individuals. While this is the second year of reporting for most employers, many still struggle with the process of how to effectively report SSN’s for all covered individuals and their dependents.

If you are an applicable large employer (ALE) that employed 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees during the current reporting year, you must report to the IRS whether or not you did or didn’t offer healthcare coverage by completing Form 1095-C and 1094-C.

The requirement to report enrollment information on each covered individual, including dependent names and SSNs, only applies to employers that self-fund a minimum essential coverage health plan (e.g., major medical, PPO, HDHP). For an ALE, the self-funded plan enrollment information is reported in Part III of Form 1095-C while a “small” (non-ALE) employer reports the information in Part IV of Form 1095-B.

You can review a copy of the IRS proposed regulation on TIN solicitation here.

This article was adapted from ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace provided to UST members at no additional cost. Get answers to your HR questions and sign your nonprofit up for a free30-day trial. 

November 04, 2016

5 Ways to Get Involved in Nonprofit Awareness Month

Did you know that nonprofits comprise more than 10% of all private sector employment in the country, accounting for 11.4 million employees according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics? In fact, if the nonprofit sector were a country, it would have the seventh largest economy in the world.

UST wants to honor all the nonprofits that make a difference every day, all year long—and the amazing individuals that lead them.

We know it’s not easy running a nonprofit and here at UST our sole purpose is to “help nonprofits save money in order to advance their missions.” We’re especially proud to support the efforts of our 2,000 nonprofit members and 80 national and state nonprofit association affinity partners.

For Nonprofit Awareness Month, we wanted to share some ways individuals and nonprofits can boost their passions and causes, and gain awareness of all that nonprofits do, too:
 
  1. Share. Your state nonprofit association may have ideas on how you can support nonprofit awareness via social media. For example, the Delaware Alliance of Nonprofit Advancement’s campaign asks you to print out a flyer, take a picture of yourself holding it, and post it to social media with the hashtag #npawareDE. You can even simply share stories and images about a nonprofit you work for or volunteer with using Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other platforms.
  2. Volunteer. You can get directly involved in the success of local nonprofits and share your experiences with others. Go to www.volunteermatch.org to find the type of volunteering project that works for you.
  3. Give. Find a charity you care about, make a donation and encourage others to give. And don’t forget, your donation is typically tax deductible! The Association of Fundraising Professionals provides these 5 P’s of Wise Giving.
  4. Learn. Find out 7 myths about nonprofits that you may not have known. And we’ll add one more myth: “the word nonprofit needs a hyphen…” Nope, get rid of that pesky dash!
  5. Advocate. You can find your elected officials online and make your cause known. Write them a letter, email or call them and take your messages and concerns to them. If you work for a nonprofit, here are some conversation guidelines courtesy of DANA:


- I am [Your Name] and I work for [Organization]. Our nonprofit employs [x] people and mobilize [y] volunteers in your district.

- Our missionj is to [Your Mission].

- We can be a resource for you on[Topics]. Please call on us if we can be of assistance.

- We would also like for you to be our guest at [Your Organization] when you are in the district. Please contact me or I am happy to follow up with you to see if we can schedule something.

Do you have a favorite nonprofit? Tell us on Facebook
 
Note: UST does not receive compensation for any links in this article, nor is it responsible for the content on any of the sites to which it links. This is purely educational folks!
November 04, 2016

Employers Maintain a Strong Pace of Hiring

Total nonfarm payrolls rose by 161,000 in October while the unemployment rate dipped slightly from 5 percent in September to 4.9 percent. The number of unemployed also dipped in October to 7.8 million. The revision in numbers for both August and September, reflect an additional 44,000 employment gains, bringing the monthly average over the last three months to 176,000.

Employment continued to trend up in health care (+31,000), professional and business services (+43,000), and financial activities (+14,000). Combined, these three industries have filled over 100 thousand positions this year. Employment in other major industries, including mining, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality, and government, changed little over the month.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was unchanged at 2.0 million in October and accounted for 25.2 percent of the unemployed.

Average hourly earnings climbed an additional 10 cents to $25.92 with an annualized increase of 2.8 percent. Wage growth is at its strongest point right now with the employment-to-population ratio reaching 78.2 percent, a level it hasn’t reached since 2008.

Employment gains have remained steady since the recession ended providing a rise in earnings in recent years which solidifies a rate increase before the end of the year.  Some, however, are suspecting  that the outcome of Tuesday’s election may ultimately affect that action even further.

November 02, 2016

[On-Demand Webinar] Is Your Nonprofit Ready for the New Overtime Rule?

December 1. This is the date that employers must be in compliance with the higher Department of Labor salary threshold standard for overtime exemption. Are you ready?

Presented by ThinkHR, this 60-minute webinar recording provides additional insights into employer compliance with this rule as a follow-up to the webinar conducted back in May. Learn about the common concerns employers face as well as other employment issues that this rule may cause.

By watching this webinar recording, you will learn:

  • The impact these changes may have on employee benefits such as health, disability and life policies as well as 401(k) plans and paid time off programs
  • Employer work rules, including overtime, tracking time and attendance and telecommuting programs
  • The affect that changes in classification may have on travel pay,  meal and rest breaks, and training/development time
  • Employee communications tips and strategies

Throughout the presentation, ThinkHR’s compensation expert, Renee Farrell, will share examples of calculating the costs involved with the final rule, including cost of overtime versus increasing salaries, and share ideas for controlling overtime costs.

Watch the on-demand presentation here: http://bit.ly/overtime-rule-2016

Want access to a live HR hotline and additional webinar opportunities? Visit www.chooseust.org/thinkhr/ and sign up for a FREE 30-day trial of the UST HR Workplace, powered by ThinkHR.

November 01, 2016

Use It or Lose it: Nonprofit Deadline to Exercise Exemption for 2017

For most 501(c)(3) organizations with 10 or more employees, November is the month to exercise their state unemployment tax exemption for an effective date of January 1, 2017.

What does that mean?  Well, by federal law, 501(c)(3)s are allowed to opt-out of paying taxes into their state unemployment tax fund, and instead only reimburse the state if and when they have an actual unemployment claim, dollar-for-dollar.

It can be a savings opportunity for many nonprofits who have lower claims than what they pay in state unemployment taxes—which are often driven up by for-profits and other companies that go out of business, as well as state fund deficits and improper payments made in error.

The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) performed more than 200 free unemployment tax savings evaluations for nonprofits with 10 or more employees in 2013, finding a total of $3,532,485.26 potential unemployment tax savings if they were to exercise their exemption and join the UST program instead.

This year, UST is aiming to identify more than $7 million in unemployment tax savings for nonprofits through free savings evaluations. But time is running out. Most states have a December 1 opt-out deadline, so UST needs all savings evaluation forms submitted before November 15th at the latest in order to meet the state deadline.

You can view your state's unemployment tax exemption deadline here: www.chooseust.org/state-unemployment-tax-opt-out-deadlines-for-nonprofits

Unfortunately, if a nonprofit misses the state deadline, they have to wait until the following year to exercise their exemption and join the Unemployment Services Trust. So if you or a nonprofit you know has not exercised their exemption, be sure to share the free savings evaluation before the November 15th deadline: www.chooseust.org/request-a-savings-quote
October 29, 2016

So Your Nonprofit has Strong Leaders…Now What?

Nonprofits tend to attract strong leaders with high aspirations and an unparalleled focus. But without step-by-step workflow procedures, consistent communication or designated responsibilities, even the strongest of leaders won’t be able to improve upon their organization’s effectiveness.

Utilize these 4 methods to create a more balanced and productive workplace:
 
  1. Identify both short and long-term priorities. Creating measurable goals will help your nonprofit measure progress on an annual basis, allowing you to determine where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Prioritizing these goals will keep everyone on the same page and help accomplish objectives at a more efficient pace.
  2. Break down communication barriers. Share your organization’s priorities with all employees whilst ensuring that their current roles contribute to each goal. Don’t forget to encourage cross-department communication to achieve faster, consistent results.
  3. Assign responsibilities so employees maintain ownership. Because employees spend more time and energy devoted to tasks that they’re solely responsible for, give your team members individual responsibilities that directly impact your nonprofit’s goals. This will help alleviate any confusion when employees are determining who’s in charge of what.
  4. Clearly define the work processes. Taking the time to carefully articulate the work procedures will improve consistency and time management. Because your employees will be fully versed in the new processes, they will make less mistakes and develop a greater confidence in their work ethic.


As a nonprofit leader, you have the power to portray change as a necessary evil or an ongoing opportunity. By setting a positive example and carefully managing both your nonprofit’s goals and employees, you can encourage your staff to constantly challenge themselves and broaden their skill sets—increasing overall organizational effectiveness.

Learn more about how to improve leadership and management practices here.
October 27, 2016

HR Question: Bonus and Employee Leave

Q: Our company provides a bonus to all employees based on overall company performance. Do we have to pay an employee who is out on a leave of absence (LOA), and would payment of the bonus impact his or her disability payments?

A: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that employees be restored to the same or an equivalent position with the same benefits and compensation. If an employee was eligible for a bonus before taking FMLA leave, the employee would be eligible for the bonus upon returning to work. The FMLA leave may not be counted against the employee. For example, if an employer offers a perfect attendance bonus, and the employee has not missed any time prior to taking FMLA leave, the employee would still be eligible for the bonus upon returning from FMLA leave.

On the other hand, the FMLA does not require that employees on FMLA leave be allowed to accrue benefits or seniority. For example, an employee on FMLA leave might not have sufficient sales to qualify for a bonus. The employer is not required to make any special accommodation for this employee because of the FMLA. The employer must, of course, treat an employee who has used FMLA leave at least as well as other employees on paid and unpaid leave (as appropriate) are treated.

Therefore, if the bonus is based purely on the company’s performance without specific individual employee productivity metrics to qualify that employee for the bonus, then the employee on leave would be entitled to such a bonus.

The bonus would likely not impact the disability payments, but it is best to check with the specific plan documents or with the carrier to determine what, if any, impact it may have.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
October 27, 2016

UST Earns a 95% Satisfaction Rating from its Nonprofit Membership

Survey of 2,100 nonprofits reveals that 95 percent of UST members would recommend UST as the preferred unemployment claims management solution for 501(c)(3)s.

Santa Barbara, CA (October 27, 2016) – The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) today announced that 95 percent of its program participants would recommend UST to their fellow nonprofits for the program’s extensive cost-saving resources. Having recently added outplacement services to its list of member benefits as well as increasing education-based webinar opportunities, UST attributes this high net promoter score to its evolving customer service model.

Under federal law, 501(c)(3) employers have the exclusive ability to opt out of their state’s unemployment tax system and instead pay only for the unemployment benefits claimed by former employees. UST helps nonprofits exercise this unique tax exemption status in a safe and cost-effective manner by delivering the latest workforce solutions that ensure HR compliance, reduce cumbersome paperwork tasks and mitigate unemployment claims overpayments.

“We are constantly fine-tuning the UST program to address the sector’s current pain points and shifting needs in managing HR and unemployment liability,” said Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST. “We couldn’t be more pleased to know the vast majority of our membership is very satisfied with our service, and honored that they would recommend our program to their peers.”

UST offers an extensive list of member benefits, which includes a live HR hotline, online employee handbook builder, 100% representation at unemployment claims hearings and e-Filing capabilities—helping to streamline day-to-day tasks and keep more money in the nonprofit community.

Most nonprofits have a November 30th state deadline to opt out of the unemployment tax system for 2017. UST encourages 501(c)(3) organizations, who have yet to benchmark their unemployment costs, to submit a free Unemployment Cost Analysis form by November 15 to find out how they may benefit from the UST program.

October 25, 2016

How to Distinguish Independent Contractors vs. Employees

Performing small business payroll can be both difficult and critical to effectively avoiding the all-too-tricky claim type, “independent contractor vs employee.”

Nonprofit employers must take the time to learn the distinguishing characteristics of an employee of an organization and an independent contractor, who are self-employed individuals. If and when you make a mistake when classifying these two worker categories, not only will this mix-up lead to high penalties, but you may have to outsource for payroll assistance—costing your organization both valuable time and money.

In general, here’s how you differentiate the two workers:

  • Employee – anyone who performs services and the company can control what is done
  • Independent Contractor – anyone who performs services and the company only has the right to control the result of the work and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result

To avoid overpayments, rework for the employer and state, and potential investigations from the IRS, employers should use either the ABC Test or the Common Law Test to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor.

Both tests are designed to readily identify the worker-employer relationship, focusing on how much control the organization has over a worker and the work accomplished. Check out both the ABC Test and Common Law Test here to ensure your nonprofit’s compliance.

This article was adapted from Equifax Workforce Solutions, UST’s dedicated unemployment claims administrator.

UST members receive exclusive access to an online claims dashboard, e-filing capabilities, a state-specific claims representative and 100% representation at unemployment claims hearings. To find out if your nonprofit qualifies for the UST program, fill out a free Savings Evaluation today or call us at 888-249-4788.

October 22, 2016

D.C. Behavioral Health Association Joins Forces with the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) to Help Nonprofits Save on Unemployment Costs

The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) is pleased to announce its new affinity partnership with the District of Columbia Behavioral Health Association. The D.C. Behavioral Health Association has chosen to pair up with UST to help their member organizations reduce unemployment costs and direct more funds toward mission advancement objectives.


The D.C. Behavioral Health Association joins 12 other state-based behavioral health associations, becoming the 81st Affinity Partner, in endorsing UST.

This new partnership will allow 501(c)(3) organizations with 10 or more employees in the D.C. community to better take advantage of the federal law that allows nonprofits to opt out of the state unemployment tax system. By paying only the dollar-for-dollar cost of unemployment benefits paid to former employees, nonprofit employers that join UST lower their average claims cost to just $2,287 per claim versus the national average of $5,174 per claim.

“Nonprofits are often faced with smaller budgets and limited resources,” said Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST. “But last year, UST helped members achieve over $32.5 million in unemployment claims savings. We are thrilled to have the D.C. Behavioral Health Association join us as our latest Affinity Partner and look forward to helping their members maintain HR best practices and lower their unemployment costs.”

About D.C. Behavioral Health Association: D.C. Behavioral Health Association aims to expand and improve community-based behavioral health services through policy advocacy and staff development. All 42 members offer extensive services to the D.C. housing supports for adults and children in foster care, including treatments for substance abuse and mental health.  For more information, visit www.dcbehavioralhealth.org.

About UST: The Unemployment Services Trust is dedicated to educating 501(c)(3)s about controlling HR and unemployment costs and helping them exercise their federal right to reimburse for unemployment claims, dollar-for-dollar. UST helps nonprofits manage unemployment claims to successfully save thousands of dollars annually. Learn more at www.ChooseUST.org.
October 21, 2016

HR Question: Time Off for Voting

Question: Is there a federal law that requires employers to provide employees with a certain amount of time off for voting?

Answer: Currently, no federal law requires employers provide employees with time off to vote. However, most states require employers to allow voters time off to vote and prohibit employers from disciplining or terminating employees for taking time off to vote.

For instance, according to Cal. Election Code §§ 14000 – 14003, if a voter does not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote at a statewide election, the voter may, without loss of pay, take off enough working time that, when added to the voting time available outside of working hours, will enable the voter to vote. However, no more than two hours of the time taken off for voting may be without loss of pay. The time off for voting will only be at the beginning or end of the regular working shift, whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least time off from the regular working shift, unless otherwise mutually agreed. If the employee, on the third working day prior to the day of election, knows or has reason to believe that time off will be necessary to be able to vote on election day, the employee must give the employer at least two working days’ notice that time off for voting is desired, in accordance with the statute.

Finally, no less than 10 days before every statewide election, every employer must keep posted conspicuously at the place of work, if practicable, or elsewhere where it can be seen as employees come or go to their place of work, a notice setting forth employee voting leave rights.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial here.

October 19, 2016

Exercise Your Nonprofit's Tax Exemption for 2017

Get your FREE Unemployment Cost Analysis today!

For most 501(c)(3) organizations with 10 or more employees, November is the month to exercise their state unemployment tax exemption for an effective date of January 1, 2017.

What does that mean? Well, by federal law, 501(c)(3)s are allowed to opt-out of paying taxes into their state unemployment tax fund, and instead only reimburse the state if and when they have an actual unemployment claim, dollar-for-dollar.

It can be a savings opportunity for many nonprofits who have lower claims than what they pay in state unemployment taxes—which are often driven up by for-profits and other companies that go out of business, as well as state fund deficits and improper payments made in error.

The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) performed more than 400 free unemployment tax savings evaluations for nonprofits with 10 or more employees in 2015, finding a total of $6,022,190 in potential unemployment tax savings if they were to exercise their exemption and join the UST program instead.

But time is running out to benchmark your nonprofit’s unemployment costs and opt out of the state unemployment tax system. Most states have a December 1st opt-out deadline, so UST needs all unemployment cost analysis forms submitted before Nov 15th at the latest in order to meet the state deadline.

You can view your state’s unemployment tax exemption deadline here: www.chooseust.org/state-unemployment-tax-opt-out-deadlines-for-nonprofits

Unfortunately, if a nonprofit misses the state deadline, they have to wait until the following year to exercise their exemption and join the Unemployment Services Trust. So if you or a nonprofit you know has not exercised their exemption, be sure to share the free cost analysis form before the Nov 15th deadline: www.chooseust.org/request-a-savings-quote
October 17, 2016

[Podcast] Building Capacity and Strengthening Culture

Through the Noise interviewed Elizabeth Scott, CEO of Brighter Strategies, to help nonprofit employers improve their overall effectiveness by building their internal capacity. Listen below or check out the full library of podcasts.

Podcast Description: This podcast emphasizes the importance of harnessing the emotional intelligence of staff members so that organization can do the most with what they have. Dr. Elizabeth Scott aims to provide thought leadership and high value organizational development consulting in an effort to strengthen the nonprofit sector.

Brighter Strategies is a non-profit consulting firm that works with non-profit organizations as a “thought partner” to help build capacity and make the most of their greatest asset—their human capital. To learn more about Brighter Strategies, visit their website at www.brighterstrategies.com.

Listen to Podcast button- RGB

To stay up-to-date on the latest best practice tips and cost-saving ideas just for nonprofits, sign up for UST's monthly eNews: http://www.chooseust.org/enews

October 13, 2016

Webinar: New Accounting Standards Nonprofits Need to Know

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has issued the Accounting Standards Update 2016-14, which contains significant changes to not-for-profit accounting standards, focusing on improving, enhancing and simplifying financial statement reporting requirements.

In this 60-minute webinar, Jay Azar, Director of Not-for-Profit Practice Services at Lindquist, LLP, talks about how your organization can begin to prepare your accounting and financial reporting systems for these important changes.

Some of the topics discussed include:

  • Displaying the current three fund categories of Unrestricted, Temporarily Restricted and Permanently Restricted funds has changed to two fund categories of “Funds Without Donor Restrictions” and “Funds With Donor Restrictions.”
  • Requiring the use of a classified balance sheet and allowing for display of assets with limited use.
  • Requiring that information provided about expenses for the period will be presented both by functional and natural classifications for all not-for-profits.

After watching the presentation, you'll feel more confident and prepared for handling the accounting and financial reporting processes at your nonprofit.

Watch the webinar on-demand now.

This webinar series is part of UST's efforts to educate the nonprofit sector. Sign up to receive UST's monthly eNews for more free learning opportunities just for nonprofits like you!

October 11, 2016

Job Growth Remains Solid

Total non-farm payrolls increased by 156,000 in September which was lower than the expected 176,000. So far this year, job growth has averaged 178,000 per month, compared with an average of 229,000 per month in 2015. The unemployment rate ricked slightly upwards to 5.0 percent and the number of unemployed, at 7.9 million, changed little. Both measures have shown little movement since August of last year.

Job gains occurred in professional and business services with 67,000 new positions while health care added 33,000 jobs and food and bar services added 30,000. Retail trade continued to trend up over the month with an addition of 22,000 jobs.

Mining employment was unchanged in September and employment in other major industries, including construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and government, showed little change over the month.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) accounted for 24.9 percent of the unemployed population and remained unchanged at 2.0 million. Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.9 percent, and the employment population ratio, at 59.8 percent, were unchanged in September.

Average hourly earnings for all private non-farm employees rose by 6 cents to $25.79. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.6 percent.

The Federal Reserve is looking to get rates back to normal and there is implication that could happen in December so this report comes at a critical time.  With the presidential election, however, there may be further postponement.

October 08, 2016

8 Simple Nonprofit Cost Cutting Ideas

Working on a restricted budget isn’t easy. But you can take some simple cost-cutting measures to free up some more dollars for your mission. Here are UST’s top 8:

1. Get discounts by joining a nonprofit association. You can find one here. Most associations offer their members special benefits and discounts on everything from office supplies to insurance. In fact, UST is partnered with 80 national and state nonprofit associations whose members receive a waived enrollment fee when they join UST.

2. Get group discounts and share resources. If you can combine orders with other nonprofits or companies you work with or who share your building, you’ll receive better bulk pricing on all kinds of products. You can also share the costs of maintenance with others in the same building. You may even consider piggybacking on local businesses by asking if you can include your fundraising materials in their mailings. They may welcome the good will it generates for their company.

3. Is your organization a 501(c)(3)? Are there 10 or more full-time employees? If you answered yes to both, be sure to check out UST’s alternative to paying into the state unemployment tax system. It can save thousands annually because you no longer share in the state’s pooled tax system that is often driven by for-profit companies’ unemployment claims. Watch the one-minute informational video.

4. Save on printing. Today most people are used to receiving electronic communications in lieu of bulky printed pieces in the mail. Direct mail may still be an important part of your fundraising, but perhaps you can move to an e-newsletter to cut down on printing or provide electronic versions of your board book for board meetings. You can also use lower-weight paper to reduce printing and postage costs.

5. Try teleconferencing more often. Sometimes a video or phone conference is all you need to nail down specifics of a discussion, and it will save you big time on travel costs. (It works for job candidates and board members too!)

6. Save on employee training. Use videos, online training and/or another employee to provide training to new and existing employees. Self-paced training is typically best received by employees. And if you’re already a member of UST, you receive hundreds of online training courses for free through ThinkHR, which saves you about $6,000 annually.

7. Use public relations and social media to get free publicity. Talk to local media about covering an upcoming event, or provide guest columns or blogs to be published. And yes, you must be in the Twitter-verse nowadays for free PR. Don’t have an expert on staff? Recent college grads are a good place to look for social media expertise. Just make sure for interns or new hires that you create a social media policy so they don’t accidentally tarnish your reputation.

8. Use your board. Your board members should be part of your fundraising strategy. They should be able to help find sponsors for your events, and they shouldn’t be afraid to make the “ask” during fundraising season. In addition, they should be helping you find service providers and individuals who can provide the goods and services you need.

Got more ideas? Tell us on Facebook!
October 04, 2016

Nonprofits Receive Over $6.5 Million in Cash Back From UST

UST Rewards 431 Members for Successfully Lowering Their Anticipated Unemployment Claims within the Last Year.

Santa Barbara, CA (October 4, 2016) – In an era when nonprofits are struggling to stretch their budgets, the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) today announced it is pleased to disperse $6,664,166  to 431 of its program participants. The agencies receiving the funds have demonstrated prudent management of their unemployment costs resulting in a return of funds back to the organizations. This brings participant savings over the past year to a whopping $34,980,275.96 in claims savings, audited state returns and cash back.

501(c)(3) organizations have the exclusive advantage of opting out of their state's unemployment tax system and instead paying dollar-for-dollar for only their former employees claims. Excess payments made into the state tax system are not refunded to employers. UST, however, provides cash back when an organization has had a positive claim history and has reduced its unemployment claims lower than initially anticipated, while also staying well-funded for future claims.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to give money back to these organizations whose core mission objectives are geared towards serving their communities,” said Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST. “It allows them the funds to further expand their programs in areas where otherwise they might not have been able. In a way we’re helping to invest in the future of each nonprofit organization participating in the Trust and that’s a great feeling.”

The largest nonprofit unemployment trust in the nation, UST helps 501(c)(3) organizations nationwide save time and money through a host of workforce management solutions that include - unemployment claims management, cash flow protection,  HR Workplace assistance, outplacement services and more.  The company services nonprofits from all sectors with 10 or more full-time employees. UST encourages nonprofits that are currently tax-rated or direct reimbursing on their own to review their options as they may be over-paying.