June 27, 2014

The Importance of Operating Reserves

The very idea of a for-profit company existing without a reserve operating budget would send investors running for the hills. So why is it that there is so much pressure on nonprofit organizations to scrape by without even a hint of a reserve operating budget?

Despite the pressure to constantly face their imminent demise, the smartest nonprofits—the ones that are best positioned to make a long-term impact on their mission—carefully build and manage a healthy operating fund, as well as an ample operating reserve fund. By protecting their organizational finances against sudden or dramatic cash flow changes, these organizations can continue to provide services in the toughest times.

Having a healthy operating budget provides your nonprofit with a more solid base by setting aside unrestricted net asset balances and investing them in the organization’s programs. The greater this reserve, the greater your organization’s ability to grow current programs and promote your mission.

The operating reserve portion—the portion set aside for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances that negatively affect your financial operations—protects your employees and your mission in the direst of circumstances.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one set benchmark for how much money a healthy nonprofit should have set aside as an operating reserve budget.
 

To help your organization determine a healthy reserve fund, we’ve gathered the following resources from across the web.



The Importance of Operating Reserves for Nonprofits- Read the article here.

Nonprofit Operating Reserves and Policy Examples- Visit the webpage here.

Maintaining Nonprofit Operating Reserves- Download the whitepaper here.

Reserves Planning: A step-by-step approach for nonprofit organizations- Download the whitepaper here.
 

For more information on strong financial management for your nonprofit, we suggest these resources.



Budgeting “Best Practice” Tips for Nonprofits- Download the PDF here.

Financial Management- Visit the National Council of Nonprofits financial management resource list here.
June 26, 2014

HR Question: Mileage Reimbursement

Q: Are there any limits on the amount an employer can reimburse employees for mileage before taxes are assessed?

A: The type of reimbursement plan you have will dictate whether reimbursement for business travel is or is not taxable.

With an "accountable plan", the reimbursement is not taxable to your employee. Amounts paid under an accountable plan are not wages and are not subject to income tax withholding and payment of Social Security, Medicare, and Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Taxes. Your reimbursement or allowance arrangement must meet all three of the following in order to quality as an accountable plan:
 
  1. There must be a business connection to the expenditure. This means that the expense must be a deductible business expense incurred in connection with services performed as an employee. If not reimbursed by the employer, the expense would be deductible by the employee on his/her 1040 income tax return.
  2. There must be "adequate" accounting by the recipient within a reasonable period of time. This means that your employees must verify the date, time, place, amount and the business purpose of the expenses (such as on an expense report). Receipts are required unless the reimbursement is made under a per diem plan.
  3. Excess reimbursements or advances must be returned within a reasonable period of time.


The other type of plan that is taxable, subject to all employment taxes and withholding is called a "nonaccountable plan". Your payments would be considered treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan if: (1) your employee is not required to substantiate expenses to you with receipts or other documentation in a timely manner; and (2) you advance an amount to your employee for business expenses and your employee is not required to and does not return any amount s/he does not use for business expenses in a timely manner.

Please check with your state department of taxation for state tax rules.

For more detailed information on federal mileage reimbursement, please refer to Publication 15, Circular Ehttp://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p15.pdf, and Employer's Tax Guide; Publication 1542, Per Diem Rateshttp://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1542.pdf.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
June 25, 2014

Does your social media policy protect your mission?

In January 2013 a nursing home worker was fired for a Facebook post on his personal page after he wrote that he would like to "slap the ever loving bat snot" out of a patient. He also went on to write that being insulted by residents made him less motivated to "make sure your call light gets answered every time."

The nursing home was alerted to the post after a nursing professor saw the post and shared it with the administration.

Although there have been a number of firings of nursing staff based off of their social media posts over the past few years, many of them deal with patient confidentiality. In this case, the employee's violation of the nursing home's social media policy--  which he had signed with the receipt of his first paycheck-- was what protected the nursing home from having to pay costly unemployment benefits to an employee who put patient safety and the reputation of the facility on the line.

If you haven't already, it may be time to review your current social media policy to ensure that your mission, and reputation, are protected from similar situations.

Read more about the case in this article by the Nonprofit Quarterly.
June 24, 2014

HR Question: Temporary Employees

Q: Does an employer need to provide temporary agency employees with a letter clearly stating that the position is temporary so as not to have the temporary agency employee think that the job is with the contracting company?



A: Typically the temporary agency will ensure that their employees know the position they are filling is a temporary assignment. However, if you want to make it perfectly clear, you could ask the temporary agency to give them a letter of understanding structured like an offer letter (on the agency's letterhead) outlining that the position is temporary through the agency and is expected to continue through [date], that they are ineligible for the contracting company benefits as they are not employees of [company], their employer of record is XX temporary agency, etc. This should ensure that there is no confusion concerning the promise of employment with the contracting company.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
June 19, 2014

UST and Alliance for Children and Families help Members Save Money on UI Costs

The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) is pleased to announce its newest affinity partnership with the Alliance for Children and Families (the Alliance). The Alliance, a national nonprofit organization, has chosen to join forces with UST in order to help its members reduce operating costs and direct more unrestricted funding toward realizing their missions.

This newest partnership will allow U.S. based organizations with a 501(c)(3) tax designation to more effectively 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, organizations that join UST lower their average claims cost to just $2,287 per claim versus the national average of $5,174 per claim.

“The ultimate goal of each and every nonprofit association that we work with is to provide their members with the best opportunities to advance their missions. By combining the power of hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of smaller nonprofits, associations are able to get better money saving tools customized for their members,” said Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST.

“Last year we found more than $3.5 million in tax savings for nonprofits that came to us through our association partnerships. This year we want to double that and find at least $7 million in tax savings for our affinity partners’ member organizations.”

About the Alliance for Children and Families: The Alliance is a national organization dedicated to achieving a vision of a healthy society and strong communities for all children, adults, and families. The Alliance works for transformational change by representing and supporting its network of hundreds of nonprofit human serving organizations across North America as they translate knowledge into best practices that improve their communities. Working with and through its member network on leadership and advocacy, the Alliance strives to achieve high impact by reducing the number of people living in poverty; increasing the number of people with opportunities to live healthy lives; and increasing the number of people with access to educational and employment success. For more information, visit Alliance1.org. About UST: Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST is the largest unemployment trust in the nation, providing nonprofit organizations with 10 or more employees a safe, cost-effective alternative to paying state unemployment taxes. UST has partnered with 80 state and national nonprofit-based associations to teach their members about their unemployment insurance alternatives. Visit www.ChooseUST.org to learn more.
June 17, 2014

The Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement endorses the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) to Help Members Save on Unemployment Costs



The Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement’s partnership with the Unemployment Services Trust will offer both expert HR services and unemployment claims administration to nonprofit organizations throughout the state of Delaware.



The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) is pleased to announce that the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement (DANA) has endorsed UST as a new Affinity Partner—making DANA the 15th state nonprofit association to bring UST to their members. UST will now join the other cost-saving member benefits offered to DANA member organizations and will offer resources to help them maintain HR best practices and standards, and reduce unemployment-related costs.

The UST program helps 501(c)(3) organizations 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, organizations that join the Trust see their average unemployment claim cost fall to $2,287, versus the national average of $5,174 per claim.

“We are thrilled to have DANA join us as an Affinity Partner because we know there is ample opportunity to help their members thrive. We want to help Delaware agencies, with 10 or more employees, discover whether they are overpaying their state unemployment taxes,” explained Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST. “We make it our mission to provide nonprofits with the latest tools and information required for organizational growth – and having the power to better educate these Delaware nonprofits through DANA can only help us strengthen the nonprofit sector.”

“We are proud to partner with UST to bring their unemployment and HR resources to Delaware,” says Chris Grundner, President and CEO of DANA. “We’ve seen the impact and savings they provide in other states, and we’re glad to now see our members benefit from their expertise and high-quality customer service.”

About the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement (DANA):  As a leader of the nonprofit sector, DANA’s mission is to strengthen, enhance, and advance nonprofits and the sector in Delaware through advocacy, training, capacity building, and research. For more information, visit DANA’s website at www.DelawareNonprofit.org.

About UST: Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST is the largest unemployment trust in the nation, providing nonprofit organizations with 10 or more employees a safe, cost-effective alternative to paying state unemployment taxes. UST has partnered with nearly 80 state and national nonprofit-based associations to teach their members about their unemployment insurance options. Visit www.ChooseUST.org to learn more.
June 13, 2014

Right From the Start: What Your Board Needs in 3 Easy Tables

 

Written by Karen Beavor and re-published by permission of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits
Just as important as developing a deep individual rela­tionship with each board member, it’s also important to understand what your team of individuals amounts to, and what qualities, skills, and connections it still needs to fulfill all your organization’s strategic goals—that is, to become a well-rounded, fully-functional superteam capable of taking on any challenge. If constructed wisely, your board can work as your organization’s personal consulting team.

 

475478863To figure out what kinds of individuals your team has, and what skills it still needs, you need a process for dis­cerning assets and talent gaps on your board, in relation to your strategic goals. To do that, I advocate laying out your strategic goals and the skill sets necessary to achieve those goals, then determining which of those skill-sets your board already has on-hand. In our years training nonprofit EDs and boards, Georgia Center for Nonprofits has developed a simple method for pro­ducing three handy reference charts that will align your organization’s goals with the skills available from the board. Properly aligned, that board can effectively drive initiatives to success, through advisement, the ability to connect or uncover resources, or literally by leading problem solving.

Moreover, when building a team, it is important to understand that you are also building a culture. Paying attention to the kind of board culture you want, and interviewing candidates for attributes as well as skills, will ensure that the board is in full alignment with the needs and values of the organization.

By implementing an intentional process for discerning strengths and gaps on the board, vetting candidates and prioritizing them appropriately, you’ll find not only that your candidates are better suited to the work at hand, but that new members will begin their tenure with clearly-defined roles.

 

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="332"] A sample Strategic Needs Table, listing strategic goals and the skill sets needed to execute the strategies involved. Note that contract expertise is useful for more than one goal, meaning that particular skill-set should be a priority.[/caption]

Who You Need

Our foolproof methodology begins with a Strategic Needs Table.

Start by placing your organization’s strategic goals across the top row of a table. Think about the strategies you’ve decided on to reach those goals, and list the skill sets you’ll need to accomplish them beneath.

If your goal is to, say, increase the availability of quality affordable housing, one of your strategies might be to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed properties, then rent them at an affordable rate. For that, you probably need a number of skill sets: real estate expertise to negotiate deals, banking expertise to assist with financ­ing, an attorney to manage contracts, and a contractor for renovation and maintenance.

As you look across all your goals and strategies, you’re also looking for repeating skill-sets. The need for an attorney, for instance, might arise across a number of goals. Therefore, having an attorney on your board might become a priority position to fill. This person could provide legal advisement, connections to other attorneys, or legal resources and guidance.

 

Who You Have

 

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="329"] A sample Current Board Inventory, listing current board members in the left-hand column and skill-sets needed across the top row. Note that no one in this list possesses expertise in contract law, meaning this is a skill-set you should look for in your next board recruit.[/caption]

Before you can determine the types of board members you need to recruit, you’ve got to understand who on the board already understands the ins and outs of each strategy. To do that, you’ll need to construct a Current Board Inventory.

That means creating another table, this one listing the skill-sets identified by your Strategic Needs Table across the top row, and your current board members down the left-hand column. For each board member, put a check beneath the skill sets they possess. If you don’t yet know your board members well enough to make an accurate inventory—and don’t assume you do—I advise creating a short survey that you can send through email or conduct over the phone. Be sure to ask about current and past employment; significant hobbies; major corporate, philanthropic, or donor relationships; professional association involvement; political positions held; and any other boards served on. You may be surprised!

With your board inventory finished, you should be able to see, at a glance, the strengths your board possesses and the gaps that need filling. That table should allow you to create a prioritized list of skills, talents, and connections you must seek in the next board members you recruit.

Who You Want

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="422"] A sample Recruit Attributes Chart, listing recruitment possibilities in the left-hand column, and desired attributes across the top row. From this chart, it’s easy to see that Candidate A and Candidate E make the best “fit” with regards to the qualities you want in a board member.[/caption]

 

You should also take time to decide what you want in your next recruit, because you are creating a board culture as much as you’re seeking skills—and it won’t matter how many strategic needs a particular candidate fills if there’s no cultural fit. If they can’t connect with your organization, chances are they won’t stick around long enough make an impact.

To come up with a list of desired cultural attributes, think about the foundational values of your organization, the work style of your staff and programs, and the qualities you most appreciate in the board members you have. These might include an affinity for improvisation (or for long-term planning); an attitude of positivity and agreeableness (or skepticism and challenge); a certain geographic reach; a kind of diversity (racial, gender, socioeconomic, political); a particular community connection; or the ability to make a personal gift, or to get others to give. (At one nonprofit we work with, the key attribute is “nice.” That’s their code for assertive and positive, rather than contentious or argumentative.)

Once you’ve decided on these key attributes, you can create a Recruit Attributes Chart, much like the Current Board Inventory, accounting for these qualities in the candidates you interview. With that table, you can prioritize recruits who fulfill the same skill-set by their “fit”: that is, how many cultural attributes one marketing expert fulfills compared to the other marketing experts you’re interviewing.

Of course, all of this is just preparation for your real work with the board: empowering your organization to fulfill all the promise of its mission. From here, it’s up to you to develop a purposeful, intentional plan that takes advantage of all the skills and strengths your board members possess.

Access more GCN resources on board building and engagement at GCN.org/Boards.

 

 

Karen Beavor is President and CEO of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. Since 1998, Beavor has led GCN’s growth into a leading state association empowering nonprofits through education, advocacy, research, consulting and business support services. Karen has served as a board member or advisory board member of a variety of civic and nonprofit organizations including the Unemployment Services Trust; National Nonprofit Risk Management Center; and The Foundation Center–Atlanta. Karen has received the Martin Luther King Leadership award and the Harvard Business School Club of Atlanta’s Community Leader Award. She is a member of the 2000 class of Leadership Atlanta and 2003 Coca-Cola Diversity Leadership Academy, and a graduate of Agnes Scott College.
About Georgia enter for Nonprofits


The Georgia Center for Nonprofits builds thriving communities by helping nonprofits succeed. Through a powerful mix of advocacy, solutions for nonprofit effectiveness, and insight building tools, GCN provides nonprofits, board members, and donors with the tools they need to strengthen organizations that make a difference on important causes throughout Georgia.  Learn more at gcn.org.

 

June 09, 2014

Seeing Voluntary Turnover as an Opportunity for Improvement

Last year 48 million Americans across all sectors left their jobs.

For large organizations, or organizations that expect high turnover year-over-year, that number may not be particularly compelling. But for organizations in which high turnover is a sign of a bigger problem, this kind of turnover needs to be looked at as an opportunity for improvement.

Looking more closely at the reasons for separation, nearly 60% of all turnover last year was voluntary. And—including both voluntary and involuntary separation data—about 40% of separations happened when the employee had been in the position less than 6 months.

The cost of turnover can be monumental.

Even for employees that have only recently joined the organization, the cost of replacing them can be mind boggling.

Consider this: the average cost of turnover is typically reported between 15 and 21% of the employee’s salary. But the ‘actual cost’ consists of the time and resources that are spent recruiting and hiring a replacement, greater demands on other employees to pick up the slack (which could lead to burn out and more employee openings), the need to train and develop the new employee, and potentially lost revenue and opportunities.

To stay competitive and to reduce the amount of voluntary turnover as efficiently and effectively as possible, it’s time for employers to dust off their research skills and learn more about what factors are encouraging employees to leave your organization.

Conduct exit interviews, and find out why employees are leaving your organization. Dig deep into the reasons that employees are leaving—is there a toxic employee rotting the rest of their department? Is the amount of work incongruent with the amount of pay? Are poor benefits or strict working hours causing employees to look elsewhere?

Once definitive information has been collected and examined, take the time to address it throughout the organization. Make changes where necessary. And if changes can’t occur, for instance if better benefits are too hard to provide, look for opportunities to become more flexible with employees.

The savings will quickly add up.

Read more about how to see voluntary turnover as an opportunity here.
June 05, 2014

96% of Members Would Recommend the UST Program to their Nonprofit Peers as a Valuable Cost-Saving Opportunity

In a recent member-wide survey, it was revealed that 96 percent of UST participants would recommend the Unemployment Services Trust to their peers as a cost and time saving opportunity.


The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) is proud to announce that 96 percent of current participants would recommend the program as a valuable cost-saving opportunity for nonprofits. UST credits the improvement over last year’s 93 percent recommendation rate to an intense focus on the overall member experience and greater attentiveness to members’ needs.

“From the very beginning, the UST program was designed to support nonprofits by reducing the time and cost associated with managing an unemployment claim,” said Donna Groh, Executive Director. “To have found that our members would overwhelmingly recommend our service to other nonprofits is extremely rewarding.”

“We’ve worked hard to improve our customer service model and increase the quality of interactions that our customer service team has with our current members over the past year,” said Adam Thorn, Director of Operations. “By incorporating best practices and higher customer service standards, we have been able to  support more in-depth interactions with our members, whether that means providing more detailed responses to questions or better educating organizations about the benefits of reimbursing for unemployment claims versus paying taxes.”

“On the heels of this increase in customer service standards was the increase in direct savings that our members experienced last year as well,” said Groh in reference to mitigated unemployment claims costs and cash back to participants.

Last year, UST was able to help members mitigate $32,598,054 in unemployment claims through best-in-class claims management. The same claims management services allowed UST to return an additional $1.7 million of charges made in error by state unemployment offices, which were audited by UST and credited back to the individual organizations.

Select participants also received $11,041,738 in cash back after their reserve accounts were reviewed for positive claims experience.

 
May 30, 2014

Employee Engagement: Is Your Model Working?

How your employees approach their responsibilities and relationships within your organization dictates its level of success. However, how you choose to conduct yourself as a leader sets the tone for your employees’ overarching sense of accountability—which can create either a trusting, or toxic, work environment.

In order to be a great leader, one must educate, coach, empathize, encourage, and sometimes discipline employees. According to Simon Sinek, who was recently featured in TED2014, being a good leader is like being a parent –the main objective is to provide your workers the necessary tools to be successful and grow. Holding your employees accountable for their actions allows them to take ownership of their actions, and forces them to take responsibility for their successes and failures.

For nonprofits, who are often restricted by budgetary concessions, high morale and cooperation are driving forces required for mission advancement. Such internal drive can only be cultivated through feelings of security.

When employees feel as though they are being looked after and respected by their leaders, they develop a greater willingness to take initiative.

Great leaders also sacrifice for the well-being and safety of their staff. Selfless actions from a leadership figure will cause a domino effect of trust within an organization. And when the relationship between employer and employee improves, employees spend more time and energy devoted to strengthening the organization as a whole.

To learn more about what it takes to be a great leader, watch Simon Sinek's video.

Read more about leadership management tips here.

May 27, 2014

Meet US(T) Mondays- Laurie

Having recently joined UST as an Account Manager, Laurie is thrilled about working with nonprofits and helping them save money.

Her drive and passion to spread awareness within the community makes her a great fit for the UST team. Laurie explains, “I am not doing any volunteer work currently, but when my father passed away from cancer 10 years ago, one of the ways I got through it was to get involved with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraisers in Ventura.”

Outside of the office, Laurie and her husband are adjusting to life as newfound puppy parents. They’re rescue puppy, Watson, is a Dachshund/Corgi mix and makes a wonderful addition to their household.

When given the opportunity, Laurie can’t resist the tranquility of nature. “Camping is probably my favorite thing to do and my husband and I go at least twice a year – sometimes more,” she says. “My favorite camping trip was years ago with my sister and some friends and we went on a 50 mile (2 ½ day) river rafting trip on the Colorado River from Grand Junction, CO to Moab, UT…definitely one of the best trips I’ve ever been on!”

In addition to being a dog lover and camping enthusiast, Laurie likes to let loose with a little help from her buddy, Bruce. If her life was a TV show, Laurie would select Growin’ Up by Bruce Springsteen as a theme song that played every time she walked into a room. “This represents the music I grew up with and sometimes I don’t think I’m finished growing up.”

Are you a fan of Bruce Springsteen too? Tell Laurie about it @USTTrust with the hashtag #MeetUSTMondays!
May 23, 2014

The Headaches of Applying for & Receiving Grant Money

If your organization is dependent on government contract pay or grant pay, chances are you already know all about the headaches that come with actually getting that money. But two separate studies released in May by the Urban Institute and the National Council of Nonprofits shed light on how bad the situation really is.

Highlighting the biggest problems that the delays in funding create, including reducing and/or putting staff pay on hold, the reports aim to introduce public policy proposals that would streamline the contracting process.

Some of the top findings from the survey included identifying the primary places and reasons contract payment is delayed and that:
 
  • 72% of nonprofits feel that the government reporting process is time-consuming and complex
  • 44% of nonprofit organizations have experienced changes to a grant or contract midstream
  • 45% of groups had experienced late payments which caused 42% of those groups to draw on their reserve funds, forced 14% to reduce the number of people they served and just over 1/2 to reduce or freeze employees salaries

Read more about the summary findings here.

Read the full study by the National Council of Nonprofits here. And read the full Urban Institute study here.
May 21, 2014

How the State Unemployment Trust Fund Debt is Affecting Your Organization

With unemployment across the nation leveling out compared to recent years, you might be wondering, why would it matter for employers now?

Since the Great Recession took its initial toll on the state unemployment insurance (UI) funds, states across the U.S. have gone into considerable debt in order to provide benefits for millions of unemployed. Trying to combat unemployment costs while restoring their debt with the federal government, many states look towards alternative measures to repair their financial foundations.

In 2011, states accumulated a debt of over $47 billion owed to the federal government– the peak of the United States’ economic deficit. While the federal debt has since decreased, with 16 states still owing over $21 billion at the beginning of 2014, a lot of states took out private loans to avoid an automatic increase in their federal unemployment tax on employers.

With a low UI trust fund balance, many states have been forced to cut their unemployment benefits, rather than borrowing additional money from the government. Other alternative methods used to reach state solvency include:
 
  • higher tax rates on employers,
  • a short-term unemployment benefits system,
  • and private bond market loans
Such actions were meant to diminish volatility and recover sensibly from the impact of the debt.

While the states have steadily reduced the debts triggered by the Great Recession, the U.S. has a long way to go before they achieve full economic restoration. And employers will continue to see their overall cost of unemployment steadily rising, if their state is to both recover and prepare for the next downturn.

To see how your state unemployment insurance trust fund debt compares to other states, view Stateline’s chart here.

Learn more about how the U.S. is affected by the unemployment trust fund debt here.
May 19, 2014

Meet US(T) Mondays- Adriana

After joining the UST team as a temp late last fall, Adriana became a permanent part of the UST cost advisement team several months ago. “I was very excited to begin working with UST full-time,” she said. “Having worked in a mental health office for several years before I joined this team, I saw first-hand how many people are in constant need of the services provided by our members each day.”

One of our dedicated Unemployment Cost Advisors, Adriana works one-on-one with nonprofits looking to save on HR costs and helps evaluate their savings potential.

“Nonprofits work extremely hard to fill the gaps where people find themselves struggling the hardest; and helping those nonprofits save time and money that can be put back into their mission is very gratifying.”

Outside of work Adriana is a dog lover, enjoys gardening and hiking, and has plans to camp under the Aurora Borealis someday.

“Wandering around in nature with friends for a couple of hours is the best form of stress release,” she said, which also translates into her recently planted garden. “I never thought I’d get into gardening, but it’s been rewarding to see the results of our hard work. And it’s also delicious!”

Want to set up a time with me to learn more about how UST can help your organization save on HR costs? Tweet me at @USTTrust with #MeetUSTMondays.
May 16, 2014

U.S. DOL Releases UI Solvency Report

On May 13th the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its UI Solvency Report, which reports on the relative solvency of each state UI trust fund in comparison to other states based on suggested standards.

An analysis by UWC- Strategic Services on Unemployment & Workers’ Compensation reveals that a number of states have state UI trust funds that are so insolvent they are unlikely to recover before the next recession. For employers in these states (listed below) it can be expected that state and/or FUTA tax rates will continue to rise with longer term restrictions being imposed on benefit increases alongside enhanced integrity efforts.

While some states have elected not to maintain a large trust fund balance and are relying on “just in time” supplemental funds to assure their solvency, many are using bonds to supplement UI taxes and remain strained.

States not meeting the 0.5 Average High Cost Multiple threshold as of December 31, 2013 include:

Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia

States that do not meet the DOL recommended levels but have average High Cost Multiples of 0.5 or more include:

Colorado, DC, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Puerto Rico, Vermont

States that have solvent UI trust fund balances according to the US DOL 1.0 Average High Cost Multiple formula include:

Alaska, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
May 14, 2014

May is Mental Health Month

For 65 years, May has been recognized as Mental Health Month. And this year our partner, Mental Health America (MHA), and hundreds of our member organizations, including the Washburn Center for Children featured below, are focusing on the theme of "Mind Your Health" with the goal of building public recognition about the importance of mental health to overall health and wellness.

Few nonprofits are successful without a carefully managed budget though. And that's why everything UST does is designed to save our participants time and money. By providing world-class unemployment claims administration, a live HR hotline with expert HR personnel and an exhaustive resource library, as well as online claims monitoring, organizations that join UST see their average unemployment claim cost drop to $2,287, compared to the national average of $5,174 per claim.



How the Unemployment Services Trust Helps Nonprofits Save Money

For more information about this years' Mental Health Month, visit our partner MHA. Or download one of their mental health toolkits that are full of tips and tools for taking positive actions to protect mental health and promote whole health.
May 06, 2014

The Human Services Council of New York endorses the Unemployment Services Trust

The Human Services Council of New York has endorsed the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) to all of its members as a new member benefit. HSC, which is recognized as the voice of the human services community in New York, has chosen to partner with UST in alignment with their mission to “strengthen the not-for-profit human services sector’s ability to improve the lives of New Yorkers in need.”

The relationship between HSC and UST will allow many more 501(c)(3) organizations to learn how to lower the cost of unemployment at their organization by opting out of the state unemployment insurance tax system and implementing best practices. By paying only the dollar-for-dollar cost of unemployment benefits awarded to former employees, organizations that join UST lower their average claims cost to just $2,287 per claim versus the national average of $5,174 per claim.

“Not only will this new partnership result in potential savings for HSC members,” explained Judy Zangwill, Executive Director of Sunnyside Community Services, who sits on the Board of Directors at HSC and is also a UST Trustee, “but there are also additional benefits in terms of gaining access to the ThinkHR hotline and training, and getting 100% representation at all unemployment claim hearings when an organization joins UST.”

“As a Trust member I knew that UST helps nonprofit organizations from the time an employee initially files for unemployment benefits to the end of the claims experience. But as a UST Trustee I have even greater insight into the program and can see that it’s not only efficient for members, it’s also a well-run organization that provides increased value for its 80 Affinity Partners.”

About the Human Services Council: HSC strengthens the not-for-profit human services sector’s ability to improve the lives of New Yorkers in need through networking, advocacy, research, media education and by acting collectively to establish greater balance between organizations and government. As a membership association HSC has long been at the forefront of enacting positive changes to outdated, bureaucratic governmental systems that human services providers must navigate to help those in need. In service to their members, HSC seeks to reduce regulatory burdens while strengthening accountability—with the overall goal of producing better outcomes for clients. Their efforts enhance public recognition of the sector, improve its financial stability, and have a long-term positive impact on the well-being of New Yorkers in need. For more information, visit humanservicescouncil.org.

About UST: Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST is the largest unemployment trust in the nation, providing nonprofit organizations with 10 or more employees a safe, cost-effective alternative to paying state unemployment taxes. UST has partnered with 80 state and national nonprofit-based associations to teach their members about their unemployment insurance alternatives. Visit www.ChooseUST.org to learn more.
April 24, 2014

Could Nonprofits Lose Employees to Business?

In an interesting Op-Ed in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the magazine predicted nonprofits will lose workers to the for-profit sector if they don't feel a sense of purpose. The author, Aaron Hurst, states that researchers have found that employees need 3 things to feel a sense of purpose within their work:
 
  • Opportunities to grow
  • Relationships with employees and others involved in the work
  • To create something greater than themselves
"Wait, wait," you might shout. "My organization gives employees all of those things." And chances are, you're right. But sometimes employees find that the day-to-day business of operating a nonprofit gets in the way of feeling that they are a part of something.

Worse, a disconnect between daily tasks and feeling a sense of purpose can lead to frustration in your employees. Hurst cites one high-level executive who made the switch from the nonprofit sector to the corporate world because she didn't feel her work was impacting the mission of her organization.

But what is your organization supposed to do? How do you re-engage employees that feel their contribution doesn't affect the overall mission of your organization?

Hurst explains that his 3 mantras are:
 
  • Continue to fight Goliaths (ie. supersize your ambitions)
  • Figure out what drives employees
  • Train managers and human resource executives to be community organizers
We've added a few additional suggestions though.
 
  • Make a formal retention plan.
  • Thank your employees, and let them know what their work helped the organization accomplish this year. And don't think "thank you's" have to be grand gestures. Taking the time to regularly acknowledge the effort and impact of someone's work can make a big difference in the long run.
April 21, 2014

UST Helps Members Make Their Unemployment Claims Experience More Eco-Friendly with E-Filings

Every day is Earth Day for nonprofit members of the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) who are reducing their paper trail. More than 91% of the organizations that participate in the UST program now handle the details and filing of their unemployment claims online. 68% of UST members are participating in the online unemployment claim dashboard that allows them to view claims detail related to their organization and process information requests from the state. And an additional 23% of UST members have elected secure email channels as their method of claims response, further eliminating paper waste and increasing the speed of communication.


Having managed more than 21,000 unemployment claims and pulled 12,800 claims reports online for nonprofits last year, UST calculated that 253,000 pieces of paper –equivalent to about 30.4 trees–were saved by UST’s 2,000 members.

“This green initiative is our small way of contributing toward reducing our carbon footprint, and also making life easier for our nonprofit members,” says Adam Thorn, UST’s Director of Operations.

Thorn explains, “Last year the federal government mandated that state penalties should be imposed if an employer does not respond in a timely manner to the state’s request for information on an unemployment claim. The response window is often a week or less, so being able to e-file claims information helps mitigate the risk of non-compliance and helps us be a more eco-friendly program. It’s a win-win.”

About UST: Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST is the largest unemployment trust in the nation, providing nonprofit organizations with 10 or more employees a safe, cost-effective alternative to paying state unemployment taxes. UST has partnered with 80 state and national nonprofit-based associations to teach their members about their unemployment insurance alternatives. Visit www.ChooseUST.org to learn more.
April 15, 2014

The Foster Family-based Treatment Association endorses UST to Help Member Organizations Thrive

The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) is pleased to announce that the Foster Family-based Treatment Association (FFTA) has endorsed UST.  UST will join the other member benefits offered to FFTA member organizations, and will provide a unique solution to help them reduce unemployment-related costs and manage difficult HR questions.

The UST program allows member organizations with a 501(c)(3) tax designation to better take advantage of the federal law that allows nonprofits to opt out of paying state unemployment taxes. By paying only the dollar-for-dollar cost of unemployment benefits paid to former employees, organizations that join UST lower their average claims cost to just $2,287 per claim, versus the national average of $5,174 per claim.

“We are very excited about this program because we know there is a lot of opportunity to save in the sector. We want to help foster care agencies with 10 or more employees to evaluate whether they are paying too much into the state unemployment tax system – and if so, we will provide them with a free 2-year savings projection,” said Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST.  “Our goal is to find $7 million in tax savings for nonprofits this year, and being able to reach out to foster-family organizations through the FFTA will certainly help us reach that goal.”

Groh added, “Since so many organizations don’t have the bandwidth or resources to make sure they are paying the right amount in unemployment taxes, or staying in compliance with every new HR law, UST’s expert claims advisors and HR hotline gives them the edge they need to continue to thrive and meet their missions.”

About the Foster Family-based Treatment Association (FFTA): Established in 1998, the Foster Family-based Treatment Association (FFTA) is the leader in Treatment Foster Care, dedicated to strengthening agencies that support families caring for vulnerable children. Its membership of over 400 agencies provides an array of child welfare and mental health services to over 600,000 vulnerable children and youth each year. Treatment Foster Care is provided to children and youth with significant emotional, behavioral and medical problems who receive intensive and therapeutic services in a family-based setting, with the support of specially trained foster parents and clinical staff. For more information, visit http://www.ffta.org.

About UST: Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST is the largest unemployment trust in the nation, providing nonprofit organizations with 10 or more employees a safe, cost-effective alternative to paying state unemployment taxes. UST has partnered with nearly 80 state and national nonprofit-based associations to teach their members about their unemployment insurance options. Visit www.ChooseUST.org to learn more.
April 07, 2014

UST Found More than $3.5 Million in Savings for Nonprofits

Last year the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) identified $3,532,485.26 in unemployment tax savings opportunities for more than 200 nonprofits that requested a Savings Evaluation. Additionally, UST found $1.7 million in state errors that were credited back to current participants in the UST program after state charges were carefully audited by the claims administrator.


“When you file your own personal taxes with the IRS, you make sure you’ve identified every savings opportunity. At UST we help nonprofit organizations with 10 or more employees identify whether their 501(c)(3) is overpaying for its unemployment taxes,” explained Donna Groh, UST’s Executive Director.

Based on research conducted by the UST Division of Nonprofit Research last year, 1 in 4 nonprofits is unaware of the legislation that allows 501(c)(3)s to opt out of paying state unemployment taxes and instead directly reimburse the state for the dollar-for-dollar cost of benefits paid to their former employees. UST helps nonprofits determine if this alternative will save them money by analyzing their past few years of unemployment claims. Savings can be as much as 60 percent.

“This year our goal is to find more than $7 million in potential savings for nonprofits that ask us to compare UST to their state unemployment tax rate or current supported reimbursing program. Too many organizations are overpaying for their unemployment costs, and we hope to help change that by putting more unrestricted funding back into their budgets when they take advantage of the UST Program.”

For most organizations that join UST, the savings add up quickly. Steve Lepinski, Executive Director of the Washburn Center for Children in Minneapolis and a long-time UST Trustee, said, “The savings generated by UST are like a large foundation has provided millions of dollars to nonprofits across the country.”

His organization estimates that it has saved more than $100,000 on unemployment costs since joining the UST program.

About UST: Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST is the largest unemployment trust in the nation, providing nonprofit organizations with 10 or more employees a safe, cost-effective alternative to paying state unemployment taxes. UST has partnered with 80 state and national nonprofit-based associations to teach their members about their unemployment insurance alternatives.
April 04, 2014

Recruiting the Right Employee: Conclusion

Presently, 10.7 million people are employed by the nonprofit sector. With job functions ranging from healthcare administration to membership development to content creation, the nonprofit sector encompasses every job skill and employment level available. Falling behind only the retail and construction fields in terms of sheer manpower, nonprofits face very different challenges when it comes to recruitment.

Hobbled by limited budgets for recruitment, historically lower pay scales, and fewer opportunities for internal advancement (the largest majority of mid-level employees come from other nonprofit organizations), nonprofits have a lot working against them when it comes time to hire. So what is a nonprofit to do when they need to source appropriate applications and hire the best candidates to advance their mission?

Let’s start by ensuring job postings are in the right place and reaching the most relevant candidates.

Rather than relying solely on word-of-mouth advertising through the nonprofit community, or on your informal network of connections, become active in sourcing candidates from the very field you want to hire for. You never know which job seekers are looking for the opportunity to leave the corporate structure in favor of an organization whose mission they are passionate about.
April 03, 2014

Recruiting the Right Employee: Part 3- Posting and Screening for Specialized Positions

Does your nonprofit rely most heavily on informal recruitment networks to fill open positions? If you said yes, you’re not alone. A recent survey found that 88% of nonprofits surveyed are satisfied with using the informal recruitment networks of their friends and colleagues.

The same survey found that a whopping 85% of nonprofits don’t have a formal annual recruitment budget. Of the 15% of organizations that do have a formal recruitment budget, the media budget allotment was only $8,500 a year.

Maybe that explains why so many organizations rely on informal recruitment networks. But with only $8,500 to spare at most, where do organizations turn when they need to fill a position they can’t locally source from their pre-established informal recruitment networks? Even more difficulty emerges when the position a nonprofit is looking to hire for is highly specialized or needs a very select set of background and educational or certification experiences to support it.

A quick Google search of the term “specialty job listing site” returns more than 2.4 million results. For organizations looking to hire someone with highly technical training, there is the job site “37signals.” For those looking to hire someone with an accounting or other financial background, there is the site “Financial Job Bank.” And for nonprofits looking to hire skill sets most often found within the nonprofit sector, there are ASAE: CareerHQ and Opportunity Knocks.*

Other well-recognized specialized job boards include:
 
  • Bridgespan Group
  • State Associations, such as many of our recognized Affinity Partners (view the full list here)
  • Industry & Skill Specific Associations, such as Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the American Marketing Association (AMA)
  • MediaBistro
  • HealthJobs USA
  • College Recruiter
Another good way to look for potential applicants with specialized skills or certifications is by sourcing from your volunteer bank. (Hey, sometimes it’s best to rely on word of mouth!) If you are looking for someone knowledgeable in an area that you already have one or more volunteers in, consider asking them directly if they would be interested in submitting an application.

Similarly, your organization shouldn’t only be positing these specialized positions on specialized job boards. Consider posting on some of these sites as well. Even if you don’t directly reach the perfect candidate through general boards such as Craigslist or Indeed, many active job seekers know passive jobs seekers who they are willing to forward relevant positions to.

*Opportunity Knocks is a national online job board, HR resource, and career development destination managed by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, one of UST’s 80+ Affinity Partners.
March 28, 2014

Recruiting the Right Employee: Part 2- Posting and Screening for General Positions

For employers trying to find candidates to fill general skills positions the battle to wade through the tide of resumes is daunting. Sometimes it feels as if there are 500 “good” candidates for every one open position.

This is where the importance of having a well-written and well-defined job description (and by extension, job posting) comes in handy.* Including required experience, education, and other basic skill requirements allows potential candidates to self-screen before putting together a cover letter and resume package for your organization. In fact, even the simple act of requiring a cover letter (and throwing out all resumes submitted without one) can help your organization pre-screen employees based on their communication skills.

The same with including a salary range—a lot of companies don’t do this for a multitude of reasons, but applicants know what they need their base rate of pay to be. You don’t want to find the perfect candidate to only learn that you can’t afford to hire them after going through the entire recruitment process, do you?

After you’ve put together the full job description and have ensured that it will help potential candidates and the hiring committee quickly screen for the least likely candidates, it’s time to post. But where do you post the job description?

The easiest place to start is general job search sites, a short list of which you’ll see below.
 
  • Idealist
  • Monster
  • ASAE:CareerHQ
  • Craigslist
  • Indeed
  • CareerBuilder
  • LinkedIn’s Nonprofit Job Board


Other places you should consider posting the job would be with your local community centers, churches, community colleges and universities, and libraries.

Have more suggestions? Share on our social media channels!

The next segment of this series will discuss finding candidates with refined or specific qualifications. Since many nonprofits often rely heavily on informal networks for hiring & finding new talent, these are sometimes the most difficult jobs to fill.
 
*UST’s offering ThinkHR can help UST members build strong well-written job descriptions and evaluate pre-existing job descriptions against similar, if not exact, jobs. Learn more here.
March 27, 2014

Recruiting the Right Employee by Posting Jobs in the Right Place: Intro

It sounds easy when you first start looking for a new employee: Post job “A” and after a careful selection process, hire the best person for the position.

But what if the best person doesn’t submit an application? How can you reach the right job seekers with the right job postings? Well, there’s a song about how the best place to start is at the very beginning, so it’s important that you make sure you are posting job descriptions on the most appropriate sites.

There are so many different job boards though!

It’s a mixed blessing that you’re right. Even as the economy has improved and the unemployment rate has fallen (with the exception of February 2014), the area of source identification has remained murky when it comes time to recruit new candidates. For some positions, industry specific job boards provide the most active access to the ‘right’ candidates on a national, or even international, scale. But for highly localized job postings, where do you turn?

And where should your organization seek general skill jobs such as Admin Assistants or Receptionists?

Our newest series focuses on finding the best ways to identify candidate pools that are a good fit for your general positions, and finding candidates with more refined, specific qualifications.
February 23, 2014

How UST Helped Nonprofits Get Back $1.7M on Unemployment Costs Last Year

For more than 130 years the Washburn Center for Children has worked to help children with social, emotional and behavioral problems, and their families, lead successful lives. The leading children's mental health center in Minnesota, the Washburn Center ensures caregivers have the best resource to help kids who are hurting on the inside.

As a nonprofit, the Washburn Center serves children from birth to age 18 and helped nearly 2,700 children and 8,000 family members last year, with more than half of those helped coming from families with low incomes.

Like so many nonprofits, this means that Washburn must be highly cognizant of each and every budget line item, which is why they have worked with UST to lower the cost of unemployment at their organization since the 1990's.

"Unemployment is a very small part of your day-to-day budget, but it's still something you should be looking at, and UST is committed to working with you to really reduce that so you can put those unrestricted funds into other, more important, areas."

Over the years working with UST has saved Washburn hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been able to directly impact their community. But their savings aren't unusual among UST members.

Last year UST's claims administrator was able to find more than $1,700,000 in overpayments that were returned to our members by states. See how much your nonprofit could save by filling out a Savings Evaluation here today.

February 07, 2014

Long-Term Unemployment Benefits Bill Falls Short

Falling just 2 votes short, the Democratic proposal to extend the federal unemployment benefits program has failed to advance.

On Thursday, February 6th, the Senate’s vote of 58 to 40 marked the end of unemployment insurance payouts for many of the long-term unemployed, including the 1.7 million Americans who had stopped receiving aid when the benefits program had originally expired this past December.

Had the proposal passed, the federal unemployment benefits program would have been extended by an additional three months, amounting to $6.4 billion. But, fearful of creating a disincentive for the long-term jobless, as well as perpetuating the federal financial deficit, the majority of Republicans voted against the bill.

While the proposal was officially dismissed, President Obama continues to search for new ways to promote equal opportunity for the long-term unemployed. In order to create an even playing field for such job candidates, many businesses have started implementing inclusive hiring practices and training programs—all in an effort to end discrimination against long-term unemployed individuals.

After promoting his hiring initiative, Obama has successfully gained the support of many big-wig companies, such as Ford Motor Co. and Apple. And although the extended benefits program has since expired, these new hiring practices can become a new symbol of hope for the long-term unemployed.

Read more about the Senate’s vote on the Democratic proposal here.
January 30, 2014

Will Your State Lead in Job Generation This Year?

Is 2014 going to be the year that job growth finally kicks into high-gear for the U.S.? Many economists are saying “yes.”

For job seekers in the West and South, where job growth is expected to be fastest over the next 11 months, the outlook is particularly rosy. And for the first time since 2008, less than one percentage point separates the jobless rates across the country’s four main regions.

With more than 2.6 million jobs projected to be created in 2014, even states that continue to feel the hardest effects of the recession expect to reap the benefits of employment acceleration. And as job growth continues its upward trend, 15 states have officially gained back all of the jobs that they lost during the Recession, further stimulating economists positive jobs outlook.

Although this has been recovered as the slowest recessionary recovery ever on record, it is expected that all states will have recovered the total number of jobs lost during the Recession over the next few years.

For more detailed information about which states will experience the fastest job growth in 2014, Stateline created this interactive state-by-state map.

Read the full-text Stateline article here.
January 29, 2014

Understanding Your Future Leadership Needs

There comes a time at every nonprofit that conversation must shift—whether naturally or through force—to future leadership needs. But often, founder’s syndrome, overbooked schedules, and fear of change squelch the conversation or muffle the sounds of potential future leaders leaving.

But few nonprofits should actually be afraid of leadership development since often it indicates growth and mission success.

When your organization is open to examining your current organizational goals and is ready to actively assess your employees and positions to see if you have the employee talent to lead your organization forward, there are hundreds of resources for leadership development.

Thankfully, The Bridgespan Group has put together a Nonprofit Leadership Development toolkit, with videos based off of their own leadership development research, that can help you tie the skills and talents your organization will need into your strategic planning efforts.

Watch the first video here.

UST’s ThinkHR hotline can also help you prepare for future leadership needs with expert job description builders, salary benchmarking tools and more than 200 on-demand courses for both management and employees! Visit the webpage here.

Learn more about the HR resources available to UST members by calling (888)249-4788 today.
January 27, 2014

Before You Add a New (Young) Board Member, Read This!

The Millennial generation has been getting a lot of press over the past few years, and often the coverage is decidedly unkind, with a focus on personalities that feel entitled to a “participation trophy,” are lazy, and don’t respect their elders at work. With an engrained focus on technology and change previously unseen in former generations, Millennials have made a lot of people uncomfortable and have been called out repeatedly for it.

But according to research done by the Social & Demographic Trends arm of the Pew Research Center, Millennials are forging an identity that is “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat, and open to change”-- which makes them perfect candidates for your next open Board seat. (Read the full report here.)

Creative and highly adaptive, many Millennials are defined by their upbeat energy, positive outlook and high level of inclusion. Conversely many Boards are getting a bad rap for being exclusive, untouchable, and far too opaque in their conservative decision-making.

According to advocates for younger board members, having Millennials on your board has many benefits and advances your organization in ways that may be overlooked by those quick to dismiss the young. These include:
 
  • Passion for your mission and organization
  • Access to fresh, new networks and a strong knowledge of how to continue building them
  • Future leadership potential and the ability to act as a bridge to other future leaders
  • Technologically savvy with a knack for teaching other generations the benefits of a technological shift


Read more of the benefits of having younger board members on your Board.

Take the quiz to find out how Millennial you are.

Do you have younger board members at your organization? How did you find them? Tell us about your board demographic!