Blogs

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 22, 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 14, 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 03, 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 02, 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 27, 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 26, 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 06, 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 29, 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 28, 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 26, 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!
January 12, 2014

Pictures, Pizza and Philanthrophy

More than thirty years ago, the Unemployment Services Trust was established with the core mission to help nonprofits save money and do more for their mission. As the years have passed and UST has grown to more than 2,000 member nonprofits nationwide, the scope of the organizations that we partner with has also expanded into a broad spectrum of charitable functions, including every major nonprofit sector.

For those of us who help run the day-to-day operations of the UST program, there is a special thrill in hearing how each of our members is able to make an impact in their community through after school programs, health and human services, meal delivery programs, arts, literacy advancement efforts, animal advocacy, and so much more! We wanted to reach into our local community and get help illustrating (literally) all of the types of nonprofits UST serves. So we asked the children that participate in our local Girls, Inc. and Boys & Girls Club programs to help us by entering a calendar contest. And within a month, we received more than 100 incredible drawings!

The only problem is there are only 12 months in a year! So after a difficult selection process, we presented each of the winners with awards, and threw all of the participants a pizza party. Said Tristan from the Boys & Girls Club of Carpinteria to the local newspaper, “I was really excited I won because I never thought I was that good at drawing.” His entry in the Museums category is the winning image for May.
 
January 08, 2014

Unemployment Services Trust Helps Nonprofits Access Expert HR Hotline and Resources

Unemployment Services Trust (UST) is pleased to announce the addition of ThinkHR Live to its roster of fully integrated services for UST members. This new member benefit is a value-added service that will help UST’s not-for-profit members obtain quick answers and expert second opinions on a wide range of human resource issues.

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. Since 501(c)(3) organizations are federally allowed to opt out of paying into the state unemployment tax pool and can instead reimburse the state only as they incur unemployment claims, UST member organizations can take advantage of this savings benefit while also being protected through their UST account reserve and expert claims management. And now through ThinkHR, they will also benefit from live HR advice when they need it.

ThinkHR Live now provides UST members with access to a live phone HR hotline with written follow-up on complex issues or researched matters, usually within 24 hours. All hotline representatives are certified professionals in human resources, and help employers to stay in compliance – an important part of any organization’s human resources practices.

In addition, ThinkHR offers downloadable HR templates with forms, documents, tools and checklists for every HR department; a job description builder and salary benchmarking tools; 200+ online employee training and compliance courses for both management and employees; and bi-weekly legislative and HR e-newsletters.

Over the first 8 weeks of membership, UST members will also receive a weekly email from ThinkHR with account tips and features to help them get the most out of their account.

Every year UST provides its members with new educational content and support. Often focusing on unemployment costs, unemployment claim management methods, HR-related procedures and case studies, UST’s informative materials and dedicated partner services like ThinkHR are designed to help nonprofits save money and build greater resiliency. Visit www.ChooseUST.org/ThinkHR to learn more.
January 05, 2014

Case Study: Protection When You Most Need It

The South Central Behavioral Health Network (SCBHN) is made up of 39 mental health and substance abuse programs that are funded by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Focusing on programs that benefit the homeless and addicted populations served by member agencies, SCBHN runs multiple programs that offer addiction counseling and support, job training, and grants for consumer-run projects.87356112-web

It also operates a very successful program which allows homeless people to move into sober living houses and provides them with case managers.

Each year, the SCBHN houses more than 130 people, and their programs focus on helping people successfully stand on their own two feet. Believing that those who have already experienced the success of conquering addiction and homelessness provide the best examples to those still struggling, SCBHN provides those connections and helps make sure that peer counselors are always available.

A very unique program, SCBHN began as a membership organization for the substance abuse and mental health organizations in the area surrounding New Haven, CT. Now providing direct services to clients of their membership agencies, SCBHN faces a challenge because they have committed themselves to hiring peers to help those they serve. For them, this means that they have committed to hiring two part-time peers for each position, instead of one full-time entry level employee who had never experienced the hardships of homelessness, substance abuse, or mental health concerns. In the last few years, SCBHN has been “hurt around the edges” as donors for their homeless programs dropped out, which forced them to cut back on the number of people they can serve, even as the population grew.

 

Needing to save money and feeling that self-insuring is far too risky for the majority of nonprofits, SCBHN joined UST and was able to see an immediate decrease in their annual rates.

“What’s the downside of joining UST?” asked Executive Director Edward Mattison. “I certainly confess that I didn’t pay any attention to unemployment before it became important, but the Trust is less expensive than staying with the state and it’s far less risky than trying to self- insure.”

Mattison’s sentiment proved to be extremely true when SCBHN was forced to dismiss an employee who clients alleged was stealing money from them. After dismissal, the employee filed for unemployment benefits claiming she deserved them for her work at the agency, but SCBHN felt that she had harmed clients and should not receive benefits. “The claims staff has [always] been very helpful for us in prepping us for claims interviews and hearings,” said Mattison.

Solution

Working with their claim monitor and hearing representative to figure out how to best approach the situation, what documentation to provide for the hearing, and who should be interviewed, SCBHN was able to win the claim early on.

“I’m not a person who wants to deny people their rights, but the idea that someone who was allegedly stealing from clients should receive benefits made me very angry,” said Mattison.

 

Summary

Looking to save on operational expenses, SCBHN learned about UST and the benefits of joining a Trust. Being offered substantial savings which allowed them to put more money back into their homeless programs, SCBHN finds UST to be important to their mission because, in part, they are protected from high state rates and can get help in defending themselves against fraudulent or inappropriate unemployment claims.

In the case of the fraudulent claim, claims representatives were able to help SCBHN collect all the necessary information for the unemployment hearing they had requested. Organizing statements, testimony, and the evidence, their representative was able to help SCBHN successfully defend themselves against the claim and save their homeless clients from being offered fewer services. UST's claims administrator then went on to help SCBHN set up stronger documentation systems to prevent any future issues with employees who harm clients.

 

 

December 08, 2013

The Do’s and Don’ts of Throwing a Successful Holiday Office Party

Holiday music, decorations, and a sweet tooth that doesn’t seem to quit— it must be that time of year. A time for friends, family, and endless celebrations, the holiday season definitely has a way of bringing people together.

So what better time than to throw a festive office party to commemorate yet another successful year? (Or even to ease the pain of a bad one.)

While holiday office parties can seem more like a chore than a reward for both you and your employees, following a few simple steps can help transform your party from dull to unforgettable.

Party Do’s
 
  1. DO set a realistic budget—your budget will help narrow down food, venue, and entertainment possibilities; remember, successful parties aren’t necessarily the most extravagant and expensive
  2. DO pick a reliable committee—selecting a few willing volunteers will allow you to delegate and utilize multiple perspectives, alleviating unnecessary amounts of pressure and stress
  3. DO consider your office culture—Keep your employees’ interests in mind when planning the event’s atmosphere; whether laid back or high energy, cater to your organization’s needs
  4. DO provide the food—if your company is consistently hosting potlucks, switch things up a bit and treat your staff to a pre-made meal; consider hiring a caterer or hosting a food truck
  5. DO plan activity options—Have engaging opportunities for your employees to mingle; simple activities such as a make-your-own cookie station or a festive photo booth can go a long way


Party Don’ts
 
  1. DON’T place an emphasis on alcohol—set the tone for moderation beforehand; offer incentives for designated drivers and consider offering more alcohol-absorbing food
  2. DON’T forget about employee policies— in order to avoid sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, send out a friendly reminder emphasizing that this party is a company event and should be treated as such
  3. DON’T overcompensate for lack of bonuses—if your employees aren’t receiving bonuses this year, don’t throw an over-the-top party; they may question how money is being allocated
  4. DON’T turn a blind eye—as a supervisor, you are responsible for your employees’ actions at the party; be sure to set a good example and keep an eye out for any potentially problematic behavior (including overindulgence and sexual harassment)
  5. DON’T force people to participate—while side activities can be very interactive and entertaining, make sure they are optional; the objective is to make everyone feel comfortable, and some people might resent the forced activities


Throwing a holiday office party requires the utmost care and an eye for details. Though it’s important to emphasize responsible behavior, remember that these annual parties are meant to be a reward for your employees. Given the right venue, food, and attitude, your holiday office party will be a hit
 

Read more tips on creating a successful holiday office party here.

December 03, 2013

#GivingTuesday and the #Unselfie Bring In the Big Bucks

On Tuesday, December 3rd, the second annual #GivingTuesday took place. Encouraging people all over the world to take place in what started as a national day of giving, the campaign celebrates and contributes to the success of charitable activities that support millions of nonprofit organizations.

This year online donations by Blackbaud rose 90% to $19.2-million, with the average gift hovering around $142. Network for Good, which also processes online donations, said it handled $1.8-million in gifts on Tuesday.

In 2012 there were more than 2,000 recognized #GivingTuesday partners in the U.S. During that 24-hour period, Blackbaud processed more than $10 million in donations while DonorPerfect recorded a 46% increase in online donations on that day over the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in 2011.

The #Unselfie, in which participants take a picture of themselves holding a piece of paper with the name of a charity they support-- either through volunteer work or donations-- and post it to their social media networks, helped contribute to the trend and was a leading keyword in the days leading up to Tuesday.

What was your favorite #GivingTuesday campaign? Tell us about it on Facebook and Twitter.
December 01, 2013

Essential Skills for Successful Coaching

To ensure consistent leadership development within the workplace, coaching has become a highly prioritized method used to train, mold, and encourage employees. And while a sports coach and an office supervisor share similar objectives for team growth, office coaching requires a unique set of skills specific to the working environment.

Devoid of strict time restraints and monotonous drills, great office coaching requires patience, consistent hand-holding, and an assortment of skill-set conditioning.

No matter how talented a supervisor is, an organization’s success rate is greatly impacted by the competence of its workers. Specifically, nonprofits heavily rely on their employees’ ongoing drive and development in order to further advance their mission.

Here are 6 essential elements required for successful coaching:

  1. Long-term education—Workplace coaching requires an extended hand-holding process where one must help walk employees through each step of the way; this ensures that workers are applying their new skills in an accurate and time-efficient manner
  2. Multifaceted training methods—Rather than solely focusing on your employees’ specific job requirements, it’s important to help them gain a thorough knowledge of the organization as a whole; this will give them a greater understanding of how their jobs affect office productivity and interact with other positions
  3. Value mistakes—Since no  employee is perfect, don’t harp on every mistake they make; your workers will appreciate their triumphs much more and will learn from these speed bumps throughout the learning process
  4. Genuine feedback—Positive and constructive responses to an employee’s progress will help create ongoing goals as well as instill a sense of accomplishment within the individual
  5. Ask questions—Ask open-ended questions on a fairly regular basis in order to check in with your workers’ memory retention and engagement; this will not only build a trust between you and your workers, but it will give both parties a chance to evaluate where the current strengths and weaknesses lie
  6. Flexible time limits—While there are some unavoidable time restraints set within the workplace, it’s important that there is an ongoing list of goals, both short-term and long-term, that have no expiration date; employees must be allotted time to reflect on and reevaluate their work


Effective coaching requires a formulaic methodology, which can only be achieved through trial and error. Backed by mutual trust and strategic thinking, the best workplace coaches inspire their employees to continually raise the bar. Great coaches encourage stronger internal relationships and a constant evolvement of talent—paving the way for a more successful organization.

Read more coaching tips within the workplace here.
November 19, 2013

Encourage Creativity to Foster Innovation

Sales Representative, HR Recruiter, Payroll Specialist, Marketing Coordinator, CEO, Board Member. At first glance, these job titles appear to be unrelated—requiring different sets of skills and uniquely ranked within the office hierarchy. But these seemingly diverse positions uphold one glaring commonality: the need for innovation.

Innovation most often occurs when something new or different is introduced— often a product or service. Giving nonprofits a leg up on their competition, creativity and innovative ideas can help advance mission objectives.

Learning how to increase productivity, whilst saving time, money, and other resources, requires an extensive process of trial-and-error. However, due to a lack of encouragement and seldom office-wide participation, many nonprofits are handicapping their potential innovators.

Innovative ideas within the workplace are often unheard or simply ignored. Afraid of stepping outside of procedural guidelines, many employees shy away from sharing their creative input—especially to higher authority figures.

Follow these 4 strategies to make innovative thinking an accepted standard for every job position:

  1. Set aside time and funds to help creativity levels grow. Providing ample resources for innovation will enable your workers to produce more ideas, which can lead to greater creativity flow.
  2. Encourage office-wide participation, regardless of an individual’s job description. It’s simple: the more people who collaborate with one another during a brainstorming session, the greater the likelihood of interacting ideas.  Successful innovation is often the product of multiple ideas.
  3. Harness a sense of confidence prior to tackling more ambitious goals. Have your team initially focus on solving simple problems through innovative thinking.  Once your employees see their ideas transformed into effective realities, they will feel better equipped for more out-of-the box thinking.
  4. Foster consistent, risk-free brainstorming sessions. While not all ideas are great, they can be the stepping stones needed for innovative achievement. Innovative brainstorming is a time to make mistakes, so create an unfiltered environment where your employees are free to share any and all ideas.


Innovation provides organizational growth opportunities and keeps your nonprofit from remaining static.  Through allocated resources and abundant reassurance, your employees will adapt innovative thinking as a second-nature behavior. Building a unified team effort, through open brainstorming opportunities, will create inclusive internal relationships and strong external impressions.

Learn more tasks to breed innovation here.

November 13, 2013

Case Study: Why Knowledge is Power

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The Council of Community Clinics (CCC) provides centralized support services to 16-member community clinic and health center organizations operating nearly 100 sites in California’s San Diego, Imperial, and Riverside counties. Their mission is to represent and support community clinics and health centers in their efforts to provide access to quality health care and related services, with a special emphasis on serving low-income and uninsured populations. They strive to be the common voice by building and strengthening relationships with strategic partners to develop sustainable resources and healthier communities.

 

 

Founded in 1977 the CCC helps its community clinics provide care to 1 in 6 San Diegans. And, since the County of San Diego does not operate a public hospital or public clinics, the CCC-member nonprofit community clinics and health centers are one of the few safety nets for primary care services for low-income and uninsured individuals.



Challenge

Several years ago, during the height of the Great Recession, the CCC faced a negative budget and used their entire monetary reserve which had been built over years of careful spending. Even with the extra monies at their disposal, the agency had to do a large layoff to continue to provide support and services. “It was incredibly difficult,” said Tracy Garmer, Director of Human Resources at CCC. After the state was fully reimbursed for all the claims, CCC’s UST reserves were drawn down and the organization took notice of their relationship with the Trust for the first time.

“When I first got here- having come from the for-profit sector- I didn’t really know about the Trust, and I was told we were working off a credit, so it didn’t really rise to a high level of interest,” said Garmer. After the state was reimbursed, the CCC had to re-build their UST account so she felt she needed to learn more about how the Trust operates and if it was still their best option.

“When I called I talked to several people that were extremely helpful in explaining that we were only paying for our own claims, versus what we would be doing in the state system. I emailed back and forth with the Director of Operations at UST and ended up being able to ask for a review of our rates.”

Solution

Having learned about how UST works and how the Trust ensures that each member is only paying for their own unemployment claims, CCC was able to get their rates reviewed and reduced while they re-built their reserves.  “When I called to inquire about my rate, the Trust was willing to look at and re-calculate my rate for me. We had gone years and years without large layoffs, and UST made a decision about CCC as an individual company, rather than just lumping us in with everyone else. It’s something I highlight to people that are looking at going into the Trust.”

For CCC, early education wasn’t high on the list of immediate to-dos, but when their rates changed and they called on UST to explain, the Trust was able to offer information to help deter future unemployment costs, as well as provide information about how a layoff affects their account. One of the greatest offerings for nonprofit employers who are expecting layoffs is to call UST and ask their dedicated claims reps questions before making any layoff decisions to see if there are any other approaches, such as partial layoffs, that can save their nonprofit money and reduce claims costs in the long, and short, run.
November 05, 2013

Nonprofit Accounting Updates

Guest Post republished from The Bonadio Group

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has released two updates to accounting standards that affect nonprofit organizations.

Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2013-06, Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958) Services Received from Personnel of an Affiliate, requires that if a nonprofit receives donated services from an affiliated group, the cost of the services must be measured in the nonprofit’s financial statements at the donor’s actual cost.

ASU 2012-05, Statement of Cash Flows (Topic 230) Not-for-Profit Entities: Classification of the Sale Proceeds of Donated Financial Assets in the Statement of Cash Flows, generally requires organizations that convert donated securities nearly immediately into cash by selling the securities to classify the related cash receipts as cash inflows from operating activities, unless the donor restricted the use of the contributed resources to long-term purposes. This change is effective prospectively for fiscal years beginning after June 15, 2013.

Read more here.
October 24, 2013

Making First Days More Effective For Everyone

There is something inherently difficult about making a new employee’s first day truly successful.  Regularly the hiring manager is so worn out from the initial hiring process that the importance of continuing to woo the new hire is lost on them.

The pitfalls of failing to make your new employee feel welcome and successful on their first day is two-fold though; in part it deflates their expectation about what their experience working with your organization will be. More importantly though it devalues their time at your nonprofit and elongates the onboarding time.

Imagine showing up to work on your first day only to find that nothing has been prepared around your arrival. No computer has been set up. No orientation paperwork has been prepared. No introductions are made. Overall, it seems as though no one at your new job cares that you were hired. How long would it be before you began looking for another new job?

Now imagine a more ideal situation: Your hiring team sent you a welcome note with a first day agenda before you began, and then on your first day, your desk, computer, office supplies, etc. are all ready for you. Co-workers casually drop by between meetings to welcome you aboard and your hiring manager makes vital introductions between you and your immediate team. Orientation materials are prepared and flexible, with small projects and onboarding goals given to you; lunch invitations are extended to help you meet your new co-workers.

Chances are you wouldn’t be as quick to resume your job search because your new organization and co-workers seem excited to have you along.

That initial sense of belonging and preparation goes far.

By demonstrating to new employees that you are excited to have them on board, and that you’ve taken the time to help them get up to speed, you’ve helped lay the earliest groundwork for success. And then as the employee goes through the onboarding process, they have the right contacts, and the right tools, to find the information they need about your organization, donors, and clients to further your mission.

What other onboarding sins have you seen companies commit? Do you have a favorite successful onboarding story?
October 20, 2013

Understanding Financial Reporting for Not-for-Profit Organizations: The Accounting Trinity

Management, donors, lenders and regulators all rely on not-for-profit entities’ financial statements to tell the organizations’ stories. While many individuals come face-to-face with financial information daily, much of it, when presented in financial statement format, is not intuitive or self-explanatory.

This article is the second in a series intended to help non-profit stakeholders better understand financial statements in order to make intelligent use of the information. The first article, Financial Statement Basics, reviewed the three primary financial statements:  the Statement of Financial Position, the Statement of Activities and the Statement of Cash Flows.

Next, we will look more closely at this “accounting trinity,” examining the relationships between statements and the process of capturing financial data and producing statements.

The Accounting Trinity

The three primary financial statements constitute the organization’s center of gravity.  They are a three-ring circus.  The Statement of Activity draws the most attention, but you need to watch in all three places!

How do the statements interact?  The Statement of Financial Position is the sum total of all Statements of Activities over the life of the organization.  The Statement of Activities and the Statement of Cash Flows report very similar information.  The Statement of Activities reflects current-period activity on an accrual basis (income recorded when earned and expenses recorded when committed).  The Statement of Cash Flows reflects how cash was created or used during the current period.  The Statements of Activities and Cash Flows are formatted very differently, however.

Items to look for and consider on every financial statement include:

  • Is there enough cash?
  • Are receivables/payables growing?
  • What’s the bottom line?
  • What are administrative expenses?
  • What are functional expenses?
  • Which numbers are estimated?


Read the rest of the article, which covers Internal Controls and Governance here.