July 07, 2016
4 HR Mistakes Nonprofits Make
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These mistakes can be costly if you’re not careful; think compliance penalties, litigation, unemployment costs and employee replacement costs. We’ve listed some of the most common mistakes so you can try to avoid them at your nonprofit.
1. Bad Hiring Decisions
In the nonprofit world, you’re likely to know just about everyone who works in the same circle. So it makes sense that to offer a job to someone you know, right? Well sometimes skipping the interviewing step means you’re missing out on the most qualified candidate, and missing important information. Interviews, background checks and references are absolutely a must when it comes to hiring the right person. The wrong person for a position can be costly, since you may have to pay unemployment if you have to replace them, and the cost in both time and money to find a replacement quickly adds up.
2. Not Documenting Infractions
It’s not easy addressing performance or company policy concerns with an employee. Although it can be uncomfortable, it’s much more uncomfortable to have to address these issues in an unemployment claim appeal hearing when you try to prove the employee was discharged for cause. The first steps are having clear performance expectations in your job descriptions as well as an employee handbook outlining organizational policies. Then create a performance review to discuss any concerns with an employee, and address the steps they can take to improve. And any infractions must be documented in writing, including:
Finally, don’t wait to have the conversation! It’s easiest to provide immediate feedback and point to a distinct occurrence rather than try to explain later on “Remember that one time…” Do it now, and you’ll thank yourself later.
3. Not Knowing Basic HR Rules
If you don’t have someone with acute knowledge of the laws around the following HR laws, make sure you get acquainted with the rules or have a certified HR professional to help you:
4. Not Knowing the Difference Between Contracted, Volunteer, Part-Time, and Full-Time Employees
The U.S. DOL has strict rules around Independent Contractors and Volunteers. Not only do you need to be aware of the rules around pay and benefits, you should know who is eligible to collect unemployment benefits. Independent contractors may file for unemployment, and you need to be able to prove he or she is not an employee of your company.
Here at UST we know it’s not easy managing the most important part of your organization: your human capital. Having the right employees can make or break your mission, and so can following the proper HR procedures. Interested in learning more about our tools for nonprofits? Find out about Unemployment Claims Administration and our HR Hotline.