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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 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 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 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 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.