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October 27, 2016

UST Earns a 95% Satisfaction Rating from its Nonprofit Membership

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 25, 2016

How to Distinguish Independent Contractors vs. Employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 22, 2016

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

HR Question: Time Off for Voting

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

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

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

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

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

October 19, 2016

Exercise Your Nonprofit's Tax Exemption for 2017

Get your FREE Unemployment Cost Analysis today!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Podcast] Building Capacity and Strengthening Culture

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

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

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

Listen to Podcast button- RGB

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

October 11, 2016

Job Growth Remains Solid

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 08, 2016

8 Simple Nonprofit Cost Cutting Ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nonprofits Receive Over $6.5 Million in Cash Back From UST

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

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

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

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

The largest nonprofit unemployment trust in the nation, UST helps 501(c)(3) organizations nationwide save time and money through a host of workforce management solutions that include - unemployment claims management, cash flow protection,  HR Workplace assistance, outplacement services and more.  The company services nonprofits from all sectors with 10 or more full-time employees. UST encourages nonprofits that are currently tax-rated or direct reimbursing on their own to review their options as they may be over-paying.
September 28, 2016

4 Ways to Keep Your New Hires from Quitting

From day one and onward, nonprofit employees look to training to feel capable at their job… and valued. Do you offer them that opportunity?

According to the 2015 Nonprofit Employee Engagement and Retention Report, organizations with high turnover also tended to have fewer training opportunities for employees—so providing new hires with the right tools at the right time is extremely important for retaining good-fit employees.

Employees want to feel like they’re making a contribution, and being trained on the job is a critical part of employee development and reinforcing their sense of worth. But in last year’s study, 29% of nonprofit respondents reported that they received NO onboard training, and about 1/3 said they got only 1-2 weeks.

Longer onboard training for new employees was linked to 1) lower turnover, 2) higher levels of employee job satisfaction, and 3) a lower likelihood of employees planning to quit in the next year. Organizations with 90-day onboarding strategies had the highest employee engagement. And when a company implements a successful onboarding program, they experience 54% greater productivity and 50% greater retention.

Here are 4 simple ways you can implement training at your nonprofit:

  1. Peer training: This is a cost-effective way to onboard and helps develop comradery.
  2. Written procedures and Employee Handbooks: These are critical to smooth transitions, and a handbook is also a way to document rules for when progressive discipline is necessary.
  3. Online Training: There are lots of courses available at an affordable cost. Check out Lynda.com, or you can administer courses to employees via UST’s HR Workplace training platform for less than $100/month for the whole organization.
  4. Conferences and seminars: In-person training helps employees network and bring knowledge of best practices in your sector back to your organization.

Overall, onboarding new employees (especially supervisors) can help them feel welcome and prepared to do their best. Ongoing training is a great way to develop skills, maintain goodwill among employees and keep your new hires from packing up their desks.

Discover a few other top reasons your employees might be headed for the door. For a limited time, download UST’s 2016 report, 6 Reasons Your Nonprofit Employees QUIT, and learn how you can improve your organization’s employee management strategies.

September 23, 2016

Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages

HR professionals across all industries have been expressing concern over the difficulty in recruiting qualified job candidates for some time but with a lower number of applicants actually applying, the task of locating individuals who possess the needed skills, experience and educational credentials, is becoming even more challenging in the current day.

The fact that organizations are saying they have had more difficulty filling full-time regular positions in the last 12 months than in previous years is a sign that conditions have changed. The top cited reasons - lack of sufficient work experience and job skills among job candidates, more competition from other employers and a lower number of applicants’ altogether.

A skills shortage occurs when there are not enough people with a particular skill to fill the needed number of positions within a particular occupation. Some basic skills shortages are writing, basic computer skills, reading comprehension and mathematics. And applied skills shortages are critical thinking and problem solving, work ethic, written communication and leadership. With that said, the most difficult positions to fill were for high-skilled medical (nurses, doctors, specialists), scientists and mathematicians, skilled trades (electricians, carpenters, machinists), engineering and architecture, IT/computer specialist (analysts, developers, programmers) and executives. Basic and applied skills are not only critical but necessary in order to build a foundation for a strong and stable workforce.

Many organizations have had to have their training budgets increased in order to fill the gap between qualified candidates and or training existing employees. While online training courses have become the most utilized option, many employers are still utilizing conferences and professional workshops and on the job training. Investing in education and training should be viewed as a way to meet skills shortfalls.

Though many organizations are utilizing social media and collaborating with educational institutions as recruiting strategies, the most effective strategies have been using a recruitment agency and training existing employees to take on hard-to-fill positions.

Organizations need not to only focus on finding and retaining highly skilled employees but also need to consider how they are going to develop the next generation of organizational leaders as the current workforce ages and the highly experienced and skilled workers retire. Making sure employees are not at risk of burnout will also be critical, taking into consideration that when they’re unable to fill some positions, their existing staff may be forced to do more with less.

September 14, 2016

HR Question: Employee Engagement Surveys

Question: What are some tips for developing and conducting an employee engagement survey?

Answer: An employee engagement survey can be a great tool to check the temperature of your culture. When done right, the survey can help you understand the needs of your employees, which in turn benefits productivity, job satisfaction and supports employee retention. It is also an excellent tool to help you calibrate the quality of your leadership as well as your employee relations and talent management programs.

Before you start, however, ensure that the management team is ready to act on the critical feedback you’ll get. Then decide what it is you need to know. Do you want to better understand how your employees view their relationship with management, understand and support the company’s strategic direction, or learn what aspects of their work environment, compensation and benefits, work assignments, and opportunities for learning and advancement are working (or not working)?

Next, determine how you will create, disseminate, tabulate, and communicate the survey process and results. If you’re creating your own survey, consider gathering employees from different areas of the company to formulate the survey questions and include them in the employee communications process to encourage participation. This team can also be instrumental in reviewing the survey results and providing feedback about how those results should be communicated and acted upon.

Another option is to use one of the many online engagement survey tools available in the marketplace. While the questions may not be as personalized to your company issues, you can get the surveys, along with the tabulated results, done quickly.

If you do create the survey in-house, consider these best practice tips:

  • First, determine whether the survey identifies the respondents. Confidential surveys typically yield higher response rates and include more candid feedback. With these surveys, be sure to include department or other group data to assist you later in analyzing feedback and specific action items that may be tied to one group. The decision to include identifying information is generally tied to the level of openness and trust in an organization’s culture.
  • Ask relevant questions. Ask questions that employees can — and want to — answer about their employment relationship with the company.
  • Make it simple and easy to complete. Keep the survey short. Employees may not take the time to complete a lengthy survey with in-depth questions. Save those types of questions for the follow-up action planning.
  • Provide an open comment area. Give employees an opportunity to comment at the end of the survey and add any additional information not covered by the questions.
  • Make the results actionable. Follow up on survey results so employees know they are heard and appreciated.

Encourage participation by using incentives or contests. With more feedback, you’ll have a better picture of your employees’ engagement level. Train your leaders so that they are prepared to use the survey feedback as a gift to improve performance and have productive feedback and performance improvement planning sessions.

Most importantly, don’t ask for employee feedback unless you are willing to do something with the results. Your employees will expect you to implement changes and take action. Let them know how much you value and respect them by listening and acting on their opinions and ideas.

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

September 12, 2016

Webinar: Onboarding Tips to Start the Employment Relationship Right

Moving away from a traditional new hire orientation program can be scary... BUT can also be very cost-effective.

By implementing a more robust onboarding process that introduces new team members to the company, their jobs, their co-workers and helps them better understand what the company expects from them, new hires will contribute more quickly in their jobs and are likely to stick around longer.

Presented by ThinkHR, this 60-minute webinar is designed to spark your creative juices to design a more productive and meaningful employee onboarding experience with elements that are simple, fun and tie to your company culture.

In the session, you will learn:

  • Why new hire orientation programs need to change
  • How to reset the new hire orientation focus to reimage the employee onboarding experience
  • What tools you may already have available to use for your program, including your goal-setting, performance management and employee development processes
  • How technology and training enhances the onboarding experience

Throughout the presentation, Dan Riordan, President & COO of ThinkHR, will share tips and key findings with you and answer any additional questions you may have.

When: Tuesday, September 20th at 8:30 PDT / 11:30 EDT
Register: http://bit.ly/onboarding-webinar

Visit www.chooseust.org/thinkhr/ to sign up for a free 30-day trial of the UST HR Workplace, powered by ThinkHR.

September 06, 2016

[Podcast] How to Pay Your Nonprofit Employees More

Through the Noise interviewed Nicolie Lettini and Cathy Galbraith, CEO/Founder and Managing Director of CostTree, to help nonprofit employers better understand the difference between direct and indirect costs and how to accurately anticipate and budget for them annually. Listen below or check out the full library of podcasts.

Podcast Description: This podcast explains the importance of understanding where your nonprofit’s hard-raised money is going, and how you might be able to better allocate funds to your staff’s paychecks. Cathy Gallbraith constantly aims to help nonprofits understand how to create an indirect cost rate, how to use it in everyday strategic development and how to ensure organizational accountability and sustainability.

A cloud-based cost allocation software that simplifies the process of creating an indirect cost, CostTree looks to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of entities that make a difference in our lives and the communities they serve. To learn more, visit CostTree’s website at https://www.costtree.net.

Listen to Podcast button- RGB

To stay up-to-date on the latest cost-saving ideas and best practice tips just for nonprofits, sign up for UST's monthly eNews: http://www.chooseust.org/enews
September 06, 2016

August Job Numbers Stayed Consistent with Past Years Trends

August has continuously undershot expectations by the most of any month on average over the last 13 years and this year has proved no different with a mere 151,000 job gains. The unemployment rate was unchanged for the third month in a row at 4.9 percent and the number of unemployed persons held steady at 7.8 million or 9.7 percent - both showing little movement over the year. Average hourly earnings in August rose by an additional 3 cents to $25.73.

Employment in restaurants and bars continued to trend upward with an additional 34,000 jobs. Social assistance added 22,000 positions, with most of the growth in individual and family services. Employment in professional and technical services grew by 20,000 and financial activities edged up by 15,000. Health care also contributed 14,000 jobs in August, though at a slower pace than the average monthly gain over the prior 12 months. Since peaking in September 2014, employment in mining has declined by 223,000, with an additional loss of 4,000 positions in August.

Employment in several other industries – including constructions, manufacturing, wholes trade, retail and information, transportation and warehousing, temporary help services, and government – showed little change over the month.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) accounted for 26.1 percent of the unemployed population and remained unchanged at 2.0 million. Both the labor force participation rate, at 62.8 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 59.7 percent, were also unchanged in August.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised down from +292,000 to +271,000, and the numbers for July were revised up from +255,000 to +275,000, combined job gains were 1,000 less than previously reported.

Job numbers are being watched closely by the Federal Reserve as they prepare to meet this month to discuss the possibility of a rate increase which is appropriate when the economy shows a solid and continual improvement. Many feel the August numbers still show economic growth but the jobs report likely decreases the probability of a rate hike for right now.

August 15, 2016

Free Resources for Nonprofits

Sometimes the hardest part of being a nonprofit isn’t fulfilling your organization's mission — sometimes it’s just making sure there are enough supplies for everyone to use to get their jobs done. Luckily for you, there are lots of organizations that help nonprofits meet the needs of those they serve by providing free or reduced cost items.

Although we always suggest starting your search for free or reduced cost supplies and services by talking to state and national associations (check out our 80+ association partners here), sometimes you need more.

Looking for extra technology resources?

Check out Techsoup, Google for Nonprofits, Microsoft’s Technology for Good program, the Salesforce Foundation, and Citrix, all of which provide free or discounted tech services to nonprofits.

Looking for financial management help?

Check out The Wallace Foundation, which offers helpful resources on planning, monitoring, operations, and governance.

Also check out 501Commons, which has assembled a vast library of tools & best practices for nonprofits, and the Nonprofits Assistance Fund which was specifically created with the goal of helping other nonprofits thrive.

Want to help your employees achieve their professional dev elopment goals?

The Stanford Social Innovation Review makes select webinars for professional development available for free. And, since the Review is constantly adding new things, they offer a great way to continuously access up-to-date information and resources.

Need nonperishables like apparel, books, toys, personal care products, or office and school supplies?

Good360 has been helping connect companies with nonprofits that need inventory that the retailer has found to be slow-moving, obsolete, and seasonal since 1983. Now, Good360 is considered the nonprofit leader in product philanthropy and distributes goods on behalf of America’s top brands.

Still need more?

Other sites like Grassroots.org, which provides information about free resources to help charities, provide a wide array of resources in one place from team collaboration tools to project tools to marketing and administrative tools. Similarly, the Foundation Center provides a resource called the “Nonprofit Startup Map” which localizes links to state resources on a state-by-state U.S. map.

Want more free resources? Run a quick Google Search for the term “free resources for nonprofits” and see what you come up with!
July 07, 2016

4 HR Mistakes Nonprofits Make

If you work for a nonprofit, you’re probably familiar with the concept of wearing many different hats for your job – whether it’s development, accounting, human resources, or all of the above. But no matter how hard you try, HR mistakes are bound to happen. It’s just the nature of the beast (a very, very regulated beast).

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:
 
  • Date of infraction
  • Details of infraction
  • Explanation of corrective actions needed
  • Statement of next disciplinary steps
  • Signature of the employee


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:
 
  • Discrimination
  • Overtime and minimum wage requirement
  • Family medical leave and Military leave
  • Unemployment
  • Age and gender discrimination
  • Disability
  • Safety in the workplace
  • Pregnancy discrimination
  •  Immigration
Ignoring these laws can lead to costly legal concerns and thousands of dollars wasted. Download the 36 Critical HR Processes, and learn more about UST’s live hotline with SPHR and PHR certified HR professionals.

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.
October 02, 2014

Develop a Plan Before Developing Your Nonprofit’s Future Leaders

Your nonprofit may have the time, mentors and training courses needed to mold up-and-coming leaders, but do you have a plan of action that takes full advantage of this developmental support system?

Setting measurable goals and creating systematic procedures for leadership development programs will enable you to address leadership skill gaps at a more efficient pace. Follow these 4 steps to implement an effective leadership development plan, while gaining support from your current management team:
 
  1. Get your Board and other Decision-Makers involved. Have your executive staff participate in the brainstorming process when creating leadership development procedures. If your Board members make leadership strategy a priority, and clearly communicate their expectations, your team can better identify and work toward future leadership objectives.
  2. Identify your leadership strengths and weaknesses. Having a firm understanding of your nonprofit’s mission and organizational priorities is crucial when identifying skill gaps. Once you decide what future leadership capabilities are required, you can begin training internally and/or seeking new leadership candidates.
  3. Continuously raise the bar and increase task ownership. Prospective leaders will accrue most of their knowledge and skills through hands-on learning, rather than formal training. Therefore, you must provide consistent assignments that test their leadership competency by taking them out of their comfort zone and creating a greater sense of accountability. Don’t forget to provide ongoing feedback and recognize their successes.
  4. Review and improve procedures when necessary. Like your leadership candidates, development procedures must be carefully monitored and evaluated. Leadership development plans are often intricate—continue to tweak them so they meet your nonprofit’s specific needs. Taking the time to measure your procedures’ effectiveness, and edit when necessary, will help you build prospective pool of future leaders.


Discover more methods on how to create future leaders here.
September 29, 2014

The 6 Signs of a Highly Engaged Employee

Engaged employees mean lower turnover and more productivity, as well as results that directly affect your mission.

But finding and hiring highly engaged employees is difficult. You might ask - How can an employee be “engaged” before they’re even hired? Well, the highly engaged employee is often a person who simply leans in that direction in all parts of their life. That’s why finding them is so important for your nonprofit – because it’s easier to help an engaged employee thrive than to try to build one from the ground up.

Here are some signs of a motivated personality when you’re looking at hiring, or even internal development:

1. They don’t expect their organization or their leaders to provide all the stimulation in their workday or their job. They seek out new opportunities to engage in their job on their own. Complaining about a former manager or job not providing enough work satisfaction in an interview can be a red flag that they didn’t take that extra step to engage themselves at their previous job.

2. They know their performance speaks for itself, and they’re not worried about what their organization can give them, but rather about what they can give to their organization. They have a low sense of entitlement. (Although rewarding and recognizing them is important to keeping them engaged!)

3. They help inspire others to love your mission, including clients and volunteers.  They can’t help but be excited about what they’re doing and that translates to others.

4. They are engaged despite the conditions around them. Even if their last job wasn’t perfect, they found ways to be engaged. And even motivation in other places of their life can show an “engaged” personality – like running a 5k to help a local dog shelter. Your job is simply to foster this engagement at work.

5. They enjoy shaping their own outcomes – and the outcomes of your organization. Being a voice in the direction of your organization, whether it’s something small like finding a better way to file invoices, or more strategic like new ideas for an annual campaign, they will feel happiest when they can give something to your organization.

6. They like to stretch the limits. This can be uncomfortable for leaders, but allowing engaged employees to think outside of the box can lead to some amazing results. And sometimes listening and showing you are truly interested in their input, even if it doesn’t get used in the end, shows that this behavior is not only welcome, it’s appreciated – and it should be!
September 28, 2014

EAP and Performance Issues

Q: How does an employer go about using the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to address an employee’s performance problems that may be related to issues outside of work?

A: The employer should contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) directly and request a review of the process for making referrals. In general, during the implementation process, the EAP provides the contracting employer with that information so that employees and employers have a clear understanding of the services the EAP can offer employees and the process by which the employer can make referrals to the service. This service typically includes employer assistance so that employers may communicate directly with the EAP counselor to provide a “heads up” to the counselor regarding the performance issue and obtain guidance for handling the discussion with the employee. Then the employer can have the performance discussion and refer the employee to the EAP as part of the action plan for performance improvement. Discussions between the employee and the EAP are confidential, and the employer should not expect feedback from the EAP regarding those discussions.

While the employer can make the referral, it is ultimately an employee’s choice whether or not to contact and work with the EAP. If the employee chooses not to seek help or address the issue that led to the referral in the first place and performance does not improve, then the employer should follow its progressive disciplinary process, including corrective action up to and including termination of employment.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
September 24, 2014

Emergency Succession Planning: Is your nonprofit ready to stop, drop and roll?

If your Executive Director/CEO, CFO or COO suddenly couldn’t show up to work, would your organization be prepared?

Sometimes it’s sudden, like an accident or health crisis, and other times it’s simply a short term window to prepare for a leader leaving—but it is always important to have a backup plan when it comes to a leader’s absence.

It’s called emergency succession planning, and it’s critical to your organization’s survival.

Like any good emergency plan (think of those fire drills as a kid in school) – there should be clearly laid out steps to your emergency succession plan.  Ready to stop, drop, and roll?  Here are some basic elements to any good leader succession plan:
 
  1. Identify the key responsibilities and functions of the position that would need to be taken over in an emergency loss of a leader.
  2. Who are the people/titles internally who would take over these functions in the interim? Is it one person or multiple?
  3. Create a training and orientation plan for these backups.
  4. Who will the Acting CEO be? Consider whether an Interim CEO would be best for the coming 6-18 months and how you would recruit that role. Best practice states that the Interim CEO should not be an internal employee, so they can be a voice of neutrality for other employees and provide an outside perspective to identify opportunities for improvement.
  5. Determine what the Board’s role in the process will be. How will they be involved in selecting a new CEO, and how will they support the new CEO and the onboarding process?
  6. Have the emergency succession plan reviewed and adopted by your Board.


Learn more about emergency succession planning in this report.
September 24, 2014

The ABCs of Ethics in the Workplace

While a substantial paycheck may entice a job candidate to seek employment at a particular nonprofit, an organization’s reputation for ethical procedures and workplace culture can be just as persuasive. An ethical workplace provides a fair and harmonious environment for every worker, promoting equal opportunity, honesty and open communication. Specifically for leaders, developing and adhering to ethical values in the office is key to helping employees determine what type of behaviors are expected of them.

Here are a few ways you can maintain an ethical culture at work:
 
  • Communicate ethical priorities through training, meetings and ongoing encouragement—From the get-go, it’s imperative to train your employees on the fundamental values of your organization. Explain why ethical behavior is a priority, and how to effectively carry out ethical action. Give them realistic examples of potentially tough decisions, and equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to make the ethical choice.
  • Lead by example and be consistent with your follow-through—Your employees can readily identify inconsistency or unfair treatment. Rather than merely telling them how to act, show them that you not only support ethical behavior, but practice it on a day to day basis. This includes addressing bad decisions, and brainstorming ways to improve ethical practice.
  • Hire employees with a similar ethical compass—Being upfront with your nonprofit’s ethical culture during the recruitment process can help you determine best-fit candidates. More often than not, employees will have a difficult time upholding ethical priorities if they do not agree with them. Hiring individuals with the same morals can lead to an easier transition and will further strengthen your nonprofit’s ethical foundation.


Because nonprofits are often small organizations working in a small sector, their reputations are precious. Creating and implementing a strong ethical culture where employees maintain integrity will improve internal morale and help the overall business grow.

Learn more about how to encourage strong ethics within a work environment here.
September 22, 2014

10 Ways to Avoid Costly Employee Turnover

In order to minimize costly hourly employee turnover, there are 10 things you can do, writes Mel Kleiman on his Humetrics blog:
 
  1. Hire tough (so you can manage easy).
  2. Let every new employee know why their job is important.
  3. Avoid the mindset that it is “only an entry-level job” (in both the new employee’s mind and in your own mind).
  4. Pay the highest wages you can afford. (When you can pay more, then you can expect and get more.)
  5. Give a pay raise as soon as the new employee deserves one (not on a time schedule, but on a productivity/ learning schedule).
  6. Give recognition when recognition is deserved.
  7. Train for process, not for speed.
  8. Help the new employee make friends at work.
  9. Learn to fail fast. (When you realize you made a hiring mistake, release and replace that person immediately.)
  10. Make work FUN!!


Here at UST, we believe hiring the right employees is one of the top ways to reduce your organization's overall unemployment costs. That's why we're committed to this blog, and giving nonprofits the tools they need to reduce turnover, reduce costs, and reduce time spent managing them!  We also want to make sure nonprofits aren't overpaying for unemployment taxes. You can find out by filling out a (free) savings evaluation here.
September 19, 2014

The Harsh Yet Necessary Step Toward Nonprofit Growth

Bad habits can be contagious

Even your strongest staff members can be negatively influenced when working with bad employees. Pairing others with someone who is unmotivated and performing inadequately can cause a domino effect of poor performance—making the overall business suffer.

Poor employees could chase away top performers

Top tier employees want to work with others who are just as driven and focused as they are. When talented workers see poor behavior or lack of contribution go unnoticed, they will begin looking for alternative job opportunities—ones where they can work with other high performers and feel more appreciated.

Low performers take up valuable space

By keeping low performing employees, you could be missing out on a new crop of talent. But how can you hire these rockstar candidates if there are no available roles at your organization? Making room for strong individuals who are willing to take initiative and contribute to the team is imperative when building a strong organizational foundation.

Because nonprofits often work with limited budgets and resources, developing and retaining a top-notch staff is key to successfully attaining mission objectives. And while it’s never an easy task to fire a bad employee, you’re doing what’s necessary as a leader to keep your organization moving forward.

Learn more about talent development strategies here.
September 17, 2014

HR Question: Can we transfer a sub-par employee?

It can be okay to replace a sub-par employeee[/caption]Q: Would it be permissible to transfer a long-term part-time employee who is an average to poor performer to another role and replace that position with a full-time employee?

A: Unless there is an employment contract or collective-bargaining agreement that suggests otherwise, employers do have the ability to set an employee’s work hours and job duties based on business needs. In the situation you described, you have a poor performer whom you want to transfer to another position, enhance the job, and bring in another employee to do the work. We assume that you have been addressing the current incumbent’s poor performance issues and the job that you are moving the employee into will be more in line with his or her skills and hopefully provide an opportunity for the employee to be more successful on the job. If you have not addressed your performance concerns, now is the time to do so. Explain why the change is necessary and use the opportunity to discuss the employee’s career goals and development needs. It is critical that the employee receive feedback regarding performance and behavior, as this may continue into either role and should be addressed to correct the concerns or take progressive discipline as appropriate. Have these conversations before you announce the new employee transferring into the expanded position.

The employee may have questions regarding why you are taking a part-time position and turning it into a full-time one and may suggest that he or she could be successful in the job if allowed the additional time each day to complete the duties. Be prepared to address that and provide the employee with a copy of the expanded job duties and explain why he or she is not the right fit for that job. Having a direct and respectful conversation, with specific feedback and action plans to move forward, can go a long way to making the change successful.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
September 16, 2014

How to Create a Smooth Transition for You and Your New Hire

New employees provide fresh ideas, new skill sets, and positive thinking—all of which impacts any nonprofit’s potential growth. However, a new hire’s success rate is greatly influenced by their initial onboarding experience.

Follow these 6 simple methods to ensure a successful employee transition:
 
  1. Educate everyone prior to the new hire’s start date—Encourage your new employee to learn more about the nonprofit’s history and mission objectives, either through research or conversation. In addition, notify current staff of the new employee’s background and role responsibilities so everyone is prepared for the transition.
  2. Create and communicate realistic goals—Develop both short and long-term goals for your new hire. Be as clear as possible when outlining job priorities, and check in consistently to give constructive feedback on their work.
  3. Assign a senior mentor—Having a senior employee, who is well versed in your nonprofit’s procedures and history, will provide your new hire with a valued resource that can further build their sense of belonging. This additional outlet will also free up some of the time you would be spending on your new employee’s training.
  4. Encourage innovative thinking and listen to new ideas—Explaining correlated challenges and strategic goals to your new hire could help inspire new solutions. A new employee’s fresh perspective can help break the cycle of seemingly unavoidable problems.
  5. Help them feel like they’re part of the team—Construct interactive opportunities in team meetings and planning sessions. It’s also important to have team building opportunities, enabling your staff to develop strong professional and personal relationships with one another.
  6. Celebrate early wins—No matter how small the accomplishment, celebrate early wins as a form of encouragement for the new employee’s hard work. But don’t forget to celebrate the team’s work as a whole to continue the positive momentum.


Taking the time to efficiently train your new employees on your nonprofit’s culture, strategic goals, and personal role expectations will not only help new hires adjust, but also strengthen your organization as a whole.

Learn more tips about how to manage new employees here.
September 09, 2014

HR Question: Can the board request payroll info?

Q: Can executives or board members review our company payroll register upon request?

A: Yes. You may wish to inquire as to what types of compensation information they need so that you are providing the detail and data that is relevant for their review and discussion. You will want to ensure the privacy of your employees’ personal information, such as concealing Social Security numbers, garnishments, etc.

Executives typically need relevant summary compensation information for decision-making with revenue and cost considerations. Reviewing the actual intent of how the data will be used may enable you to provide a summary report without revealing data that could potentially be perceived as inappropriate to reveal.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
September 01, 2014

HR Question: Can FMLA be used for frequent bathroom breaks?

Question: If an employee states that he or she needs to use existing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) designation during the day for restroom breaks, is that something the employee can do?

Answer: More than likely the frequent use of a restroom may be a serious health condition; however, one would look to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prior to counting this time against the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitlement.

In general, when counting bathroom time against an employee’s FMLA entitlement, only do so if the frequency and duration extends beyond the employee’s normal lunch and break periods.
 

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

August 28, 2014

HR Question: Terminating Employees for Past Mistakes

Q: Can an employer terminate an employee for making a costly error years ago that has just been discovered?

A: This answer is based upon the fact that there is no specific employment contract in place that outlines specific reasons for termination of employment and that the employer has an employment-at-will policy in place that provides for termination at will based upon the employer's discretion.

From the detailed description of the situation, this employer does have an internal disciplinary procedure in place that specifies termination of employment for performance. This error was made years ago and could have been detected if the employee had been conducting annual audits of the file, which was not done, compounding the error.

Although employers can terminate employment "at will", there should always be a legitimate business reason for the termination that is well documented, nondiscriminatory and carefully considered in order to reduce the employer risk of liability from wrongful termination suits.

The employer should consider the following prior to making the final decision:
 
  • Is this employee in a protected class (race, gender, age, disability) where s/he might believe that s/he is being targeted because of that class?
  • Was the process for auditing and correcting the errors documented and was this employee trained to conduct the audit?
  • Is this a one-off issue with the employee or have there been other instances of performance concerns? If so, have those concerns been brought to the employee's attention and was s/he given the opportunity to correct the performance deficiencies?
  • Is there anything that the employee's manager or senior management missed that could have prevented this situation?
  • Has this situation ever happened before with another employee? If so, how was it handled?
  • If an audit of other customer files took place today, could there be this same type of error made by other employees (pointing to an overall training or supervision issue)?


If the employer believes that the situation warrants termination of employment because it is well-documented, the employee has been properly trained, the supervision was adequate, and that this is a unique situation, then a termination is allowed, but we recommend confirming the decision with legal counsel prior to the termination.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
August 26, 2014

Think You’re Ready to Hire More Employees? Read This First.

Your organization has been doing really well lately, and you’re looking to create new positions and hire new employees to help fulfill your mission. You’ve written the job descriptions, gotten approval from all of the relevant stakeholders and are ready to begin recruitment.

But slow down just a minute. Are you sure your organization is ready to hire more employees?

Although only your organization can determine if you’re actually ready to hire new employees, Inc. recommends answering the following questions about your organization, where you want it to go, and what is happening now.

What kind of organizational structure do you want?

Do you want your organization to grow extensively? Are you pretty happy with the size it is now, but unable to meet the demands of your mission with your current staff, or are you hoping to grow organically whenever the need arises?

Will you be able to slow down growth if you need to?

Not all organizations have significant control over how much growth they will experience in any given time. For instance, if your organization helps provide disaster relief to a specific area and the area suddenly experiences a large-scale disaster, your response must be immediate and decisive. Or, if your organization helps animals and takes part in a multi-county animal seizure, you must be able to provide shelter and care for all of the animals involved for the foreseeable future.

But if your organization works to help a select group of impoverished students succeed, it’s reasonable to expect that there will not be an unmanageable influx of students to your program in any given year.

Do you really need help?

Do any of your employees have extra time throughout their week or month that can be used to address some of the needs that you’d like to hire new employees for? If so, can these employees be trained to perform some of the needed tasks?

While it might not fully address your needs, it would cut down on organizational waste and potentially allow for a part-time position to be created in lieu of the more expensive full-time position.

Are you fully prepared to recruit, hire, and train more employees?

Our ThinkHR resources and your UST Customer Service Representative can help you ensure your organization is best positioned to do all three without exposing you to excess liability in the future.

Not yet a member? Learn more about the UST program here.