Friday, April 30, 2010

More Health Care Premium updates from the IRS

Under the Affordable Care Act, health coverage provided for an employee’s children under the age of 27 is now tax free to the employee effective March 30, 2010. If you have a cafeteria plan or a Section 125 plan, employees can make pre-tax contributions to this plan to pay for this benefit. See more information on this topic at the IRS website.

And the 65% subsidy on COBRA health insurance premiums has been extended past March 31, 2010. This subsidy covers employees who are involuntarily separated from their jobs between September 1, 2008 to May 31, 2010 and lasts for a period of 15 months. Eligible workers pay 35% of their premium to their former employers and the employer applies for a credit of 65% on their payroll tax return. See more information on this topic at the IRS website.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tweeting for Your Nonprofit-Seven things to consider before starting

another great article from fellow strategic consultant Liz Vibber

Having just attended a Roundtable discussion on the basics of using Twitter for nonprofit development directors, I was struck by the potential this medium has. Of course, on the flipside, I was also struck by what a huge time drain Social Media can be—with no benefit—if you don’t invest the time in creating a following for your messages.

So where does this leave one who is interested in using this medium? Here are my Seven Things to Consider:
1. First things first-create a policy. If you’re Tweeting on your own, this probably isn’t necessary-but if you’re a large organization and you are encouraging your staff to Tweet on your behalf, consider a policy that set Tweeting guidelines on number of Tweets and content.
2. Make sure you have something useful to say. Tweeting for the sake of Tweeting gets old very fast. Most people aren’t interested in knowing that the Barista of your favorite coffee shop make your latte ‘fat’ not ‘skinny’
3. Know how much is enough. I follow one guy who must Tweet 8-10 times a day…I keep following him because every once in a while he has a nice piece that is interesting. But I’m still annoyed because he clogs up my Twitter and I may soon ‘unfollow’ him as a result.
4. Know what is not enough. If you’re going to the trouble of creating a Twitter, securing a following and finding thoughtful things to Tweet, don’t lag for weeks at a time. Try to Tweet at least once a week.
5. Manage Your Tweets. Use a tool such as TweetDeck or HootSuite to manage your Followees and Followers. These tools will also allow you to track Tweets with key words or know when someone mentions or re-Tweets you. I was especially pleased to get a Thank you from a nonprofit group who recognized that I re-Tweeted them.
6. Create a following. You have to let people know you’re out there. Thoughtfully include the ‘follow me’ button on your e-mails and organization’s website.
7. Twitter is but 1. There are many social media tools out there, and more new ones coming soon. Consider the other tools at your disposal-FaceBook, Linked-In, etc. Another advantage of TweetDeck and HootSuite is they will carry your Tweets to these other mediums so you don’t have to post the same thing in multiple places.

With these things in mind, go ahead and get started. But remember, there is so much to learn everyday so keep reading and looking for opportunities to expand your knowledge base.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Hire Credit Form Now Available

The IRS has just released Form W-11 that will help employers claim the special payroll tax exemption that relates to certain employees hired in 2010. The employees must have been unemployed 60 days prior to the hire date. The employer will then take the credit on their quarterly payroll tax returns starting with the 2nd quarter of 2010.

The credit is equal to the employers’ share of Social Security tax or 6.2% of the payroll. This equates to a credit of $3,100 on a $50,000 salary. The employees share is still withheld from their pay and remitted and this will not have an effect on the employee’s future Social Security benefits.

Additionally if the employer retains the employee for at least a year they can claim an additional credit of $1,000 on their 2011 income tax returns. Note—exempt organizations will not qualify for the $1,000 credit.

A new hire will only qualify if:

  • They were unemployed for 60 days prior to the hire date

  • The workers they are replacing left voluntarily or for cause or this is to fill a new position

  • They are not family members or relatives.

This tax benefit has an immediate cash flow effect as the tax on these wages is not remitted to the IRS with your payroll taxes. Also there are no minimum hours that the new employee must work.

For more information see the IRS website.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Consulting Vs. Facilitating: Clarifying Your Expectations is Key

Looking to engage a consultant to help with your strategic plan but not sure what to expect? BCCNM Strategic Consultant, Liz Vibber, outlines the difference between a consultant and a facilitator in this article.

Capacity building is defined as the "process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations and communities need to survive, adapt, and thrive in the fast-changing world."
Ann PhilbinCapacity Building in Social Justice OrganizationsFord Foundation, 1996

Capacity Building is taking center stage these days among funders who are looking for nonprofits to be organizationally effective prior to funding them. As a result, many organizations are looking closely at how to be front and center on this stage. Enter planning. Strategic planning, financial planning, succession planning—all have their place in a strong, well governed organization, so the question often isn’t should we plan, but rather how should we plan?.

Two options available to nonprofits are to use either an outside consultant or a facilitator as part of your planning process. Either option should provide a measurable benefit to your planning session; your choice will depend on what you are expecting their role to be in the planning process.

When you hire a consultant, you are in essence looking for an analysis of your situation by an expert in the field. You are paying for and receiving the benefit of their knowledge and experience in the form of recommendations and suggested actions.

According to Peter Block in his book Flawless Consulting, the primary goal of consulting is some kind of change. This change comes in two varieties:
1. Creating change in an organization of a structure, policy or procedural nature.
2. People in an organization learning something new so that they may manage themselves differently.

The question your consultant should be asking is How can I make my client more successful?.1 The consultant will be involved in the process, will make comments, suggestions and provide feedback as part of the planning process. Once the planning is complete, the consultant’s involvement may then continue into the implementation of the change for the organization.

When you make the decision to utilize a facilitator in your planning session, their participation will be very different. Your group will provide the expertise (resource group) and the facilitator acts as your guide to keep the process moving along. You are benefiting from the facilitator’s understanding of the planning process and her ability to assess the dynamics of the group to help the group achieve its desired results.

In other words, your facilitator will be present at the planning session, but it will be the group itself that will discuss the issue and the possible solutions. The facilitator will ensure that the group stays focused and productive, that one or two members of the group doesn’t dominate the discussion while others are silent, manage conflict, as well as model neutrality. A facilitator will help the group illustrate their future state and note the action steps; she can also act as the scribe, taking notes and organizing them so that the group is free to focus on issue and content.

The facilitator’s involvement ends when planning is complete, they do not participate in the implementation of the change; however, they may can be engaged as a ‘coach’ to continue to monitor the group’s progress on action steps.
The following chart provides a clear illustration of the differences between consulting and facilitation.

Consulting Vs. Facilitation 1

  • Analysis by an expert
  • Not neutral
  • The consultant offers content in the form of expert advice
  • May be involved in the implementation
  • Recommendations for action by consultant


  • Analysis by clients
  • Neutral
  • The facilitator invites an experience and exchange in the form of process, engaging the group to stay focused and on point. The faciliatior will not engage as a reosurce expert.
  • Client responsible for the implementation
  • Reommendations for action by client

1 (source: I. Bens, p. 18-Advanced Facilitation)

Often the professional you choose will not only be a skilled consultant but also as a skilled facilitator. By clearly explaining your organization’s expectations for your planning session, they will be able to assist you with the choice about what is best for your group.

For more information on the information contained in this article, or for consulting or facilitation, please contact the Bucks County Center for Nonprofit Management, 215-343-2727.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

New Healthcare Tax Credit for Small Nonprofit Organizations

The health care reform legislation includes a special tax credit for small businesses and small tax exempt organizations. Eligibility is determined as follows:
Must cover at least 50 percent of workers based on the single rate
Must have less than 25 full time equivalent workers
Pay average annual wages below $50,000

The credit is worth up to 35% of the health care premium costs for 2010. It phases out gradually for organizations with average wages between $25,000 and $50,000 and between 10 and 25 full time equivalent workers.

Details are still pending as to how tax exempt organizations can claim the credit. For more information see the IRS website.