7 Board resources

Four people around a table look at a presenter holding a chart.

Do you wish your board had a better understanding of Independent Living? You can make sure they do, with orientation for new members and regular training for everyone. I suggest twenty minutes in every board meeting. Here are links to different training styles and options that will be useful to your board.

  1. Even though these are called “staff” training I feel they are great for board because they cover the history and philosophy of IL and are only about 20 minutes long – some less.  They have an audio-described version for staff with visual impairments. https://www.ilru.org/il-history-and-philosophy-orientation-for-il-staff
  2. This two-part RapidCourse is a free, self-paced learning option, fully accessible (508 compliant) and available 24/7, allowing you to “Learn at the Speed of YOU!” Each RapidCourse will take about 60 – 90 minutes to complete, with the option of “bookmarking” so you can return as many times as needed in order to complete the course. https://www.ilru.org/training/cil-boards-directors-series
  3. Financial management for boards: https://www.ilru.org/training/internal-controls-for-centers-for-independent-living
  4. A webinar on supporting your CIL board for success: https://zoom.us/recording/play/fwVv9hU0p9ojxaOHc_1N6yz9MtDb-mXJ2Nga1OEsHwBd_ayMR1tAhX8do2u98sMn?continueMode=true
  5. This one may not be right for the full board, but is good for the ED and chair to discuss. https://www.signatureresources.com/our-capabilities/best-board-meeting-i-ever-attended
  6. Resource development is a good one: https://www.ilru.org/training/resource-development-for-cils-opening-floodgates-sustainability
  7. Ever get requests to explain acronyms? You are allowed to update this list with your state’s acronyms, and most boards are grateful to have it. https://www.ilru.org/alphabet-soup-independent-living-acronyms

Closing out your year…

If you blinked on September 30 you may have missed the fact that a new year for your federal IL grants has begun. We talked about this on TA calls, but if you missed it, here are a few things you need to know.

  1. You cannot carry over your Subchapter (Part) C funds from the 2018-2019 fiscal year into the 2019-2020 fiscal year (the one we are in now). Your last draw or two of money from 2018-2019 can only be for funds that were encumbered in that year and you just haven’t paid the bill yet.
  2. Expenses need to be charged in the year they occurred. This means you cannot prepay expenses that are happening in October with funds from your 2018-2019 grant that ended September 29. To those who said, when I asked if they have spent their funds, “No, but that is okay. I will just send more people to the APRIL conference”, I have to say, sorry, but you can’t pay APRIL expenses from October, 2019 — not even the registration — with last year’s money because the conference occurs this year. (It is a great conference, but you had to budget it for the year it takes place.)
  3. There are a few of you still left out there that have been drawing down 1/12 of your funding every month, and so are drawing down the last of that money from 2018-2019 about now. That isn’t allowed, either. You are expected to draw down funds that you will expend immediately. You need to figure out your spending, including checks you haven’t issued yet, and draw funds against those actual costs. You can’t draw down 1/12 and then put you don’t spend in savings. Your grants can only pay for costs you have actually incurred.
  4. You need to have a current budget in place, depending on your center’s fiscal year, and your board needs to approve it prior to the beginning of that fiscal year. You do not need to wait until you know all your grant amounts. The budget it a projection and you can update it if needed.
  5. As you close your fiscal year, your board needs to make a decision regarding an audit. You cannot charge the costs of a single audit to your grants unless you spent more than $750,000 in federal funds. If your federal spending was less than that amount, we recommend that the board engage an auditor to conduct a financial statement audit. This is an allowable cost as long as it is properly allocated across your funding sources.
  6. It isn’t too soon to start on your Program Progress (formerly 704) Report. You have already received the information from ACL/Office of Independent Living Projects. If not, let me know and I will put you in touch with your Program Officer. You need to know what your data says and what you want to include, so check it out sooner rather than later. It is due December 31, but you want to double check everything to make sure all your information is gathered to show your Center is the best possible light.

Some ideas for Volunteers

We are non-profits that never have enough people to do our important work. One solution, of course, is to recruit volunteers to help with that work. When you have people you don’t have to pay, you can expand your capacity and effectiveness.

On the other hand, it isn’t as easy as just signing someone up. You need to know what you expect the volunteer to do, and determine if they are able to do that. Ask yourself these important questions: How will you conduct reference or background checks? Do you have the capacity to supervise them? Do you need to measure their performance in any way? How do you track their time, and how can you leverage that time? (Sometimes you need a match, and volunteer hours can be a non-cash match.) How will you acknowledge their great work?

A lined white paper is taped to a blackboard. It states, "we need volunteers"

Sample forms for volunteer management can be found at https://topnonprofits.com/volunteer-management-101-5-keys-total-volunteer-success/

One way to locate volunteers is to become a practicum site for interns. Visit the course catalog for all the institutions of higher education in your service area and think about what students would benefit from a period of time with your center. Talk with instructors to see how you might become a site and what they will require of you. Is there a statistics emphasis? Could an intern help you develop, implement and communicate information about the local need from a survey they develop? How about Rehabilitation Counseling? Social Work?

You may already be aware that the center is eligible for VISTA or AmeriCorps volunteers; and sometimes you can recruit your own folks. Check out your options to apply at https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-programs/americorps-vista This is a paid volunteer position (although the pay is minimal, last I knew it did not count as income related to SSI and includes insurance). Here is the experience of one center: https://www.ilru.org/training/expanding-cil-capacity-one-cil-s-experience-with-volunteer-service-corps-1-hour We used this to start a center in Kansas years ago, and it offered wages and insurance to people who had not been employed.

The most comprehensive thing we have on our website is on using volunteers for peer support. Look at the resources at the bottom of this link for sample documents. https://www.ilru.org/training/building-effective-peer-support-program-proven-volunteer-model Best practice includes a description of the duties of the volunteer, reference or background checks, orientation and training for new volunteers and a review of the volunteer’s performance at least annually.

If your CIL has volunteers, tell us more in the comments.

So how do I keep track of lobbying?

Artistic shot of the capitol dome and the American flag extended in the breeze.

Recently the Administration for Community Living, Independent Living Administration, distributed its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Centers for Independent Living on Allowable Advocacy Activities for Federal Grantees. As the introductory note indicates, CILs are required to conduct systems advocacy but are not allowed to lobby with federal funds. You can find this publication on our website. There are also some restrictions on lobbying imposed on non-profits by the IRS that lobbying can’t be a “substantial” percentage of your activities, but most CILs don’t spend so much on lobbying that these are an issue. Note that CILs can directly influence and create legislation, they just can’t use federal funding to do so.

What is and isn’t advocacy (and thus allowed with federal funds) is a topic for another day. Today Kimberly Tissot from ABLE-South Carolina and I want to talk to you about lobbying because non-profit organizations ARE allowed to lobby. You are NOT allowed to pay for lobbying with federal funds. That means that you need to keep track.

Paula: Kimberly, what kinds of things do you do to influence decision makers that would be considered lobbying?

Kimberly: There are several examples of what Able-SC does that are lobbying:

  1. We contract with a Legislative Liaison/Registered Lobbyist
  2. The lobbyist and I meet together with representatives
  3. We write legislation and advocate for bills to pass
  4. We testify in support/opposition of a bill
  5. We report to the Ethics Commission every six months
  6. We spread IL and disability rights throughout the SC general assembly
  7. We make funding requests

Paula: So you need to keep track of time spent lobbying, and sometimes there are other expenses related to lobbying. I can think of a few — travel, food, lodging if you go to either your state capital or Washington D.C. to lobby. You can probably think of others. At the same time, lobbying isn’t usually the only thing you are doing. So how do you track the expenses that are part of lobbying and therefore can’t be paid with your federal funds?

Kimberly: Lobbying activities need to be documented clearly, and paid for with discretionary funds. This means that my timesheet includes a category for lobbying, and any time spent in lobbying is reflected there. Indirect costs are charged based on time, so the indirect costs related to lobbying are captured as well. Then my mileage and travel forms and receipts are categorized, and if any of those expenses related to lobbying, I note that. As a result I can actually show in our financial statements how much money was spent on lobbying and where the money came from. Here is an example of how we communicate rules on lobbying to our staff:

Lobbying Activity Policy: Able SC fully supports the federal restrictions on lobbying using federal funds. Able SC staff are prohibited from lobbying during work hours or in an official capacity unless the Executive Director provides permission. In such rare situations, you will be required to document your lobbying activities in CIL Suites under “Community Activities” and document your lobbying time on your timesheet using the “lobbying” funding source with a brief description of your activities. Below you will find an example of lobbying activities:

  1. Asking a lawmaker to vote or vote against legislation.
  2. Getting your consumers/members to contact their lawmakers in support/opposition of a bill. In the last three years, we wrote three bills and all three passed
  3. Asking for funding for the organization.
  4. If you are unsure the difference between lobbying and advocacy, please ask for clarification from your immediate supervisor.

Paula: I can see that staff training on this is important. One last point. You are required to report lobbying on your IRS 990 form at the end of each year. Kimberly, is there anything else you’d like to add?

Kimberly: If you are lobbying make sure you check with your state laws regarding lobbying. If you lobby, the lobbyist should be registered, and you may need to register at your state’s ethics commission and report on your lobbying activities.

Guest Kimberly Tissot is the Executive Director of Able South Carolina, a center for independent living based in Columbia SC.

New fiscal director’s questions

As the new finance person for a center, I have some questions that have come up over the past few weeks that I’d appreciate getting your input on.

  • Currently allocations are based on wages paid by the grant that the work is connected to. Is it required to be based on wages rather than hours worked?
Photo of a bill with a stamp and marked paid.

Answer: Allocations must be based on your approved Indirect Cost Rate proposal, which specifies how this is done. I have seen wages, FTEs and hours used as a base by different organizations.

  • We asked other CIL’s how they handled attributing PTO type hours for staff who work under multiple programs. Answers varied greatly but the method that was used by the highest percentage was one where the pay period (usually two weeks) in which the PTO took place was looked at and the program of majority of hours worked was also attributed the PTO. If I was to use this method, which I am hoping you can make a better suggestion, I think the PTO should at least be split amongst the programs worked. Any guidance here would be appreciated.

Answer: Paid time off is generally treated as payroll overhead. So if payroll is direct (time actually worked) then a portion of the paid time off will be allocated to the direct payroll and if the payroll is indirect, a portion of the PTO will also be applied to that payroll.

  • Does it make a difference what type of PTO it is? Vacation, sick time, holiday, snow day, bereavement, etc.

Typically all PTO is treated the same regardless of its type. See if treating it all as overhead works. I’m not sure it is doable to track what you describe.

  • We have a few small grants that will pay a portion of wages, specific printed materials related to that program, etc. but they do not pay for rent and other expenses. What is the best way to handle their effect on allocations to the larger grants?

Answer: Smaller  grants which supplement the purpose of IL, don’t have to be included in your proposal or your calculations.  However if they pay any wages, unless they pay all related staff costs,  that throws them into grants that must bear their fair cost of expenses including indirect costs. If I were doing it I would probably make the grant budgets around all other expenses but salary, and let the Title VII grants pick up the pay. This assumes, of course, that the smaller grant is clearly consistent with the purpose of the Title VII grants and can be used for expenses other than salary.

  • Eventually we would like to give staff pay increases and possibly bonuses. Our management team’s thought is that it is difficult to take back a pay raise if funding gets cut but a well-timed bonus can be a great thing and from a business standpoint costs pretty much the same thing in the long run. Is there an allowable way to build a “bonus fund”? Would you have any other recommendations regarding this?

Answer: Bonuses are allowed, and can be in your budget, if they are established in a policy and based on performance goals. In the past some CILs have paid out of year end money, meaning in late September, based on how much money they have left to spend. That practice is not allowed. You can, however, include in your policy that the bonuses will be based on available funds and given September 29 (September 30 is actually next fiscal year) and will be based on the performance goals established for each employee.

  • The past Finance Director used the 10% for the indirect cost. Can you provide some guidance regarding increasing this?

Answer: The 10% de minimus rate is an option for nonfederal entities that have never had a negotiated indirect cost rate, unless you receive more than $35 million in direct federal funding.  You can continue to use the 10% and are not required to submit an indirect cost rate proposal, but once you submit an ICR proposal you can no longer use the 10%.  The de minimis rate is not exactly a straight 10% and is much less complex than negotiating an indirect cost rate.  If you  choose it, you must apply it the same way to all your funding sources (unless they are small supplemental awards discussed above.)  The 10% is based on a modified list of indirect costs that are carved out as indirect and charged back proportionately to the various grants. Those are: direct salaries and wages (those captured on your time sheet or PAR as administrative or indirect), applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel and up to the first $25,000 of each subaward. It excludes equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each subaward greater than $25,000. Other items may be excluded if they result in a “serious inequity in the distribution of indirect costs”. This is addressed in 2 CFR 200.68.

Who are sub-recipients? And is that related to signing the SPIL?

Question from a SILC: Are the CIL’s considered a sub-recipient? Because I see where I should maintain the following on a sub-recipient. Is this a correct list that ensures they are eligible to participate in the SPIL?

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Bylaws or other governing documents
  • Determination letter from the IRS (recognizing the sub-recipient as exempt from income taxes under IRC section 501(c)(3))
  • Last three years’ Forms 990 or 990-EZ, including all supporting schedules and attachments (also Form 990-T, if applicable)
  • Copy of the most recent internally prepared financial statements and current budget
A photo of a signature line with a pen below it.

Reply: Actually the SILC and the Subchapter (Part) B funded centers are all subrecipients of the Designated State Entity (DSE), which receives the Subchapter B grant directly. The SILC doesn’t collect those items from CILs. That is up to the DSE. All CILs are supposed to share their Program Progress Report with the SILC, and the Subchapter B centers and DSE to work with the SILC on the report for how Subchapter B funds were used.

Subchapter (Part) C centers are direct recipients of their grants so do not fall under the category of “sub-recipient”.

If a center receives Subchapter (Part) B or C money we already know that the CIL is private, non-profit, community based, non-residential and consumer controlled. Therefore Subchapter (Part) B and C recipients of IL money are entities that sign the SPIL. An approved SPIL requires more than half the CILs sign to approve the SPIL. A center that receives both Subchapter B and C or has more than one C grant still only signs once.  If another non-profit claims to be a CIL, you would ask for evidence that they meet the criteria of private, non-profit, community based, non-residential , cross-disability and consumer controlled and provide all the required core services.

The Olmstead Decision in real life.

From ADA.gov: The story of the Olmstead case begins with two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, who had mental illness and developmental disabilities, and were voluntarily admitted to the psychiatric unit in the State-run Georgia Regional Hospital. Following the women’s medical treatment there, mental health professionals stated that each was ready to move to a community-based program. However, the women remained confined in the institution, each for several years after the initial treatment was concluded. They filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for release from the hospital.

The Decision

On June 22, 1999, the United States Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Court held that public entities must provide community-based services to persons with disabilities when (1) such services are appropriate; (2) the affected persons do not oppose community-based treatment; and (3) community-based services can be reasonably accommodated, taking into account the resources available to the public entity and the needs of others who are receiving disability services from the entity.

The Supreme Court explained that its holding “reflects two evident judgments.” First, “institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable of or unworthy of participating in community life.” Second, “confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.”

In the words of Alice Wong

I am so thankful for what the disability community achieved in the last 29 years w/ the ADA and 20 years with the Olmstead decision. I owe a lot to Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson and everyone who came before and after. But I am also I’m also very salty & frustrated at the outright attempts to weaken regulations and programs that are vital to our civil and human rights. So I’m gonna get real with ya’ll.

While I have help that I need, it’s still not easy. The struggle is REAL when it comes to surviving and remaining in the community. I feel very vulnerable and know that I’m one crisis or policy change away from institutionalization. This is the lived reality of a lot of disabled people like myself. This vulnerability extends to the systems and policies I’m enmeshed in:

-Bureaucracy & labor involved in participation in programs. I have to file a plan of treatment every six months for my waiver and an annual redetermination for Medi-Cal which is Medicaid in California. There’s always a need to ‘verify’ and ‘document’ my needs for these services.

-Poverty trap (Medicaid) asset/income limitations. Did you know I can only have $2000 in my checking and savings AND that I can’t make more than 2.5 times the federal poverty level? I’m in the community, but am I really in the community like other non-disabled people? Nope. 

-All of these realities are anxiety producing, especially when there’s a mix up or delay. There’s a long way to go to truly fulfill the spirit of the Olmstead decision. Check out her blog to read her entire article and more of her insights.

Can a center or SILC earn interest on federal funds?

The CILs are allowed to collect interest on federal funds, but if there is interest, the money isn’t being applied to its purpose, so that is discouraged. The expectation is that the money passes through just in time to pay the bills. Of course this is to the direct grantees (Part C funds for Centers), and not the sub-recipients (Part B Centers and the SILC).

Here is the regulation: 45 CFR 75.305 Payment. (b)(1) states: (1) … Advance payments to a non-Federal entity must be limited to the minimum amounts needed and be timed to be in accordance with the actual, immediate cash requirements of the non-Federal entity in carrying out the purpose of the approved program or project. The timing and amount of advance payments must be as close as is administratively feasible to the actual disbursements by the non-Federal entity for direct program or project costs and the proportionate share of any allowable indirect costs.

That same section continues with (5) Use of resources before requesting cash advance payments. To the extent available, the non-Federal entity must disburse funds available from program income (including repayments to a revolving fund), rebates, refunds, contract settlements, audit recoveries, and interest earned on such funds before requesting additional cash payments.

This makes it clear that any interest earned is treated in the same way as program income, and must be used for the same program that generated the funds. This would be true of both subchapter B and subchapter C funds, for both CILs and SILCs. In fact, the requirement is that the earned amount is spent before you draw down more funds from that source.

45 CFR 75.302(b)(3) says Records that identify adequately the source and application of funds for federally-funded activities. These records must contain information pertaining to Federal awards, authorizations, obligations, unobligated balances, assets, expenditures, income and interest and be supported by source documentation.

Can I pay a board member for work completed?

Question from a new Executive Director: Between the death of the prior director and the date I started, my center had a board member who really stepped up and made sure things ran smoothly. Now the board is discussing how she should be paid. Is it okay to do that this late in the game? She finished her work several month ago.

Answer: The matter of payment to a board member, especially retroactively, is complicated.  The work you describe took place over two separate federal fiscal years. It is too late to charge that back to last year’s grant, and it may not be allowable (more about that in a second) so the first question is: What do you want to do and do you have discretionary funds to do it? Whether you pay a contracted amount or purchase a gift to say “thanks” you probably are best off to use discretionary funds. Especially if you use federal funds, though, consider these other issues:

  • Does your state allows this practice? Some states forbid compensation for non-profit board members, even for providing a service.
  • Board members are not expected to benefit personally from their affiliation with the non-profit organization. On the other hand, you had a board member who stepped up in a crisis and spent much more time than a board member typically would, in order to assist the organization after the death of the founder and executive director. S/he should not suffer financially for providing a very critical support.
  • Did you follow your own policies regarding  the procurement of a contract and the procurement of board member specifically? Did you handle according to procurement regulations for federal funds if you are using grant dollars? Since the board had a sudden vacancy in leadership, they had the right to bring someone in to handle the situation immediately and perhaps until an executive director could be hired. In that emergency, you should be fine with this use of funds at least immediately after the event.
  • Was this decision documented in board minutes? If not, it might be wise for someone to detail how the decision was made and keep that for the record. It is not typically acceptable business practice to decide on compensation after the fact. Hopefully there was discussion up front regarding a contract, the rate of pay, the maximum to be paid and so forth. If not, an actual contract payment is more difficult to justify.
  • The next question is whether the proper safeguards against conflict of interest with a board member were taken. Typically this would include checking prices with two other consultants to assure that the amount charged is “reasonable”. We also recommend that the board member either resign from the board or take a leave of absence from the board while providing a service to the organization. (I know it is too late for your situation, but consider this policy in the future.) This assures the board’s ability to oversee the contract without the apparent or actual conflict of interest with the person still on the board.
  • Should a non-profit board member ever be paid for a service (as opposed to reimbursed for an actual expense)? Generally they are not compensated for serving on the board, but might receive compensation for work done for the organization. The payment typically would be outlined in a contract and must be reported to the IRS on a form 1099-MISC if it exceeds $600 in the year.
  • Your bylaws should be reviewed, as they may prohibit or limit compensation for board members. (Or they could be silent on the subject.)
  • You will also want to check with your Secretary of State’s office to make sure that a non-profit board member receiving compensation for service in your state doesn’t lose immunity in lawsuits.

The non-profit board member has a duty to preserve the public trust. If you feel anyone in the public will protest the payment to the board member you must tread carefully. Addressing these points will assist you in that process.

Please don’t quote me — quote the regulations

Hi, my name is Paula and I provide technical assistance to centers, SILCs and DSEs nationally, focusing on the law, regulations and guidance that we are required to meet. Over the course of a year I answer hundreds of questions from staff and board at centers and SILCs, and from your DSEs. Most of these are in email. Even when we talk by phone, I often send a follow-up email. And when that email refers to a regulation, I provide you with the citation and even often say “Feel free to forward this email to others discussing this.”

Yesterday I had a disconcerting experience. A SILC council member called to ask if I had said something, saying that another person in the meeting left the room and when she returned, said she had talked with me, and then told the group what I had said in answer to the question at hand.

Except she didn’t call me. I keep notes, and I checked to see if perhaps she had called at an earlier time. She hadn’t. This person typically contacts me by email, and at the meeting in question it had been four months since we had email correspondence. (Yes, I keep that, too.) I know most of you are too ethical to outright lie — but you may hear my response through your own filters. If I don’t provide it, ask for it in writing so you have the references and clarity in front of you.

If someone tells you I said something, they may be accurate — or they may not. It is okay to ask to see the email correspondence. In another instance I heard from a council member, who asked a very specific question, and I gave a specific reply. Later he came back to me with SILC staff and the rest of the story — and that shifted the answer because the situation was different than what he supplied initially.

You may have heard me say this, but the first answer to almost any question is, “It depends.” State laws, multiple funding sources and your own bylaws and policies and procedures can impact how you must respond to a certain situation.

At the end of the day, though, what I provide to you is the best information we have available at that point in time. It is only accurate to the extent that we have all the facts at hand, and until something changes in the guidance we get from our key funder, ACL/ILA. While I research the law and regulations to decide what I say, it is my opinion and my own filters can affect my opinion. To read the regulations for yourself, here are the main references I use: