Exciting News and an Introduction

I am pleased to announce that John Heveron is joining us as an expert contributor to this blog. John has worked with us in providing financial training and technical assistance to CILs and SILCs for a number of years. He is a principal of Heveron & Company CPAs and has been serving not-for-profit organizations since 1969 with the training and implementation of proper controls and procedures, financial reporting systems, entity planning, planning and reviewing audits, compliance audits and other audit services, assistance with indirect cost rates, as well as assisting with planning.

John keeps his technical skills sharp through writing and teaching.  He has authored Nonprofit GPS, a quarterly newsletter with current information for nonprofits for over 20 years.

Photo of John Heveron, a smiling man in a suit and tie, with auburn hair and mustache with a little gray.

John has been a presenter on not-for-profit issues for the Foundation for Accounting Education, United Way of Greater Rochester, The Ad Council, the National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Independent Living (IL-Net), New York State Literacy Volunteers, and other organizations.

John is a past president of the Rochester Chapter of the New York State Society of CPAs and was inducted into their CPA Hall of Fame in October 2004, and a past director of the NY State Foundation for Accounting Education.  He is program committee chair, nonprofit group leader, and past president of INPACT, a national association of CPA firms.

John also serves on the accounting advisory board of St. John Fisher College where he was recognized as the 2003 Outstanding Accounting Alumnus.

Stay tuned for new posts on this inportant area of technical assistance.

Is your SILC keeping up?

There are urgent things that every SILC must do in the next few months.

Get final approval for the current plan. For some of you, your current State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL), which was updated or amended, hasn’t been approved. You must submit the changes required and secure that approval before you can proceed with submitting the new one.

How are you doing on submitting the Program Progress Report (what was formerly called the 704 report)? For the SILC, this is done with the DSE which is the grantee. You also need the statistics from any centers that are funded solely with Subchapter B funds. (If they also have Subchapter C funds they combine their Subchapter B report with the Subchapter C.) You received instructions from ACL/OILP for this process in September.

Chalkboard with the words Don't Miss the Deadline. The O in Don't is a stopwatch.

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<a href="https://www.canstockphoto.com">(c) Can Stock Photo / yuryz</a>

And then — the HUGE one — how are you doing on your 2020-2022 SPIL? Here is a timeline developed by Ann McDaniel to give you a glimpse at where you should be in the process.

  • May 2019 – Form SPIL Team and set meeting dates
  • June 2019 – Identify methods to gather public input
  • Aug-Sept 2019 – Gather public input (Hold public forums, focus groups, surveys, etc.)
  • September 2019 – Review Consumer Satisfaction Report(s)
  • October 2019 – Begin SPIL drafting process
  • February 2020 – Finalize Draft SPIL & send to SILC, CILs & DSE for review/comment
  • March 2020 – Make Draft SPIL available for public comment
  • April 2020 – Hold public meetings to gather comments/feedback on draft
  • May 2020 – SPIL Team reviews comments & makes revisions
  • May 16, 2020 – Send revised Draft SPIL to SILC, CILs & DSE
  • June 1, 2020 – SILC & CIL approval of SPIL secured
  • June 12, 2020 – secure signatures of SILC Chair, CIL Directors, & DSE Director
  • June 20, 2020 – submit signed SPIL to ILA/ACL
  • June 30, 2020 – Signed SPIL due to ILA/ACL

If you are behind, jump in and get things rolling. We suggest, with all of your reports, you complete your data entry prior to the due date. You don’t want to be entering at the last minute and have the system go down.

What are your risks related to staff?

The majority of your CIL budget is spent on staff. This is where you invest the most money, year after year. Let’s think about some of the risks related to staff.

  • Are your employees serving “at  will?” (This varies state to state.) What are your policies addressing this?
  • Can a CIL or SILC be sued for discrimination because of disability or any other protected class? (The answer is yes!) What are your policies and procedures for addressing these areas?
  • Are you following your policies and procedures consistently? No exceptions?
  • Are your staff working in risky or unsafe neighborhoods?
  • Do staff know how to report work-related injuries?

Once you have thought about the risks, identify things you can do to reduce your risks of each area identified. For example regarding work-related injuries, some insurance companies recommend immediate drug testing after an accident to determine if the person was under the influence. This is a mitigating measure, or a measure that reduces your risk. What policies, procedures and training do you have in place for staff and for managers related to the risks you’ve identified? Are there new things you need to put in place to reduce risks?

Don’t forget the important final piece – what do you plan to put into place to monitor that your risk management plan is in place going forward?

New IL staff? Include these in their orientation.

We have a number of courses on line that your new staff can access. Here are several from our RapidCourse curriculum. They take 60-90 minutes to complete and are done at your own pace. The is no cost and the staff can learn about:

We also have on-demand webinars for each of the core services, too many for a beginner. The “Get to the Core of it” series is especially good for new staff. If they specialize they (or you) can pick out which ones are the best fit. https://www.ilru.org/search/node/Get%20to%20the%20core

Seven Essential Resources for new Executive Directors

If you are a new Executive Director you know you are buried almost from the start. It takes awhile to get your feet under you, to absorb all that the job means. And to do it in keeping with the values of Independent Living. Here are some resources to help you along the way.

Four live-streamed videos on the History and Philosophy are not more than 21 minutes, and capture important moments in Disability History. https://www.ilru.org/il-history-and-philosophy-orientation-for-il-staff

For recruiting and supporting your board of directors: https://www.ilru.org/training/attract-and-retain-your-best-cil-board-members https://www.ilru.org/training/supporting-your-cil-board-for-success

A look at conflicts of interest and codes of ethical conduct can be found in an FAQ from our funder at https://www.ilru.org/sites/default/files/resources/il_administration/FAQ%20Conflict%20of%20Interest.pdf

Financial management starts here: https://blueavocado.org/hr-and-employment-issues/five-internal-controls-for-the-very-small-nonprofit/?highlight=ethics

Does your center collect consumer satisfaction information? You should, and may want to do this in conjunction with the other CILs and the SILC in your state. At a minimum, though, knowing what your consumers think will assist your CIL in being the CIL that connects with the disability community. https://www.ilru.org/training/using-consumer-satisfaction-information-for-planning

How can CILs use data mining and community mapping to identify their unserved or underserved communities? https://www.ilru.org/training/disability-diversity-data-how-centers-for-independent-living-can-use-data-mining-and

Ready for resource development? You are required to seek out other funding sources. https://www.ilru.org/training/fees-for-service-cils-two-part-series

This should get you started. And remember, you can email me with any questions, and can participate in monthly or even weekly support calls. Contact me at paulamcelwee.ilru@gmail.com

Time to do some cleaning? Eight guidelines for what to keep.

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We have all seen those two types of people, at home and at work. The cleaners vs. the savers. In the office the time you MUST keep things sometimes clashes with the space you have to keep them longer term. Here are some suggestions for how long to keep things, from regulations that vary based on the type of item it is. You can use this to develop your own document retention schedule.

  1. You are required to keep financial and program records 5 years, but we suggest 7 years. This includes the backup documentation for payments you’ve made.
  2. If you have any pending complaints or law suits you must keep related information for at least one year after the issue is resolved and all appeals exhausted.
  3. Anything you use to show delivery of services — I & R logs, Consumer Services Records — should be kept five years; but if you have a consumer data base there is no reason to delete the record.
  4. Also if you keep electronic records they must be accessible – not just stored. If you are asked to produce the board minutes showing the board approved a key purchase or policy, can you find it?
  5. We suggest you keep all your original organizational documents – Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws (each change), 501(c)3 letter from IRS, 990 forms, and anything of historical value when you hit your 40th Anniversary as a Center.
  6. Board meeting minutes with handouts going back 5 years including E.D. Evaluations or other decisions that happened in executive session. (If you aren’t confirming executive session decisions in the open meetings you should address that.)
  7. Keep another two years of minutes only, without all the handouts.
  8. Broken or obsolete equipment can be discarded — you just need to keep track of how you have disposed of it.

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.