How many ex officio members should a SILC have?

First, do note that the SILC Assurances have requirements around appointments, including that the SILC regularly (not less than annually) provides the appointing authority recommendations for eligible appointments; and the Indicators require that the SILC have written policies and procedures that must include a method for recruiting members, reviewing applications and regularly providing recommendations for eligible appointments to the appointing authority. There is nothing in either of these statements that describes these items as applying only to voting members, so it follows that ex officio members are also included in this.

Here is what the regs say:

§1329.14   Establishment of a SILC.

(a) To be eligible to receive assistance under this part, each State shall establish and maintain a SILC that meets the requirements of section 705 of the Act, including composition and appointment of members.

(b) The SILC shall not be established as an entity within a State agency, including the DSE. The SILC shall be independent of and autonomous from the DSE and all other State agencies.

And here is what the Rehab Act says:
(a) ESTABLISHMENT.—To be eligible to receive financial assistance under this chapter, each State shall establish and maintain a Statewide Independent Living Council (referred to in this section as the ‘‘Council’’). The Council shall not be established as an entity within a State agency.
APPOINTMENT.—Members of the Council shall be appointed by the Governor or, in the case of a State that, under State law, vests authority for the administration of the activities carried out under this Act in an entity other than the Governor (such as one or more houses of the State legislature or an independent board), the chief officer of that entity. The appointing authority shall select members after soliciting recommendations from representatives of organizations representing a broad range of individuals with disabilities and organizations interested in individuals with disabilities.

COMPOSITION.—The Council shall include—
(A) among its voting members, at least 1 director of a center for independent living chosen by the directors of centers for independent living within the State;
(B) among its voting members, for a State in which 1 or more centers for independent living are run by, or in conjunction with, the governing bodies of American Indian tribes located on Federal or State reservations, at least 1 representative of the directors of such centers; and
(C) as ex officio, nonvoting members, a representative of the designated State entity, and representatives from State agencies that provide services for individuals with disabilities.

As you can see, the law seems to indicate that the ex officio members are appointed in the same way as voting members — by the governor or other appointing entity if you have a law for that. However, it is quite clear from the indicators/assurances that the SILC is to pass on nominations to the governor for consideration, and the requirement for “representatives from State agencies that provide services for individuals with disabilities” does not say that representatives of ALL State agencies that provide services for individuals with disabilities must be included. It seems to me that the SILC can suggest ones that seem most advantageous to the SILC, keeping in mind that consumer control is essential.  If other appointments have not taken place to supply more than 50% people with disabilities who do not work for a CIL or the state, then it may not be possible to include all the state agencies; I would certainly not require them in executive order or bylaws as required. Only require the representative from the DSE and make the others permitted but not required, maybe? Or perhaps include two, as the term “representatives” in the language is plural.

One more thought.  Often the state employees are more confident in expressing themselves than some of your less experienced members. Do not allow an ex officio member to dominate the conversation. I mentioned at the SILC Congress that there was a state I worked with that was deciding which of the two state agencies to go with, back when they were developing the most recent SPIL. They asked the ex officios if they would be willing to leave the room while this was discussed. They did — and it was as if the entire council was new. Suddenly everyone felt more free to talk and they discussed the decision and how to roll it out. That gave me a glimpse of the fact that ex officio members can stifle the ability of the SILC to autonomously do its work. Keep this in mind and make sure they don’t overwhelm the other council members with their professional opinions. The same thing can happen with center staff who serve on the SILC. Your consumer-controlled, autonomous council must not be subject to the DSE or other state employees or to the centers, who are a part of your group. That is why 51% of the council and of the voting members must be people with disabilities who don’t work for the state or for a Center.

How consistent does my indirect cost rate need to be?

word indirect on a paper torn between in and direct

A DSE called during an on-site review of a center to clarify what a center was doing with its indirect costs. “They are claiming the 10% di minimus.” Okay, so far so good. “But if they have any costs over that amount they are throwing it into their state grant for payment.”  Oh-oh. Not so good.

The whole purpose of allocation, however your center does it, is to share the indirect costs in a fair, equitable way. Each of your grants, or cost objectives, should bear the costs in proportion to what the grant brings to you. It is sometimes okay to combine funding sources (if they have the same purpose, serve the same people, etc.) and apply the percentage to those sources combined, in the same percentage. It is not, however, okay to give one of your funding sources the excess amounts for something your rate doesn’t cover.

When centers fell under RSA, most of us used a cost allocation plan to allocate shared, administrative and overhead costs. That plan identified those shared costs, and then described the methodology for calculating the amount to go to each cost objective, or funding source.

When Centers moved over to the Independent Living Administration/ACL/HHS they asked us to develop an indirect cost rate. We have some resources on our website about how to do this. We have recommended against the 10% di minimus (meaning you can charge 10% and aren’t required to have an approved rate) because we found that it would not typically meet the needs of a center to pay their indirect costs. While it is somewhat more complicated, actually calculating your indirect costs and then sharing them across your funding sources is the most fair way for shared costs to be shared.

These are costs like your bathrooms, lobby, hallways and conference room and the utilities that go with them. Your administrative staff, especially the executive director, human resources and fiscal staff, do work that benefits all of your programs. You need to figure out how those programs share those costs.

There are a couple of other options for managing these costs. If you only have one funding source you might not need a methodology for sharing indirect costs, since all would be direct to that one source. (This seems short-sighted, though, because as you do your required resource development your funding sources should expand.)

There are a few centers whose fund accounting is very precise and which charge all costs as direct. They are still required to be able to show how the allocation of shared costs if fair, but each expense is shared at the time the expense is incurred, based on their internal policies.

The point is, each grant should pay its fair share of indirect costs and no more.

Lobbying — You can, but not with federal dollars!

Our primary funder, Heath and Human Services, addresses lobbying on their website:

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) fully supports federal restrictions on lobbying using federal funds by HHS grant recipients.  In general, recipients of federal funds are not allowed to use said federal funding to lobby federal, state, or local officials or their staff to receive additional funding or influence legislation.  The citations below provide a statutory/ regulatory background as well as Department-wide restrictions and links to the implementing legislation, regulation, or guidance.  If you have further questions, please contact the Chief Grants Management Official within the appropriate awarding agency.

As a general matter, these lobbying restrictions preclude recipients from:

  • Spending federal funds to influence an officer or employee of any agency or Congressional member/staff regarding federal awards;
  • Failing to submit required certification and disclosure forms (i.e., SF-LLL);
  • Using grants funds provided to non-profit organizations or institutions of higher education to influence an election, contribute to a partisan organization, or influence enactment or modification of any pending federal or state legislation; or
  • Expending federal funds to influence federal, state, or local officials or legislation.

“Spending federal funds” includes spending time or other resources such as indirect costs and direct travel or other expenses. You must keep track of these separately if you lobby, and should have a place on your Personnel Activity Report or time sheet that breaks out any time spent lobbying and make sure you aren’t paying that or the related indirect costs with federal funds. (This website also gives the background from regulations and history.)

“Lobbying” is also defined by the IRS:

Direct lobbying refers to attempts to influence a legislative body through communication with a member or employee of a legislative body, or with a government official who participates in formulating legislation. Grass roots lobbying refers to attempts to influence legislation by attempting to affect the opinion of the public with respect to the legislation and encouraging the audience to take action with respect to the legislation. In either case, the communications must refer to and reflect a view on the legislation.

In other words, if you are seeking to influence a vote on legislation, you are lobbying, whether you personally ask for a yes or no vote, or you urge others convince their representatives to vote yes or no. If you choose to lobby, there are several things you need to sign or file. 45 CFR Part 93, Appendix A, contains a Certification Regarding Lobbying that you must keep on file. Annually the IRS form 990  asks you about lobbying. You are allowed to do this, remember, but have to show it isn’t your major activity. If you lobby, say so on your 990.

You also must clearly identify the time spent in lobbying, including travel time, on your time sheet or personnel activity report. If the Executive Director doesn’t use a time sheet, s/he must still complete a record of this time. (The requirement is that you complete an after-the-fact accounting of your time and sign it.) Then the time and indirect costs related to the time must be paid for separately from federal grants or pass-through dollars. Typically fund raising dollars or income from projects not tied to the federal grant are used for this purpose.

Our duty to advocate

Lately I have had even more questions than usual around the difference between advocacy and lobbying. I will address lobbying more specifically next week, but before I do I want to talk about advocacy. Let’s start with what we must do instead of what we can’t do with federal dollars.

As you probably know, advocacy is defined in three parts – self-advocacy, advocacy on behalf of another, and system advocacy. Here is the definition from the regulations found at 45 CFR 1329.4:

Advocacy means pleading an individual’s cause or speaking or writing in support of an individual. To the extent permitted by State law or the rules of the agency before which an individual is appearing, a non-lawyer may engage in advocacy on behalf of another individual. Advocacy may—

(1) Involve representing an individual—

(i) Before private entities or organizations, government agencies (whether State, local, or Federal), or in a court of law (whether State or Federal); or

(ii) In negotiations or mediation, in formal or informal administrative proceedings before government agencies (whether State, local, or Federal), or in legal proceedings in a court of law; and

(2) Be on behalf of—

(i) A single individual, in which case it is individual advocacy;

(ii) A group or class of individuals, in which case it is systems advocacy; or

(iii) Oneself, in which case it is self advocacy.

This is a core service that is required of all centers, although we have some flexibility in how we accomplish it. Advocacy must be a key component of your center.  It is our history, our birthright if you will. CILs came into being because of the discrimination and injustice in this country against people with disabilities. Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act and of these regulations starts out with: The purpose of title VII of the Act is to promote a philosophy of independent living (IL), including a philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and system advocacy, in order to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities, and to promote the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society…

The very core of a Center for Independent Living (CIL) is a mission to enact social change related to people with disabilities. If we are going to continue to see change for the better in our society, we must speak out about injustice. When our key civil rights legislation — the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the only civil rights legislation that passed with bi-partisan support — is attacked by the congress, we have a role in describing both the positive impact under the law and the negative impact without it. Let me say again, this can be done without lobbying, and we are required to do it.

The strategy used to pass the ADA included town hall style meetings where people from every state had a chance to express the discrimination they faced day to day. People wrote “discrimination diaries” and shared them in testimony at the state level and before congress. The nation-wide, blatant discrimination became so obvious that the nation knew it had to pass a law to guarantee the civil rights of people with disabilities.

Those town hall meetings, where people told their stories, were not lobbying. Advocacy can include public education, policy research, position papers or statements on issue, get out the vote efforts, coalition participation or building, litigation and boycotts along with direct action such as that led so ably by ADAPT at the local and national levels. All of these things are allowable for centers as part of the required service of advocacy, and it is permissible to pay for the time and cost of doing this through the federal funds in your grant.

Advocacy can also include lobbying, both direct and grass roots, but these activities cannot be paid for with federal funds.

“Lobbying” is defined quite narrowly by the IRS:

Direct lobbying refers to attempts to influence a legislative body through communication with a member or employee of a legislative body, or with a government official who participates in formulating legislation. Grass roots lobbying refers to attempts to influence legislation by attempting to affect the opinion of the public with respect to the legislation and encouraging the audience to take action with respect to the legislation. In either case, the communications must refer to and reflect a view on the legislation.

But as I said, more about lobbying next week. Remember that CILs must advocate. It is a required services. And SILCs may advocate if they have included language about advocacy in their State Plan for Independent Living.

Quality Assurance — How do we assure CIL quality?

Question:We are working to develop a new Quality Assurance Program. Part of the Program will include following-up with recently closed consumers and providing them a Consumer Satisfaction Survey. Do you know what obligations, if any, we have as a CIL to provide these? Are there any rules/regulations surrounding this?

Also, if you know of any information to help us develop and execute our Quality Assurance Program (and/or perhaps you know of an outstanding CIL with a great QAP), please let me know. Much appreciated.


First, a shout out to other centers — please share if you have great ideas for measuring quality and we will include them in a future post. Send to me at  As far as requirements, you are required to provide the information on the Year-End report, which includes the goals set and the goals met by category. You are also expected to have consumer input into your organization, and often that comes from satisfaction surveys of some kind. Some kind of consumer satisfaction is expected, which your state can agree to, or your center can do it independently, or a combination of the two.
This is a somewhat complicated question that is very specific to the state and the Center. Are you looking only at satisfaction, or do you have specific outcomes from your strategic plan or your state contracts that you are wanting to measure?
You can start with consumer satisfaction, of course, and/or whether their goals were met, but when you speak to a quality assurance program I suspect you might be thinking of something bigger.
We have training on our website to address this bigger picture. It is 11 hours of video around how CILs can measure outcomes and is found at  Take a look and let me know if that is what you are seeking, or if you want something else.
As far as how centers communicate with consumers to get their input, that is sometimes difficult to do by mail or email or even phone — often the response rate is very low. Often our folks have used all their time on their phone, have moved, or don’t have access to a computer. We suggest that you consider a point of service survey, a card or quick survey that the consumer is given when they come into the center. A card they can drop in a comment box, or that they are given with a postage paid envelope if staff meet them elsewhere.We suggest just two or three question. Keeping it short is one way to assure a better return as well. Most of us tire quickly when answering questions by phone or in writing. You can also use a combination of approaches.
Whatever methods you use, though, you first need to know what questions you want to ask. If you have a strategic plan, you may have goals you want to measure. That is one place to look for the important questions. Some centers use a consumer group to help them develop the questions your survey will address.

Personal reflection on chronic pain

Usually this blog focuses on regulations that impact Centers and Councils. I am going to have a completely different conversation today. If you aren’t comfortable with where this goes, that is okay. I will resume the more typical posts next week.

In the meantime I want to talk about invisible disability, my own disability, and some of the activists, writers or speakers that have informed my journey. They are much more eloquent than I, and at the end of this post I have given some links in case you want to examine some of these thoughts further. I ant to suggest that, sometimes when we can’t see a disability, and when an individual is unwilling to talk about it,  our community has sometimes questioned the validity of disability in others. So I think this is a story worth telling.

(c) Can Stock Photo / Professor25

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I didn’t acknowledge that I had a disability, not even to myself. In this movement I was surrounded by people whose disability was evident either by their appearance or their use of equipment. I was struggling to get a handle on a set of symptoms that later garnered me a diagnosis . Not that a diagnosis gave me much relief. Most doctors didn’t (and many still don’t) believe that Fibromyalgia is real anyway. Luckily I found one who did. But my symptoms were often debilitating and I was always looking for relief in new medications, pain patches (which at the time weren’t available in the US and my doctor acquired for me from China), muscle rubs, stretches, massage of different types, chiropractor adjustments, acupressure, shots for pain — on and on. If I mentioned pain to anyone — as they still do today — they attempted to offer a remedy from, “Just take more Tylenol” to obscure practices with weird names. And if I could spare the money, I usually tried the remedy. I even offered my own suggestions to people who seemed to have similar conditions. However, it isn’t always that simple to implement the ideas of others. I know I would feel better if I lost weight — but when I can barely move, that is difficult to achieve. I have a nephew who is a faith healer — and is waiting for me to ask for his prayers, I know. People  have suggested marijuana in different forms, the peleo diet, a different mattress, pillows in all shapes and sizes, special shoes and more. I have tried most of them without any long lasting success. I repeatedly use some of them because I seem to get a little short term relief. It is interesting how so many people think they know what is best for us, or in their desire to offer support, instead offer treatment advice. One of the reasons I don’t talk about this much is that I am weary of advice from people who don’t really get it.

I know that my brothers and sisters with visible disabilities have always dealt with the unwanted advice of others. I remember having lunch back in 1980 with Bob Mikesic, now the co-director at the center in Lawrence, KS who was working with me at the time. An older lady we didn’t know came over to our table and patted his hand and said, “When did you get out, dear?” I couldn’t even fathom what she meant, until Bob told me that happened a lot — people assumed he had to be hospitalized since he used a chair.

The truth is, most of the time, if I want to, I can “pass” as not having a disability. I build up my energy, take the pain medication that hurts my stomach, and push on. I truly love being with our people at meetings and conferences, so can usually power through fairly effectively when I am presenting. I smile and ignore the pain. I try not to make an issue out of the things I need to function, including rest and medication and topical pain treatments. I’ve just returned from a wonderful gathering, the SILC Congress, where I presented. I blamed my misspeaks as adjusting to the time difference, but the truth is that I have moments of fog that come and go and that are sometimes called “fibrofog”.  And the truth of the matter is that I had to bank sleep before I left, went to bed early every night, slept on the plane both ways and now more than a week later I still have a bone deep fatigue and pain to cope with. It has been worse — when there is a lot of drama and trauma to the meeting, it hits me harder. But there is always a degree of pain and coping.

I am not telling you this to get your sympathy. In fact, sympathy sometimes makes me prickly. I am telling you this because it is important for us as a community to acknowledge what we need and to support each other by allowing each person to define their disability and their support needs. I don’t have to have assistance with  personal care needs (although I use grab bars when available, can’t open a door with a round knob and sometimes I don’t think I will be able to step over the tub edge after a shower. And sometimes the pain has been specific enough that I’ve needed a brace, a wheelchair for distances, a cane to walk.)  The range of disabilities that is the true “cross disability” nature of Independent Living means that each of us has a different set of needs. We need to find our solutions such as they are, our coping mechanisms. We need to be able to back away if the situation is more than we can handle at the moment. And we need to allow our brothers and sisters the courtesy and respect of letting them tell us how we can assist and provide a safe space for these conversations without judgment. How can we embrace our disability, hold disability pride if we don’t even acknowledge it?

A few years ago, when working with CIL Berkeley, a woman in the group named Stacey Milbern approached me to talk about Disability Justice. It was a fairly new term to me, and she gently guided me to a fuller understanding of how disability justice is more than disability rights. I have great respect for her, especially because she herself is visibly and vocally a part of communities that are often treated unjustly. Through her I have begun to understand that disenfranchisement can have a cumulative effect, that layer upon layer, the bullying, mistreatment, racism, sexism, and more have contributed to our disability experience. I have continued to listen to her through her Facebook posts, because she is someone who understands injustice from a personal level and describes her solutions.  She and others presented at one of IL-Net’s on-site training, Liberation to Leadership, which you can find here. The presenters talked frankly — and painfully — about the added weight of being part of multiple groups who are disenfranchised. If you are looking for a dynamic presenter around disability justice, system change, and diversity, she is excellent in those topics and more.

But back to my journey. In my younger days my appearance didn’t reveal that I could relate to disenfranchised groups. I am beginning to relate as an over-65 woman, but I still have privilege in some areas. I am still white, straight, and don’t have a visible disability.   When I listened to the story below, though, I felt a kinship that I don’t always feel in the company of others with disabilities. Her words resonated as she described the health care system and the needs for support. The title, My Body is a Prison of Pain so I Want to Leave It Like a Mystic But I Also Love It and Want it to Matter Politically — gives you a hint of what you are in for. It is long — carve out 90 minutes — but It was worth it, eyeopening and I found it was very freeing to hear the speaker and her audience describe things that I seldom put into words in my own disability experience. She also references a spoon theory, which can read about here:


Here is a list  of harmful comments you might find useful to know or share.

Although I have not yet met her personally I have also been impressed by the writings and interviews done by Alice Wong. Check them out here:


Guest Spot — another blog worth reading!

I borrowed this content from Michele Martin, who collects links for you that might be useful to your center or SILC as you grow and mature. This week I was at SILC Congress, and her post last Friday was so EXCELLENT that I am copying some of her links about boards. Check out (and subscribe to) her blog at

Friday Link Round Up: High Value Boards

by Michele Martin on February 16, 2018

This week we’re focusing on Boards.

Challenging Conventional Wisdom on Nonprofit Boards–Rethinking board sizes, term limits, and fundraising requirements may help unlock greater strategic insight and value from your board.

Four Anchors of Effective Nonprofit Boards–To be successful, a nonprofit organization needs to think carefully about their board design, membership expectations, meeting process, and board accountability.

10 Steps for Building an Effective Nonprofit Board: A Checklist for Action–A practice-based assessment tool that frames 10 essential elements of a high-functioning board.

Board Chair and Board Member Best Practice Packet–A collection of best practices from the Nonprofit Alliance at Kellog Community College.

The Effective Not-for-Profit Board: A Value-Driving Force–A guide to more effective governance practices.


Understanding Your CIL’s Audited Financial Statements

by John F Heveron, Jr. Principal, Heveron and Company CPAs, Rochester NY

Here is a quick overview of audited financial statements and what to look for when reading them.

Auditors Cover Letter/Opinion

This is addressed to the board and is dated when the audit was completed and accepted by management.

This report has headings, and one of the headings is “opinion”. If what follows is anything other than the standard language “in our opinion the financial statements described above present fairly …..”, That is cause for concern, and you should investigate what led to that modified opinion.

Income Statement or Statement of Activities

This will include all income earned by the organization and all contributions that are not subject to uncertainties (conditions).

Income earned isn’t the same as income collected. Some amounts get paid in advance, sometimes amounts are earned but not yet paid.

There may be contributions of in-kind items that don’t include any cash. The financial statement should include a Statement of Cash Flows that attempts to explain the differences between what was earned and what was collected, but it is a difficult, often confusing statement to read.

The income statement or statement of activities often includes the prior year as well as the current year, or at least totals for the prior year, so you can tell whether revenue went up or down.

The different categories of income tell you how diverse the funding is and whether funding from specific sources is up or down. Diverse funding is considered a sign of financial stability.

The board may request five or even 10 years of  income by source and expense by type in order to see longer-term trends. This is also helpful for budgeting.

When you look at expenses consider where the organization is spending their money. Is the great majority of it spent directly on program services? How do salaries compare to similar organizations?

Balance Sheet or Statement of Financial Position

This statement lists assets (what the organization owns) and liabilities (what the organization owes) on a specific date, most commonly your fiscal year-end. The difference between assets and liabilities is your equity or net assets. Net assets are generally broken down into unrestricted net assets, temporarily restricted net assets, and permanently restricted net assets. Nonprofit financial statements are all being changed in the near future to have just two categories of net assets, which are “net assets without donor restrictions” and “net assets with donor restrictions”, although organizations will be able to include subcategories within each of those categories.

Our CILs don’t typically have a lot of assets, so this statement may be more meaningful for those with property and equipment than others.

This statement will also show debt such as lines of credit, installment loans, building loans, accounts payable, and payroll and payroll taxes that have not been paid yet. Be alert if accounts payable, unpaid payroll or taxes get larger from year to year. That might signal a cash flow problem.

This is a good statement for the board to review but should not be the only report they review. The income statement or statement of activities is also very important.

If you want to understand your CIL’s financial statements, publishes many helpful resources for board members, including a book called Understanding Nonprofit Financial Statements. This is available on Amazon or directly from BoardSource.

Photo credits.

What does it mean to have an active board?

The board is the right size to operate effectively.

  • Your bylaws require a minimum number of board members, and sometimes also give a maximum. Have you thought about what number works the best?
  • I have seen minimums as low as three — and while this number might help you stay legal if you lose members, it is not a number that seems very efficient for getting the work done. More typically I see five or seven as a minimum number, and personally I like seven because you can share the work a little more effectively if your minimum includes more people to do the work.
  • Sometimes there is a maximum in your bylaws. Boards of twenty and up have lots of people to do the work, but discussion is more difficult to encourage/manage with that many people around the table.
  • If you have an active committee structure — which is where much of the work of an active board takes place — you need enough strong members to chair the committees, and enough other board members to serve on at least one and possibly more committees.
  • I have heard an argument that you must always have an odd number of board members to prevent a tie vote. I don’t feel this is pertinent, because often not everyone attends, and you have a chair to break a tie if it occurs.

The board understands its role and does its work, including

  •  Sets the vision, mission and direction for the organization, with input from the executive director, staff and consumers.
  •  Is diligent in requiring to see financial statements monthly, and the results of any audit as it is completed.
  •  Hires, supervises and evaluates the executive director.
  •  Does not get involved in day to day operations, but goes through the executive director if day to day topics are discussed.
  •  Is committed to developing resources that allow the organization to grow and thrive.

The board is truly consumer controlled.

  • 51% of your members are people with significant disabilities — that is a requirement. A strong CIL board is 51% people with significant disabilities who are active in the disability community. If you recruit someone with a disability who is new to IL, you must make sure they understand the history and philosophy of Independent Living so they can become active in the disability community.
  • The board seeks consumer input into key areas of planning, setting the mission and evaluating the services.

Each board member commits to the organization in concrete ways.

  • Is a donor to the organization. The amount may not be important — not everyone has the same resources — but every board member needs to believe in the CIL enough to donate.
  • Is an ambassador to the community regarding your CIL. Active board members believe in what we are doing and are glad to spread the word to the community.
  • Attends the meetings of the board. Many organizations, in fact, remove board members who miss a certain number of meetings.
  • Believes in Independent Living. Their language and attitude should show their commitment to equal rights for people with disabilities, and for people with disabilities being in control of their own lives and choices.
  • Serves on one or more committees.
  • Seeks out other potential board members and encourages them to apply.

I have the opportunity now and then to assist centers who do not have an active board. Sometimes they have provided a list of board members to the reviewer — the DSE or ACL — as part of a review, and there has been a disturbing trend among centers in trouble. The reviewer reports that when they called, the number to speak with a board member, it was disconnected or, worse, the person answering denied being on the board or didn’t even know what the center was.

Do not continue to carry names on a list to meet your minimum number of board members in a review. If you’ve lost members, own up to it and put strategies in place to recruit new ones who will be active. This is hard work, and should not be left only to the board. The executive director is likely to meet potential board members while doing business, and certainly can encourage those individuals to apply to be on the board as well.

You want to recruit continually. You can’t look at your roster in July and say, “Oh, no, we have three people terming out! We need to elect three new people in September.” You are unlikely to find good members when you need them unless you have been seeking them out continuously.

And then work with your members to encourage them to be active, through training, mentoring, providing them with resources and supporting them to do the work of an active board member on an active board of directors.

Allowable costs: Fines, penalties, damages, legal defense?

45 CFR §75.435 and 75.441 address the costs of these legal issues.  The first is very detailed, so I am only going to touch on highlights. If you are working through this, your attorney will want to review the entire section. Much of this is quoted, but it is not complete. Your main requirement is that, if you are working on any issue of non-compliance with law or regulation, you want your attorney and accountant to help you assure that you are tracking the costs separately and not charging anything to your federal grant that is not allowed.

Costs incurred in connection with any criminal, civil or administrative proceeding (including filing of a false certification) commenced by the Federal Government, a state, local government, or foreign government, or joined by the Federal Government (including a proceeding under the False Claims Act), against the non-Federal entity, (or commenced by third parties or a current or former employee of the non-Federal entity who submits a whistleblower complaint of reprisal in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2409 or 41 U.S.C. 4712), are not allowable.

Costs include the services of in-house or private counsel, accountants, consultants, or others engaged to assist the non-Federal entity before (including investigation expense), during, and after commencement of a judicial or administrative proceeding, that bear a direct relationship to the proceeding.

If a proceeding referred to above is commenced by the Federal Government and is resolved by consent or compromise pursuant to an agreement by the non-Federal entity and the Federal Government, then the costs incurred may be allowed to the extent specifically provided in that agreement.

Costs related to wrongdoing of anyone within your organization cannot be paid for through federal funds.

An authorized Federal official must determine the percentage of costs allowed considering the complexity of litigation, generally accepted principles governing the award of legal fees in civil actions involving the United States, and such other factors as may be appropriate. Such percentage typically must not exceed 80 percent.

Costs which may be unallowable under this section, including directly associated costs, must be segregated and accounted for separately. During the pendency of any proceeding covered by paragraphs (b) and (f) of this section, the Federal Government must generally withhold payment of such costs. However, if in its best interests, the Federal Government may provide for conditional payment upon provision of adequate security, or other adequate assurance, and agreement to repay all unallowable costs, plus interest, if the costs are subsequently determined to be unallowable.

Costs resulting from non-Federal entity violations of, alleged violations of, or failure to comply with, Federal, state, tribal, local or foreign laws and regulations are unallowable, except when incurred as a result of compliance with specific provisions of the Federal award, or with prior written approval of the HHS awarding agency.

Bottom line — if you or someone in your organization failed to uphold the requirements (law and regulation), then you cannot expect your federal grant to pay for the costs of investigation, defense, or any resulting fines or penalties. If you are able to settle, the settlement may include these costs.

There are a number of other costs addressed in the regulations. Ask about any of them here or contact my at