Tuesday, March 31, 2009

State Budget Agreement Offers Relief to Human Services Sector

The New York Nonprofit Press offered the following story in reaction to the NYS budget agreement announced:

Human service advocates and providers were generally pleased and relieved with the New York State budget agreement announced yesterday for Fiscal Year 2009-10 which begins on Wednesday, April 1st. The agreement by Governor David A. Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver closed the largest budget gap in State history -- $17.7 billion over two years -- through a combination of Federal stimulus funding ($6.2 billion), increases in taxes and fees ($5.2 billion) and cuts to state spending ($6.5 billion).

The final budget restores approximately $3 billion of the $9 billion in cuts which were originally proposed by Governor Paterson as part of his Executive Budget submission in December.
Approximately two thirds -- $254 million -- of the Executive Budget’s proposed cuts to human service programs were restored in the agreement. Among the wide range of programs which were entirely or partially restored were homeless prevention, refugee resettlement and Community Optional Preventive programs.

Significant restorations were made in the area of youth services, where a proposal to combine several youth development and juvenile justice-related funding streams into a single Youth Services Block was scrapped. The remaining budget reductions for several of the individual block grant components – Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention Program (YDDP), Special Delinquency Prevention Program (SDDP) and Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) – appear to be less severe , perhaps 10% -- than originally proposed. Funding for Advantage AfterSchool and Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) were also fully restored.
In a similar victory, Child Care funding was once again separated from the Flexible Fund for Family Service block grant.

Additional details regarding both restorations and remaining service cuts were not yet available as advocates continued to review the maze of budget bills being prepared for legislative approval.

Despite the relief over specific programmatic restorations, advocates noted the negative impacts which the budget will have for many service areas.

“It only looks good in comparison with how bad it could have been,” said Ronald Soloway, Managing Director of Government Relations at UJA-Federation of New York. “Hospitals, nursing homes and home care agencies still took considerable cuts and the mental health, MRDD and substance abuse providers are not getting back everything we would have wanted to see restored.”

Gov., legislative leaders release $131.8B budget

Gov. David Paterson and legislative leaders have finalized a balanced state budget that increases spending by 9 percent and includes roughly $7 billion in higher taxes.
State legislators are expected to vote on the budget this week. The state’s next fiscal year starts April 1.

The $131.8 billion budget, printed over the weekend, erases an estimated $17.7 billion deficit, the largest in state history. It includes a record-high $6.5 billion in spending cuts, including record reductions in health care spending and an overhaul of the state’s Empire Zone tax credit program.

The budget also:
• will lead to higher utility bills for businesses by adding more than $600 million in higher taxes on electric, gas, water and telephone companies
• maintains Paterson’s proposal to cut 8,900 state jobs this summer, saving $481 million in salary and health care expenses
• raises taxes on for-profit health maintenance organizations by $107 million
• cancels planned reimbursement rate adjustments for hospitals and nursing homes that would have accounted for inflation, totaling $230 million

Read more here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Youth Empowerment Project Celebrates 10th Anniversary

The Observer-Dispatch covered the Youth Empowerment Project Inc.'s 10th anniversary celebration on Thursday, which included the dedication of a building that will quadruple the amount of space available to the organization. The new building, located at 404-408 Court St., has 25 rooms and is about triple the size of the program's old building at 417 Court Street. Renovations took about a year.

“This has really been a community effort,” Barbara Gaston, executive director and founder, said of the renovations, which were accomplished with donations from local businesses and labor by inmates from the New York State Correctional Facility.

The organization provides services for children, people with disabilities, families in need and those who are homeless, among others.

Nearly 100 people gathered for the dedication ceremony, including Mayor David Roefaro and a representative for U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-Utica.

About 80 people will have administrative offices in the new space, leaving the old building primarily for services provided by the organization. Those services include a food pantry, work with behaviorally challenged children, and those with traumatic brain injuries and assistance for families.

Utica resident Hope Vinal said that the organization has helped her family in many ways, and had provided everything she needed for Christmas last year. Vinal has a 7-week-old premature baby, a one-year-old and a two-year-old.“Barbara is just awesome,” Vinal said. “She helped get my apartment furnished. She helped me get food, diapers and formula.”Gaston said The Youth Empowerment Project plans to develop more programs and to help more people.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Deceptive HUD Website

A notice from HUD has been received regarding a deceptive website, posing as an official HUD website, which is intended to dupe people into providing personal information. HUD has asked that customers and clients be alerted about this deceptive website.

Also note that HUD's official website for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is www.hud.gov/recovery

This email is to alert HUD customers to a bogus and deceptive website (http://bailout.hud-gov.us) posing as HUD. The website attempts to dupe people into providing personal information. And because it has been designed to appear to be an official US Government website, people may fall prey to this scam. Please alert your customers, clients and other stakeholders about this deceptive website.

Training for Your Nonprofit

Employee Retention in the Not-for-Profit World: Crafting the User Friendly Workplace
Date: Monday, April 27
Time: 2:30 – 4:00 p.m.
Location: Curtin Special Events Room, Le Moyne College

Events of the past months notwithstanding, statistics show there will be a shortage of talent in the coming years numbering in the millions. How will nonprofit organizations compete for the best talent at a time when corporate organizations are seeking those very same people? And how will those same organizations energize and enable employees who may feel “trapped” during this economic downturn? Executive Directors, Managers and Supervisors will benefit from this revealing program.

Renée Downey-Hart, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of business administration, will share the results of a survey she conducted of more than 600 employees at 20 local nonprofit organizations that helps to answer those questions.

Downey-Hart is a well-known trainer and consultant whose work has offered her a global perspective of organizations and their people. She has been a partner in the Syracuse-based firm of Eagle Consultants for more than 20 years. Downey-Hart has been praised for her energy, humor and the ability to marry theory with practice to maximize performance.

This event is free and open to the public, and is sponsored by Le Moyne College’s Division of Management and the Madden Institute. Refreshments will be served. For more information, call (315) 445-4485. Please email your RSVP by Thursday, April 23: MaddenInst@lemoyne.edu. Please share your name(s), organization and phone in your email.

Have a training to share? E-mail us.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NYS Park System Economic Impact Study Released

With the Nonprofit Economic Impact panel discussion rescheduled for April 29th, this info may be of interest in a lead up to the program. The study (click here) and Executive Summary (click here), released by Parks & Trails New York, show that the New York State Park System is a valuable economic asset to the Empire State. It supports up to $1.94 billion in output and sales for private businesses, plus 20,000 jobs.

The analysis also demonstrates that the economic benefits exceed the direct costs of operating and maintaining the State Park System many times over. The benefit-to-cost ratio is more than five to one-more than $5 in benefits for every $1 in costs. Read more here.

A great example for consideration as the ED Group looks at their impact in Oneida and Herkimer Counties.

Public Perception Challenge for Utica Nonprofits

The Observer-Dispatch featured an article by Bryon Ackerman examining the finances and operation of the arts nonprofit Utica Monday Nite. The article relates that more than half of the nonprofit Utica Monday Nite's budget goes to a firm owned by Lynne Mishalanie, who is the founder, producer, director and board member for the group that runs the annual downtown event. The article raises a number of questions about: the money earned; whether the consultant role should go out to bid; and the issue of Mishalanie sitting on the nonprofit's board.

A scan of the comments from OD readers reveals that this is a lightning rod issue. The article raises good points and valid questions for any nonprofit, yet, this article also presents an image issue for the local nonprofit sector. In fact, at last year's media panel forum (which included the OD), negative coverage and its impact on nonprofits was even discussed.

Watch the media panel respond to the question: What is the best way to get the media to present a balanced picture of nonprofits, especially when there is one that has drawn negative press coverage?

This question continues to confront local nonprofits. Do directors see a value in any follow up on this issue? Post your comments here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Reschedule Date Announced for Economics of Nonprofits: The Impact of Nonprofit Businesses on the Local Economy

Program rescheduled for Wed, April 29th: The first program for 2009 will start at 8:30am and will focus on nonprofit economic impact. The program will feature a panel made up of various economic agencies in the region answering questions submitted by nonprofit directors. The survey data will be circulated at this program and next steps discussed.

Date: Wednesday, April 29th, 2009
Time: 8:30am - 10:30am
Cost: $5.00 for breakfast
Location: Rescue Mission
Rescue Mission Chapel
201 Rutger Street
Utica, NY 13501

Register Here

Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired Receives Award

The Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired recently received an Employment Retention, Growth and Upward Mobility Award from National Industries for the Blind. The association employs people who are blind or visually impaired by providing products to the federal government. The National Industries for the Blind recognized the association's commitment to increasing employment and economic growth opportunities for people who are blind in the agency's employment and manufacturing division, Central Industries, according to a release from the nonprofit.

“Our team members who are blind represent a dedicated and loyal workforce,” said association President and Chief Executive Officer Rudy D'Amico. “We hope to serve as an example in the community of the capabilities of people who are blind while providing goods and services to federal, state and local governments, colleges and school districts.”

The Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a full service vision rehabilitation agency serving blind and visually impaired people of all ages in Upstate New York. The association has 163 employees and annually serves more than 1,100 people who are blind or visually impaired in its eight-county service area.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March 25th Program Panel Questions

The first program, set for March 25th at 8:30am, will focus on nonprofit economic impact. The program will feature a panel (to be announced shortly) made up of various economic agencies in the region answering the following proposed questions:

1)How do you define economic impact? How would you define the economic impact of nonprofits? Could we help nonprofits by better educating the public about their economic impact in the community?
2)Do you think there is value in nonprofits carrying out an economic impact study and would this information be helpful to your organization?
3)Have you encountered the attitude that nonprofits take funding from the community rather than giving back? How can nonprofits showcase the ways in which they generate more money for the community?
4)In the area of economic development and business attraction/retention, why are nonprofits not included in discussions of economic development such as those run by EDGE?
5)How can nonprofits position themselves as a vital part of the community and asset rather than a burden?
The Genesis Group of the Mohawk Valley Region invites people to these upcoming programs and events:

  • Regional "Clean and Green" Planning Meeting
    Tuesday, March 24th - 8:00am, at Hotel Utica
    (regional clean-up effort being planned for April)

  • Genesis General Meeting
    Thursday March 26th - 7:30am a Hotel Utica
    Featuring: "CollegeTown Project"
    - Introduction of College's
    - "About the CollegeTown Project"
    - Dr. Ronald Cantor, Associate VP and Dean of MVCC's Rome Campus – Corporate/Contract Course Training
    - Dr. Judith Owens-Manley, Associate Director of the Levitt Center at Hamilton College, Service-Based Learning courses
    - Utica Mayor David Roefaro, Upcoming Student Legislative Day and a Student Summit

For information on any of the above meetings, programs or events, contact Ray Durso, Jr., executive director for Genesis by calling: 315.792.7187 or by email: info@thegenesisgroup.org

Monday, March 16, 2009

Arts orgs tackle funding losses

The Observer-Dispatch carried an article today about how local arts organizations have been impacted by funding losses and how they are responding. Some ways the organization and others have been impacted:
  • The Stanley Center for the Arts lost $17,300 in funding to their arts and education program because of 2008-2009 New York State Council on the Arts cuts, and the organization anticipates yet more cuts.

The funding is used to educate public school teachers about how to integrate the arts into their classrooms. The center still will host the program, but the sessions likely will be shortened, said executive director Ron Thiele.

  • Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute has seen a 25 percent decrease in its endowments, which contribute 60 percent of its yearly budget. The institute’s endowments – blocks of money invested in the stock market – have been directly affected by the market’s downturn.

In 2008, its budget was about $17 million, said Anthony Spiridigloizzi, vice president and treasurer of the institute. Public programming will not be affected, but within the institute, “belt-tightening measures” have been taken, Spiridigloizzi said.

  • The Rome Art and Community Center saw a 15 percent decrease in its overall funding when it lost state funding. For example, it was among the 573 arts organizations the New York State Council on the Arts cut funding to in 2009.

The arts center annually operates on a budget of about $250,000 to $300,000, Executive Director Lauren Getek said. Without that funding, the center will not be able to provide tuition assistance to students who normally couldn’t afford the center’s art classes or summer camp.

  • Utica Monday Nite expects drops in corporate sponsorship and donations, but will be most affected by a reduction in city funding. The mayor’s original proposal of $50,000 has been rejected by Common Council members, some of whom want to slash funding from last year’s $40,000 to $25,000.

These organizations will respond with cuts in programs, communication, supplies, and other areas. They are also exploring different fees and approaching businesses for additional support. Read more here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

American Association of Museums Legislative Update

The following info is provided by the American Association of Museums.

Congress Finalizes FY09 Funding Levels
On Wednesday, March 11, President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 1105, finalizing the funding levels for federal agencies for the fiscal year 2009, which began October 1, 2008. The $410 billion measure represents the culmination of more than a year of work on 9 annual spending bills that fund nearly all areas of the government. Several of these spending bills were held up by political wrangling and in the fall, Congress passed a temporary measure to level fund most of the government until this bill could be finalized.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services' (IMLS) Office of Museum Services - which supports our nation's 17,500 museums through a variety of competitive grant programs - will get a $3.7 million increase over FY08 levels.

Here are the levels that will go into effect for the remainder of the fiscal year 2009:
  • IMLS' Office of Museum Services: $35 million, a $3.7 million increase over the previous year.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities: $155 million, a $10 million increase over the previous year.
  • National Endowment for the Arts: $155 million, a $10 million increase over the previous year.
  • Arts in Education programs at the Department of Education: $38.16 million, a $660,000 increase over the previous year.
  • Teaching American History grants at the Department of Education: $118.9 million, a $1 million increase over the previous year.
  • National Science Foundation educational programs: $845.26 million. These funds support informal learning experiences designed to increase interest and engagement in the understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
  • National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund: $69.5 million, including $20 million for
  • Save America's Treasures. These funds support the preservation of nationally significant sites, structures, and artifacts.

You can read the complete text of the bill HERE.

House Votes to Protect Historic Battlefields

On March 3, the House passed two bills to protect historic battlefields. The Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act (H.R. 146), introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), would establish a battlefield acquisition grant program for the acquisition and protection of nationally significant battlefields and associated sites of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act of 2009 (H.R. 548), introduced by Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA), would assist citizens, public and private institutions, and governments at all levels in planning, interpreting and protecting sites where historic battles were fought on American soil during the armed conflicts that shaped the growth and development of the United States. Both bills passed the House by an overwhelming margin.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Syracuse Federal Stimulus Package TOWN HALL FORUM

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith and the New York State Senate Invites You To:
Federal Stimulus Package TOWN HALL FORUM
• How your community can benefit from the Stimulus Package
• What projects are eligible for funding
• Information about job creation and business opportunities
Date: Thursday, March 19, 2009
Location: Syracuse City Council Chambers
Time: 6 - 8 pm
For furthur information, please contact the office of Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith at (212) 298-5585

Economics of Nonprofits: The Impact of Nonprofit Businesses on the Local Economy

Survey Reminder: We need your input! Add your voice and data to the economic impact information being collected in this first step for Oneida and Herkimer nonprofits. Click here.

Program Reminder: The first program, set for March 25th at 8:30am, will focus on nonprofit economic impact. The program will feature a panel made up of various economic agencies in the region answering questions submitted by nonprofit directors. The survey data will be circulated at this program and next steps discussed.

Date: Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
Time: 8:30am - 10:30am
Cost: $5.00 for breakfast
Location: Rescue Mission
Rescue Mission Chapel
201 Rutger Street
Utica, NY 13501

Register Here

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Foundation Center Offers Grants Info on Economic Crisis

The Foundation Center is publishing grants responding to the economic crisis, availabe here, weekly on an interactive map, in daily RSS feeds, and on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/FC_econcrisis.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sources of Information Regarding Stimulus Funds

The National Council of Nonprofits, a partner association of the New York Council of Nonprofits (formerly CCSNYS), continues to post their Special Reports on Economic Stimulus & Recovery. The National Council of Nonprofits is proud to openly share this evolving series of Special Reports about our nation’s economic recovery, including analysis of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (commonly referred to as the economic stimulus bill) that President Obama signed into law on February 17, 2009.

The newest report, Sources of Information Regarding Stimulus Funds, is available now: Special Report #4
This report identifies national and state sources of information about the federal stimulus funds, including official recovery websites that states have established.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The OD Guest View: Nonprofits strengthen community

The Observer-Dispatch Guest View recently featured Brian Howard, executive director of the Oneida County Historical Society. Read the full article here. Below is an excerpt about the impact of nonprofits:

Seems like each morning my e-mail brings dire messages from one museum organization or another, reporting on state or federal funding cuts, facility closings, and event postponements or cancellations. Indeed, tough times create significant challenges for organizations like ours, demanding a creative, flexible approach to doing business to ensure not just our survival, but the continuance of our mission.

Nonprofits do not manufacture goods; their “products” are less tangible. However, the Oneida County Historical Society and other nonprofit organizations in the Mohawk Valley perform vital, necessary services, around which the community can sustain or build its quality of life. They sell services, provide care and education, and foster a sense of community. They are the safety net, the keepers of culture, the caregivers, the helping hand, the smiling face.

Over the last year, more than 3,000 people have attended lectures and presentations at the Oneida County Historical Society. We also worked hand-in-hand with our local school districts, providing “non-traditional” educational opportunities for more than 500 elementary and middle school-age students. Schoolchildren toured our galleries and participated in a valuable summer education program. More recently, the society took one of our Civil War battle flags to Adirondack Middle School to help celebrate the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

However, perhaps because the impact of activities like these cannot be easily measured in dollars and cents, a “return on investment” cannot be easily calculated or quantified, either. From there it is often a short jump for contributors to target their charitable contributions for cuts when finances are tight. But cutting funding entirely, a wholesale end to giving, would be a terrible mistake.

It is incumbent upon our nonprofit leaders to operate their organizations efficiently and effectively, and to be good stewards of the money still coming in to them. Yes funding is down, but staying positive, mission-focused, and community-minded can go a long way toward navigating through these tough times.

Times are tight, on that point there is no debate. In these times we all must buckle down and work together to ensure a positive future. Just as it is important for each business and private citizen to consider their charitable contributions, it is incumbent upon our local nonprofits to be fiscally responsible. Also, to remain focused on providing services, perhaps at a reduced level, but to provide them nonetheless, to the citizens of the Mohawk Valley.

Yes, it is not easy, but nonprofits not only require the support of the communities they serve; they also deserve it. Inspiration, education, entertainment — these are the intangibles that make life in this or any region worth living.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Charities Say Government Is Ignoring Them in Crisis

The New York Nonprofit Press related a New York Times story how, like many for-profit companies, charities are seeking help from the government, and they are upset that policy makers do not understand how much the recession has hurt them. Last week, nonprofit leaders representing thousands of organizations across the country signed on to a manifesto that calls on political leaders to support the work of nonprofits. See today's New York Times.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Local Nonprofits See Funding Yanked

There have been recent concerns raised among Oneida and Herkimer nonprofits about some recent cases of funding being pulled by New York State funders. If your nonprofit has faced this situation or been impacted, please share your feedback here or by e-mail.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cultural Blueprints Info Offers Insight for Mohawk Valley

As we begin 2009, now is a good time to revisit the New York State Council on the Arts Cultural Blueprints blog. Cultural Blueprints was a statewide series of public forums initiated by the New York State Council on the Arts to identify regional and statewide strategies and opportunities for the arts to serve as a catalyst for cultural, economic and community development. A session was held in the Mohawk Valley, and the notes available here, outline the discussions that took place. Participants explored five themes: Infrastructure, Intellectual Capital and Workforce Development, International and Global Thinking, Investment and Financial Models, and Image and Identity. Explore the key themes of these breakout sessions as well as some of the potential action steps proposed by participants.

As you take a look at the results, there are many commonalities with recent discussions amongst the ED Group. Four primary areas to consider are: economic impact; collaborations/partnerships; improved communication; and cost sharing/resource sharing. There is a clear opportunity for area nonprofits to capitalize on these efforts as the ED Group moves forward with their "Economics of Nonprofits" focus for 2009.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Excellus lost $54M in 2008

The Post-Standard reported in a recent article that Excellus BlueCross BlueShield lost $54 million in 2008 due to high medical expenses, declining enrollment and investment losses. The insurer paid $79 million more than anticipated in member health benefits and lost $70 million on investments because of the Wall Street meltdown. Excellus said its level of reserves fell by $329 million to $858 million at the end of 2008. Reserves are the nonprofit's financial cushion against spikes in expenses or declines in revenue.

Last year's loss was the company's biggest since 1998, when it lost $5.1 million. Excellus made a profit of $84.3 million in 2007. The insurer's enrollment declined last year by about 160,000 members, or 8 percent. The company said that reflects job losses related to the economic downturn, employers dropping coverage and the loss of business to competitors. Excellus raised health insurance premiums an average of 8.3 percent in 2008.

Nonprofits will watch closely for the impact from this financial disclosure. Will 2010 bring significant premium increases? How will nonprofits respond or what can they do? Join the conversation here and offer your own ideas. NYNED and the New York Council of Nonprofits (formerly CCSNYS) will keep you updated and informed. Contact us anytime with your health insurance questions.