Friday, May 29, 2009

WKTV covers non-profits making adjustments during economic downturn

WKTV offered the following story about how the economic downturn has impacted two local non-profits, the Utica Zoo and Oneida County Historical Society, and what adjustments they are making in response. Click here for the video.

The Utica Zoo has lost significant funding and revenue over the past 6 8 weeks according to Executive Director Beth Irons. To deal with the problem, the Zoo has tried to get creative.
"We lost our snow leopard, rather than trying to think of something else we can put in that space the exhibit space was dismantled, the exhibits that are currently empty there is no active plan to bring in new animals," said Irons.

The Oneida County Historical Society lost about $20,000 in county funding in addition to several corporate sponsors recently. Creative changes and an spike in membership has boosted cost cutting measures.

"We've replaced our incandescent bulbs with compact florescent we've installed storm windows through a state grant we had received a few years ago and we have reduced our energy consumption significantly," said Brian Howard Executive Director of the Historical Society.

Andrew Marietta of The New York Council of Nonprofits says he is not seeing many efforts to collaborate among non profit groups in the Mohawk Valley.

"They are talking about it they are exploring opportunities but I think what they are finding is that these things are more complicated to put in place than first glance," Marietta said.

The Zoo found that out first hand as it tried to save on insurance costs by joining a medical group used by the Mid-York Library System but according to Irons, were told they didn't fit the requirements.

Howard says the Historical Society's cost cutting measures have been enough to avoid consolidation.

Howard and Irons say if the economy continues to worsen, they will likely need to probe further to see what costs could be cut and that may include consolidating services in the future.

Foundation elects 4 to board

The Rome Sentinel reported that The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties has elected four new members to its Board of Trustees. Newly elected are Lori Kaplan Felice of Rome, CA Kaplan Co.; Keith Fenstemacher of New Hartford, retired administrator of Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare; Joseph Hobika Sr. of Utica, attorney with Callanen, Foley & Hobika; and Mary Morse of Mohawk, owner of Kwik-Kut Manufacturing.

George Aney, John Livingston, Sheila Smith and William R. Stevens retired after serving collectively for a total of 34 years. A term for trustees is three years, which may be extended to a limit of three, three-year terms.

Returning as trustees are Chair-Elect Larry Bull of Herkimer, Don Carbone of Boonville, Rudy D’Amico of Marcy, Harrison Hummel III of Mohawk, Chair Georgiana Roberts Ide of New Hartford, Robert F. Julian of Utica, Linda Macartney of Clinton, Susan Matt of New Hartford, Dr. Theodore C. Max of Holland Patent, Albert Mazloom of Utica, Secretary-Treasurer Judith Vicks Sweet of Clinton and Richard Zick of Rome.

The Foundation has been improving lives and promoting philanthropy throughout Herkimer and Oneida counties since 1952. The Foundation has made more than 4,200 grants totaling over $29.5 million in support of causes ranging from education to health care, the arts to the environment. Grants are generated by the more than 260 funds that comprise the Foundation’s endowment, established and advanced by area individuals and families.

For more information, call 735-8212 or visit

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Standards for Common Sense: A Practical Guide to Basic Accountability Standards for New York Nonprofits

New York Council of Nonprofits published this updated edition with the support of Council Services Plus and the Dyson Foundation. This booklet, available to download for free here, is a practical guide for the average nonprofit seeking a reasonable understanding of what accountability standards are, who is promoting them, what related state laws say, and how to think about the choices presented. NYCON has selected eight of the most basic issues involving governance structure and practice, i.e. board size, board compensation, conflict of interest policies, board member independence, term limits, frequency of meetings, audit requirements and the creation of audit committees. The booklet outlines each issue, compares and discusses the standards set by laws or regulations and five different standards setting bodies - the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, the Standards for Excellence Institute, the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

In this 2nd Edition, NYCON has also added a section on Standards of Financial Accountability. This section explores guidelines for percentage of expenditures on program and fundraising activities along with the level of net assets relative to annual spending. Download your copy now.

Monday, May 25, 2009

5 Ways to Engage Your Legislators

The American Association of Museums offered the following helpful suggestion about ways to engage members of Congress:

1. Invite legislators and district staff to visit your museum. Legislators and their local staff are always looking for new ways to engage the communities they represent. And visiting a local museum is a great way to do that. It can be especially powerful to invite legislators and staff to an educational program at the museum, or for a behind-the-scenes tour of your collections or facilities. Click here to send a letter to your legislators inviting them to visit your museum - and don't forget to call the office to follow up on your request!

2. Ask for a meeting with the Member of Congress and the local staff. Getting to know your local Congressional staff members is an important step in year-round advocacy. "Field Staff are focused on how federal policy initiatives impact constituents and which issues they want the Representative to address. When I meet with constituents, I report back to my whole senior staff about what was discussed and what we could do to help," says Karen Gurmankin, who serves as a Field Representative for Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA). Click here to find detailed contact information for your legislators - including contact information for district offices throughout your state and con! gressional district!

3. Go where your legislators will be. It's likely that your legislators have several public events planned for the in-district work period. Check their website or call their office to find out more: Will the Representative be hosting a town-hall meeting? Will they be holding Open Office Hours in your neighborhood? Use our legislator search page to get all the information you need to make the call today!

4. Weigh-in on current issues. Even if you can't meet with your legislators in person next week, letting them know how federal legislative issues impact your museum can make a huge difference in their position on these issues. There are now eight different draft letters available in the Contact Congress section of AAM's advocacy website that you can use to communicate directly to your representatives in Congress - and it just takes a few clicks!

5. Develop your "elevator speech." Just like you would have this ready to go for a potential donor, it's important to be prepared to tell your elected officials about your museum - in just a minute or two. If you run into your Member of Congress at the grocery store or the post office and have just a minute of their time, what do you want them to most know about your museum? You can focus on how you are providing community service, how you are using federal grant dollars or a program that they can witness first-hand, or you can simply thank them for their past support on an issue you care about. It's always nice to be appreciated!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Utica Children's Museum Opens New Exhibit and More

The OD reported on the Children’s Museum recently installed lighted PlayDance Floor, which is part of an interactive exhibit that allows children to play games, make music and create light shows.

The LED-lit, pressure-sensitive light floor detects players’ location and movement during games and activities. Children can stomp on brightly colored “ants” and jump over the “dodge ball” or create music by dancing on LED piano keys. The floor was funded by a grant from The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties.

With the light floor recently completed, Executive Director Marlene Brown is already looking ahead toward generating funding for the museum’s next big projects. The museum has applied for federal stimulus money to complete a project that would place solar panels and wind turbines on one-third of the museum’s roof. A green garden would cover another third and the final third would be left open as an observatory with tables, benches and telescopes. There are also plans to add bathrooms to the third floor, replace carpeting on the second floor and to create an observatory in the fifth floor. Read the full article here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Business and Education Forum Set for May 21st

The Genesis Group
The Chamber Alliance of the Mohawk Valley
(including chambers from Herkimer County, Clinton, New Hartford, Marcy, Camden, Boonville, Kuyahoora Valley, Rome, and Trenton), present a,

Thursday May 21st - 7:30am at Hotel Utica

The forum will offer an opportunity for Business and Education representatives to discuss preparing for the workforce of the future, and other related topics.
Scheduled to participate include:

Education Panel
  • Dr. Ron Cantor
    Mohawk Valley Community College, Rome Campus
  • Dr. Ann Marie Murray
    Herkimer County Community College
  • Mr. Ken Slentz
    West Canada Valley School District
  • Mark Vivaqua
    Herkimer County BOCES
  • Susan Carlson & Jeanne Markley
    Oneida County BOCES/School and Business Alliance

Business Panel

  • Helen Rico
    Rome Labs
  • Rick Sebastian
    Human Technologies Corporation
  • Joseph Cavano
    Turning Stone Casino Resort
(more guests to be confirmed)

Moderator: Mr. John Swann
Director of Communications and Public Relations at SUNYIT

The Program is "FREE" and "Everyone" is invited to attend.
For reservations, contact Genesis Executive Director Ray Durso, Jr., by calling 315.792.7187 or by email,

Guest view: You’re all invited to a party in the park

The OD featured a guest viewpoint by Michael Bosak, president of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica, about Utica's plethora of magnificent architecture, arts, restaurants and citizens. Ask any visitor to this city, and the message is nearly the same.

Yet sometimes the city doesn’t entirely appreciate the gifts and the assets that it has. It would be hard to imagine Utica without Union Station, the Stanley, Old Main, Hotel Utica or the Swan Fountain — but all of these and many others were nearly lost but for the intervention of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica.

Despite these efforts, far too many “landmark” structures are now gone for the sake of enterprise, expediency or because of neglect. Among those are Old City Hall, Vice President James Sherman’s home, Sen. Horatio Seymour’s house, No. 2 Rutger Park, the Saturday Globe Building, (where the first color newspaper in the country was printed), and on and on.

The most significant historic district in Utica is Rutger Park. The architects involved in the design, planning, landscaping and construction of these mansions were among the most important of their times. It was built at what was then the outer edge of the city, the frontier, so to speak. Essentially, the city grew up to and around it, with the centerpiece being No. 3 Rutger Park.

The Miller-Conkling-Kernan House, as it is sometimes called, was (and is) the most historic address in Utica. Originally constructed in 1830, two years before Utica was incorporated as a city, this house was visited by U.S. presidents, bishops, judges, governors, statesmen, abolitionists, inventors, politicians and others of national prominence. It was owned by some of the most powerful and influential individuals in the country, and it was the premiere location for entertaining in Utica.

In June 2008, The Landmarks Society purchased No. 1 and No. 3 Rutger Park with the assistance of The Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer Counties (Dr. Ted and Melva Max Fund), The Preservation League of New York State and the city of Utica. The purpose was to preserve and restore these architectural and historic gems and to develop a heritage tourism destination.

It is the first step in what is hoped will be a regional marketing approach to draw people to the best that the area has to offer in arts, entertainment, architecture and history. However, the effort and cost to preserve and restore these mansions will be great and the road long.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Peacemaker Program, Inc. saves taxpayers $1.2 million in 2008

Utica Daily News related: The Peacemaker Program, Inc. recently completed an analysis of its 2008 fiscal year showing the agency prevented 483 drawn out court battles, saving Oneida and Herkimer county residents nearly $2.3 million for that time period.

The Peacemaker Program, Inc. is a local non-profit agency in which nearly 500 community volunteers provide quality dispute resolution and child advocacy services. The organization served more than 2,700 people in 2008. Its mission is to offer inclusive innovative approaches to resolve conflict and achieve positive outcomes for children, families, and the community.

Family custody, visitation and support mediation helps participants generate their own solutions, and develop mutually acceptable parenting plans with the help of a neutral mediator. In 2008, 86 families developed their own agreements saving an estimate $1,075,000.

Child Custody Advocates assist the Oneida and Herkimer county family courts in deciding what is best for children involved in custody and visitation disputes. Based on information provided by advocates, 181 children were served, avoiding court trials for 70 families and saving taxpayers more than an estimated $875,000.

Parent/Child Mediation helps at-risk youths and their families achieve positive outcomes, and avoid court and out-of-home placements, including pre-PINS and PINS cases. In 2008, 115 individuals explored their conflicts with the assistance of a neutral mediator, and 89% needed no further intervention from the court system saving an estimated $90,000.

Child-Centered Permanency Mediation assists families, attorneys and other social service agencies to create a plan for children in foster care. As a result, 19 court cases were resolved prior to trial in 2008, resulting in a savings of $257,000.

This information as well as The Peacemaker Program, Inc.’s 2008 Annual Report can be found online at For additional information on the agency’s programs or to find out how you can become a part of the solution, call 724-1718.

Local health care centers foster economic growth

The recent ED program focusing on nonprofit economic impact was a timely session, and has had some success in raising the visibility and generating new conversations around this topic. Another recent example is an article in the Utica Daily News by reporter Stephanie Berberick, which explores the essential financial and social contributions of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center (SEMC) and the Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare (FSLH) facilities make to the local community. The article builds on our previous discussion about recognizing the impact of nonprofits and bolsters many of the thoughts and ideas shared at our recent discussion. Here are some highlights about their economic impact from the article:

St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center
Matthew Babcock, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of SEMC, said that the hospital fosters fiscal growth by:
  • Employing about 1,950 direct employees.
  • Spending $189 (2008 figure) million annually on improvements to the facility, payroll for employees, and ordering supplies and equipment.
Through the combination of these costs the hospital provides work to health care employees and local contractors. It also stimulates the retail market through direct ordering and paycheck distribution.

SEMC has generated even more income for the local community with their College of Nursing, School of Radiography, and Family Practice Residency Program (FPR), Babcock said. Over 50 percent of the FPR students stay in the local community and become health care providers in the Mohawk Valley, he said.

Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare
FLSH’s contribution to Utica and the surrounding areas is also substantial. FSLH has two campuses; Faxton on Sunset Ave. in Utica and St. Luke’s on Champlin Ave. in New Hartford. Michael Haile, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for FSLH, said their facilities directly benefit the local community by:
  • Employing 3,500 employees between the two locations
  • Issuing $108 million annually in employee paycheck and $26 million worth of employee benefits
  • Spending an estimated yearly sum of $45 million of locally ordered supplies
  • Spending an average of $12 million on capital investments that employee contractors
Free Care
On top of that SEMC and FSLH provide millions to the local community in free health care every year. The free health care figures encompass two branches; charity care and bad debt. Both establishments test the ability for their patients to pay their bill based on a number of variables. If it is determined that the patient does not have the economic ability to pay their costs they are placed in charity or uncompensated care programs.

Free care from bad debt comes from from medical bills that were not paid by the patient. After time the hospital writes off the delinquent bill and takes the loss.

Last year SEMC provided over $8 million in free care.
FSLH provided $10.8 million.

Babcock said that despite all the benefits non-profit health care facilities have provided, he still hears people complain about them having the benefit of being tax free. He said he often hears people ask what not-for-profits give back to the local community. SEMC non-profit status allows them to sponsor community events, encourage employee volunteering, and provide education to students and seniors, Babcock said.

“I can tell you all the great things not-for-profits do, but I think that’s not what they really struggle with,” Marietta said. “It’s trying to get people to look at them as a business and trying to get people to understand the integral role they play in the community.”

Monday, May 11, 2009

Business and Education Forum Set for May 21st at Hotel Utica

The Genesis Group
Chamber Alliance of the Mohawk Valley
Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce
partner to present

Thursday May 21st - 7:30am at Hotel Utica

The forum will offer an opportunity for Business and Education representatives
to discuss preparing for the workforce of the future, and other related topics.
Scheduled to participate include:

Education Panel:
  • Dr. Ron Cantor, Mohawk Valley Community College, Rome Campus
  • Dr. Ann Marie Murray, Herkimer County Community College
  • Mr. Ken Slentz, West Canada Valley School District
  • Mark Vivaqua, Herkimer County BOCES
  • Susan Carlson & Jeanne Markley, Oneida County BOCES/School and Business Alliance

Business Panel

  • Helen Rico, Rome Labs
  • Rick Sebastian, Human Technologies Corporation
  • Joseph Cavano, Turning Stone Casino Resort
    (more guests to be confirmed)

Moderator: Mr. John Swann, Director of Communications and Public Relations at SUNYIT

The Program is "FREE" and "Everyone" is invited to attend.
For reservations, contact Genesis Executive Director Ray Durso, Jr., by calling 315.792.7187 or by email,

Friday, May 8, 2009

Economic Impact Feedback

The Oneida and Herkimer ED Group continues to receive feedback regarding the economic impact panel discussion:

I am sorry that I could not attend. We have been counting economic impact for many years at the UNHS NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center. We count it in the number of rehab projects (and dollars related) along with the number of mortgages and related servies that would not happen without our servies...$65M in 10 year period. It is estimate that our services will bring $25M into Oneida, Herkimer and Madison counties in the next five years...that does not count employee at our organization or the employment that happens in banks or construction companies as a result of our work.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Economy taking toll on small charity golf events

The Times-Picayune reported on the economies impact on nonprofit golf fundraisers in New Orleans. No one suggests golf, charity golf, still is not a great provider of funds for local charities big and small.

You get your sponsors, hole and otherwise, you tap your sources for golfers, you get your sources to give you prizes big and small -- maybe a car for a hole-in-one on a hole or two -- ditty bags (free gifts to all golfers) that are full and plump with everything from tees to balls to you name it if the bag is big enough, and the next thing you know, you've got money in the tens of thousands.

Except, the economy went south and no one has things to give anymore.
There are many charities in this area that rely on golf tournaments as their main fund-raising tool. In the next two golf columns, I will explore how the 2009 economy is affecting those types of tournaments.

Talking with many individuals, fund-raisers and tournament directors, it's apparent that there is a general break in how these type tournaments are faring. Those with big sponsors and big names attached to them are doing OK. Those of a smaller nature -- churches, schools and charity organizations -- are not doing nearly as well as they have in the past in the metro area or in the state.

Roger Gorman, director of development at Children's Hospital, said "there are two different types of tournaments: those that are done by big companies that benefit charities. Those companies basically supply the list of participants. Those are doing OK. Then there are the others that are done by smaller organizations. Those are the ones that are hurting." Read more here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Golf Tournament List: Idea to explore

Local EDs have discussed the need for a master list of fundraising events, which include golf tournaments. Recently, the Post-Standard published a extensive list of CNY golf tournaments, which offers a model for others to explore. Why not list all the golf tournaments planned for the year in the newspaper? The list would be a great planning tool for the ED Group, and a great publicity piece.