Monday, June 29, 2009

Schumer proposes public health plan

The Post-Star featured an article about U.S. Senator Charles Schumer's calls for a public health insurance plan option. As the article relates:

It’s not just the uninsured feeling the pain of the health care crisis anymore, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Thursday.
More than 750,000 New Yorkers who have health insurance still spend more than 25 percent of their pre-tax income on health care costs.
"Unfortunately, health insurance — you seem to pay more and more, and it covers less and less. That would be the complaint that I hear as I travel around New York state," he said in a conference call with reporters.
One of the primary reasons for high health care costs is the lack of competition between health insurance plans, Schumer said.
Schumer wants to "inject competition" into the marketplace by establishing a public, nonprofit health plan that would compete with private plans.
The proposed plan would receive a one-time government subsidy to get started and would then be self-sufficient. Read more here.

All nonprofits are struggling with trying to provide or maintain health insurance benefits for their employees. Want to share your own thoughts about this issue? Post them here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

State’s late payments hurting nonprofits

State’s late payments hurting nonprofits
Fiscal problems affect community agencies

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
By Michael Lamendola (Contact)Gazette Reporter

CAPITAL REGION — The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is running out of money because the state is six months late in reimbursing $4 million in contract expenses to the agency, its director said on Tuesday.

The commission is using reserves to pay staff and operate programs, but it expects to exhaust those reserves by the end of the year, said Executive Director Chris Hawver.

“We have a $4 million deficit,” Hawver said. “We have another six months to go in reserves.”
The Pine Bush commission is in the fourth year of a five-year, $12.5 million contract with the state. The state provides the money through the Environmental Protection Fund.

Hawver said the $4 million deficit goes back to 2007-08, but that the commission submitted bills to the state for payment of these expenses in January. “I am hopeful that within the next eight weeks we will get the funding,” he said.

During the first six months of the year, the Nature Conservancy, a member of the commission, supported the commission but it can no longer do so, Hawver said. Hence, the need for state support.

The state provides $2 million toward the commission’s $2.6 million annual budget, Hawver said. The rest comes from grants and local support.

The commission is a public-private partnership formed by the state Legislature to protect and manage the Albany Pine Bush, an ecological area that is home to rare and endangered species.
The commission consists of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Nature Conservancy, the city of Albany, the towns of Colonie and Guilderland, Albany County and four citizen representatives.
When Hawver inquired about the payment delay, he said state officials reminded him about the state’s difficult fiscal situation. The state Division of Budget is responsible for disbursing the funds. Spokesman Jeffrey Gordon said the state has been forced to manage the Environmental Protection Fund closely this year because of fiscal pressures on the fund and on the state.
“So there have been some delays in payments; they have taken longer than they have in the past,” Gordon said.

Another factor is that the state fund receives one of its largest replenishments in June through the real estate transfer tax. “When that happens, we will begin moving payments more readily,” Gordon said.

Hawver said the commission’s role will likely increase should the state grant the city of Albany’s request to expand the Rapp Road landfill. The state DEC gave the final approval June 3 to the city’s final environmental impact statement, which outlines environmental ramifications of the dump expansion.

Hawver said the commission will work with the city on a large habitat restoration project.
“They need us at the table and we need to pay salary and staff,” Hawver said.

While the commission’s problem is a payment issue, some nonprofits are finding that the state is consistently late in approving or renewing contracts with nonprofits, forcing them to perform services without a contract in place and without any payments.

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said he found in 2008 that 87 percent of nonprofit contracts were approved on average 184 days late. He is proposing new regulations to make the state more responsive to a nonprofit’s contractual needs, including a requirement that ensures nonprofits are paid interest required by law when their contracts are processed late.

DiNapoli said, “In recent months, an increasing number of organizations were unable to make payroll, faced eviction or risked losing other funding because their state contract was significantly delayed.”

Denise Harlow, chief executive officer for the New York State Community Action Association, said community agencies have had to go into debt to run programs while awaiting state payments through contracts.

“It puts us at a disadvantage. We are running programs on their own lines of credit with banks, and we then have to pay interest on those lines of credit. State contracts don’t cover interest. It is costing us money,” she said.

DiNapoli said the state paid $144,906 in interest to nonprofits for processing their contracts late in 2008, a 29 percent decrease from the year before.

Hawver said that while he agrees with the need for more timely action by the state, he does not support the interest payment proposal. “The simple way is if the cash is available to pay it. Then you don’t have to pay interest. You don’t use state funds to pay interest on state funds,” he said.
Harlow said the delays are due to many factors, such as lack of communication between agencies, lack of staffing and “tremendous amounts of duplication.”

Other nonprofits contacted said the state lag is a problem but something they have learned to work around.

Denis Wilson of the Fulmont Community Action Agency said, “the lag has never created a problem for us.” The agency receives money for Meals on Wheels and other community service programs.

Sunday, June 14, 2009 Offers Nonprofits Information

The purpose of is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.

As a priority Open Government Initiative for President Obama's administration, increases the ability of the public to easily find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government. provides descriptions of the Federal datasets (metadata), information about how to access the datasets, and tools that leverage government datasets. The data catalogs will continue to grow as datasets are added. Federal, Executive Branch data are included in the first version of

Participatory Democracy
Public participation and collaboration will be one of the keys to the success of enables the public to participate in government by providing downloadable Federal datasets to build applications, conduct analyses, and perform research. will continue to improve based on feedback, comments, and recommendations from the public and therefore we encourage individuals to suggest datasets they'd like to see, rate and comment on current datasets, and suggest ways to improve the site.

A primary goal of is to improve access to Federal data and expand creative use of those data beyond the walls of government by encouraging innovative ideas (e.g., web applications). strives to make government more transparent and is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. The openness derived from will strengthen our Nation's democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Announcing the New York State Cultural Data Project

The New York State Council on the Arts has joined to help launch the New York State Cultural Data Project (New York State CDP), a powerful management tool for arts and cultural organizations. This unique system will, at no cost, allow arts managers and artistic leaders to understand and analyze their organization’s financial performance through easy-to-run reports. By participating in the New York State CDP, you will be part of a successful and growing project that will allow researchers and the arts community as a whole to better articulate and provide evidence for the sector’s assets and needs, as well as its contributions to the state and the country. By completing the online form annually, you will also be able to generate reports to be submitted to grantmakers with the click of a button.

NYSCA, along with a number of private and public funders and arts advocacy organizations, is pleased to be a member of the Taskforce that is working to bring CDP to New York State.

NYSCA believes that CDP could be of service to the field, particularly based on their experience with Cultural Blueprints. During the nine sessions held to date across the state, a common need for more robust research, advocacy and policy discussions with and about the cultural sector emerged. They believe that CDP has the potential to be a valuable tool in addressing these issues. Overall, they would like to engage the field in a conversation both about what those needs are and how CDP can help address them.

About CDP
An online system for reporting historical organizational and financial data, CDP will be offered at no charge to arts and cultural organizations (and entities/individuals with a fiscal conduit) across the state. Once an organization’s data has been entered into this 11 part, web-based form on an annual basis, the organization is able to:
  • Streamline grant applications to participating funders: Once data is entered into CDP, it doesn't need to be reentered when applying to the funders listed at the bottom of this email.
  • Generate one of 77 on-demand reports: Organizations can produce the data they have inputted for their own reporting and fundraising purposes, including presentations to board members, funders, staff and other audiences.
  • Ensure that your organization is included in major advocacy efforts: Aggregate data from CDP is available to all advocates, researchers and interested parties to help make the case for the arts in New York State.

Organizations can participate and benefit from the system regardless of whether they are a recipient of support from any of the participating funders. Additionally, there is a full-time Help Desk/hotline available to guide organizations in entering and understanding the data.

NYSCA is interested in your feedback in terms of how CDP can be most useful to your organization, how NYSCA can best incorporate it into our grantmaking process, and how it can help shape policy and advocacy efforts. Please read the letter from the CDP Taskforce, go online and learn about the system at, and, most importantly, attend a free demonstration and discussion (see below). Please direct your feedback either to NYSCA program staff or

Get the most from the New York State CDP.
Attend a free demonstration and discussion.

Register for a demonstration and discussion by visiting and clicking on "Attend a Demonstration and Discussion."

September 23 - 25, 2009 Capital, Saratoga and Mid-Hudson Regions

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Sweet Fundraising Opportunity for Unity House...

Chocolate sales at Tosca Inc. to benefit Unity House
June 4, 2009 at 4:40 pm by Steve Barnes, senior writer
Times Union

Chef-entrepreneur Larry Schepici continues to do good things for Troy. The owner the restaurant Tosca Grille and the adjacent gourmet shop Tosca Etc. is donating proceeds from the sale of handmade chocolates emblazoned with the words “Enjoy Troy” to Unity House. The Rensselaer County-based human-service nonprofit assists people living in poverty, adults living with mental illness or HIV/AIDS, victims of domestic violence and children with developmental delays.

The chocolates, made daily by pastry chef John Vasquez, cost $1.25 apiece and are part of a line of confections, breads and to-go meals available at Tosca Etc. The shop is located at 200 Broadway in downtown Troy, next door to the restaurant.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Just Announced! FREE "Entrepreneurial Ventures for the Arts" Workshop in Albany

Explore Ways of Generating Money for Your Arts Organization at the "Entrepreneurial Ventures for the Arts" Workshop

This specialized full-day training, supported in part by the New York State Council on the Arts, is FREE to arts directors and board members. This training will address the interests and markets of arts organizations in exploring alternative revenue generating activities.

In increasingly challenging fundraising times it is more important than ever for arts organizations to consider Entrepreneurial Ventures that can generate revenue. This type of endeavor takes calculated risk based on sound facts and adherence to rules and regulations around these types of activities for nonprofits. But entrepreneurial ventures have proven successful for many nonprofits. This full-day session can help you figure out if this type of activity is right for your organization.

This training course is a highly interactive immersion into the world of innovation and revenue generation. Participants will learn how to develop and practically apply "real world" elements of entrepreneurial ventures to their organization, including strategies on developing board understanding and support for such ventures. At the conclusion of the program, participants will have access to follow up support and information as they explore venture development.

Albany, NY
July 9, 2009

9AM - 4PM, includes lunch
NYCON Albany Office
272 Broadway
Menands, NY 12204
Cost: FREE
Register Here

Program Agenda:
Agenda will include topic areas like: The Nonprofit Environment for the Arts Marketplace & Economic Issues Building Blocks: Competencies, Assets, Relationships & Mission How "Ready" is Your Arts Organization? Introduction to the Business Plan (General Summary) General Business Plan Application to Venture Idea

For more information or questions, call 1-800-515-5012 ext 141 or e-mail.

About the New York State Council on the Arts The New York State Council on the Arts is dedicated to preserving and expanding the rich and diverse cultural resources that are and will become the heritage of New York's citizens.

About New York Council of Nonprofits (formerly Council of Community Services of New York State, Inc.) New York Council of Nonprofits, formerly CCSNYS, is the premier governance, management and support services organization serving charities in the state. CCSNYS has a membership of 1,500 charities of all types and has offices in Albany, New York City, Buffalo, Poughkeepsie and Oneonta.