Wednesday, June 29, 2011

MuseumWise and Museum Association of NY (MANY) Explore Merger

Thinking creatively towards envisioning a new model of service, as with all significant endeavors we started with an idea and now bring it into being with a plan. A primary goal of this investigation has been to create an open process, establishing a conduit for sharing information with and receiving evaluation from our constituencies. To that end, please enjoy this second installment of our Museumwise - MANY membership communiqué, which will bring you up-to-date as to our progress over the last few months.

Working in partnership, Museumwise & MANY have made great strides towards reaching several of our initial milestones of conducting organizational assessments of the two organizations, planning the first of two facilitated meetings of both boards and staff, and developing a stakeholder engagement strategy. Keep an eye on your inboxes, because our next round of messaging will include a link to our membership survey to gather your thoughts about consolidation and what a new model of service may look like for you.

Our next significant milestone will be the first joint meeting of the boards on July 18th in Albany. Led by our facilitator Scott Sears, this will be an opportunity for the Museumwise and MANY boards to sit down together to get acquainted with the vision, value and service of each other's organization and to begin envisioning the qualities of and defining the outcome criteria for a blended organization. The rapport developed among the T7 planning committee has set the stage for a progressive and productive session with the two boards. As a launching point for these discussions, the T7 compiled an organizational assessment document placing Museumwise's and MANY's services, programs and future interests side by side to establish similarities between and distinctiveness of the two organizations.

One of the activities on July 18th will be the creation of a 'shared history' - a timeline of trends and events that have defined the New York State museum community and Museumwise's and MANY's histories over the last 10+ years. Can you help us flesh this history out?

Please share with us your thoughts about the trends and events that have defined each organization and our collective professional community by sending them along to Catherine and Anne

Thanks in advance for your replies -

Best regards,

Catherine Anne
Catherine Gilbert, Anne Ackerson,
Executive Director Director
Museumwise Museum Association of New York

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


After Reports That The IRS May Have Mistakenly Stripped NY Groups Of Tax-Exempt Status, Schumer Urges All Nonprofits To Double Check The IRS List To Make Sure They’re Not Included By Mistake

Report Provides County-By-County Breakdown Of The Over 6,000 New York Nonprofit Groups That Lost Tax Exempt Status – Groups Can Correct Error, But Have To Do It Soon Before Costs Go Up

Schumer: Losing Tax-Exempt Status Could Be An Unfair Blow To New York’s Nonprofits

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer unveiled a new section of his website to aid New York nonprofit groups that may have mistakenly lost their tax exempt status. Schumer is strongly encouraging nonprofit groups to check a recently-released Internal Revenue Service (IRS) list, available on Schumer’s website, to ensure that they have not been mistakenly stripped of their tax-exempt status – a move that could cost these groups thousands of dollars. Schumer’s webpage was launched shortly after media reports indicated that several nonprofit groups, including the New Windsor Little League and Plattekill Public Library, were included on the list released June 8th, despite the fact that their paperwork was up to date and filed with the IRS. Several nonprofit groups were never contacted by the IRS, despite several attempts to send mailings and other communications to warn the groups of the looming deadline to avoid losing their designation as a 501(c)(3) group.

“Little leagues, public libraries, museums, meal programs, and other nonprofit organizations that are the very fabric of communities throughout Upstate New York are at risk of losing their tax-exempt status and paying thousands of dollars in penalties through no fault of their own,” said Schumer. “Whether because of a lost notice in the mail or paperwork errors, no nonprofit should needlessly lose their tax exempt status. Every nonprofit group in Upstate New York should take a moment to ensure that they won’t be forced to pay unnecessary taxes this year. I’ve launched this new page on my website to make it easy and painless for groups to make sure that they’re not on the list, and to take steps to correct the problem if they are. Remaining tax-exempt helps keep costs down while boosting fundraising for charity organizations.”

"The good work of community charities has a vital impact on the everyday lives of New Yorkers,” said Doug Sauer, Chief Executive Officer of the New York Council of Nonprofits. “Whether it is providing volunteer first responder assistance, providing food and housing to families in need, caring for our children, disabled and elderly, fostering economic development or creating and promoting arts and culture - charities are integral to our quality of life in ways that are often taken for granted. NYCON is eager to do what we can to assist those organizations whose tax status have been revoked so that they continue their important contributions."

On June 8th, the IRS released a list of 275,000 nonprofits nationwide who automatically lost their tax-exempt status because they failed to file annual reports for three years in a row. The list included over 19,000 New York organizations, including more than 6,000 across Upstate New York. While the IRS believes that many of these organizations are no longer operational, they acknowledge that some groups on the list might not have been aware of the requirement, and are taking steps to allow these nonprofits to reinstate their tax-exempt status. In making the announcement, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said that, “We realize there may be some legitimate organizations, especially very small ones that were unaware of their new filing requirement.”

The list includes a diverse range of nonprofit groups including sports leagues, public libraries, museums and other educational programs, conservation groups, religious organizations, business networking groups, and others. There are over 106,000 registered nonprofits in New York state, according to the New York Council of Nonprofits, employing over 1.2 million New Yorkers statewide. Included in this total are 3,000 food pantries that feed approximately 3 million people each year. Over 17,000 people work in New York museums, which help contribute over a billion dollars to the state’s economy each year, thanks to visits from 6.6 million families, senior citizens, and students. In 2010, the American Red Cross in New York responded to 3,920 local disasters, and has trained nearly 590,000 people in First Aid. The group has also trained over 168,000 people in emergency preparedness, collected over 400,000 units of blood, and helped over 66,000 military families through their Armed Forces Emergency Services and Community Outreach Programs, according to the New York Council of Nonprofits. New York charities play an important role in communities across the state, and should be allowed to continue to do their good work in a tax-exempt state that will help their bottom line, allowing the nonprofits to serve more Upstate New Yorkers.

Here is how the nonprofits who lost their tax-exempt status break down across the state:

  • In the Capital Region, approximately 952 nonprofits lost their tax-exempt status.

  • In Western New York, approximately 687 nonprofits lost their tax-exempt status.

  • In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, approximately 867 nonprofits lost their tax-exempt status.

  • In the Southern Tier, approximately 562 nonprofits lost their tax-exempt status.

  • In Central New York, approximately 811 nonprofits lost their tax-exempt status.

  • In the Hudson Valley, approximately 1,942 nonprofits lost their tax-exempt status.

  • In the North Country, approximately 426 nonprofits lost their tax-exempt status.

Being included on the list means that these nonprofits are no longer eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, and that any income the group receives may be taxed. This has the effect of raising taxes on the nonprofit, while also putting a serious damper on their fundraising. The Pension Protection Act, passed by Congress in 2007, requires tax-exempt organizations to file an information return or notice each year with the IRS. Smaller groups are required to file for the first time in 2007, and the law automatically revokes the tax-exempt status of groups that do not file for three consecutive years. As a result, the first nonprofits to be revoked under the new law saw their status removed based on 2010 returns, filed in April of this year.

Fortunately, as long as groups are aware that they have been improperly stripped of their tax-exempt status, they can take corrective action at minimal cost to the group. Any nonprofit that can demonstrate that it has met its filing requirement for one or more of the last three years can fax copies of their past tax returns to be reinstated at no cost to the group. Additionally, those groups with under $50,000 in income that have not filed tax returns over the past three years can file for reinstatement for a reduced fee of just $100. If the groups fail to file by December 31, 2011, that fee jumps to $400-850 for 2012. Due to the limited window to take advantage of cheaper and easier ways to reapply for tax-exempt status, Schumer is encouraging nonprofits across Upstate New York to check his website and the list of those that lost 501(c)(3) status to ensure that their paperwork is up to date. If a group finds that they have lost their tax exempt status, they can follow the instructions on Schumer’s website and take steps to see that it is reinstated.

The new section of Schumer’s website can be accessed by visiting

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Baruch College Publishes New Case Studies On Nonprofit Advocacy

The Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management of Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs has published three multi-media case studies funded by the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation under its "Improving the Performance of Public Institutions" program. The case studies document landmark attempts by nonprofit organizations to drive policy changes on key issues in New York City including solid waste management and environmental justice, child welfare and foster care and equitable funding of New York City schools. For free copies of the case study materials and more information about the project, visit the project website at:

“the primary aim of the case studies is to help those interested in the work of nonprofits to understand how these organizations can become more effective advocates.”

“We have published these cases as part of our commitment to documenting the key role that nonprofits play in the civic life of this city and to providing education materials that can be used to train the next generations of nonprofit leaders,” says Jack Krauskopf, Director of the Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management.

The case studies are unique and provide background of the advocacy campaigns, identify the outcomes and impacts, analyze the role of the advocacy organizations and coalitions, and determine the key factors in the success or failure of the different elements of the campaigns.

Each written case narrative has an accompanying video of interviews with the advocates highlighted in the case, and an appendix with links to supplementary online documentation and examples of print and visual media coverage of the issues. An additional background paper, Understanding Nonprofit Advocacy, explores definitions of advocacy and the challenges in evaluating the outcomes of advocacy campaigns. In addition, Teaching Notes provide instructors with additional information on how to use the cases.

Professor John Casey, the project coordinator, notes that “the primary aim of the case studies is to help those interested in the work of nonprofits to understand how these organizations can become more effective advocates.”

Margaret C. Ayers, the President of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, comments that “our focus on advocacy reflects our desire to maximize the impact of our limited philanthropic dollars. By influencing government policies and programs, our grantees affect the expenditure of millions of dollars in public funds--an impact many times the size of our grants budget. Policy change rarely happens quickly or easily. To mount these kinds of long-term campaigns, advocates need long-term funding and the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation is committed to supporting them.”

For more about Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs, go to

Monday, June 13, 2011

Senate unveils health ‘market’

The Daily Mail reported that a bill key to implementing last year’s federal health care overhaul in New York state was introduced this week in the state Senate.

The proposed legislation would establish a health insurance exchange, a marketplace where individuals and small businesses can, come 2014, shop for and compare private insurance plans.

The Senate bill “is a first step in advancing a health insurance exchange that will ensure affordable and accessible coverage that meets the unique insurance needs of all New Yorkers,” said Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta, who, as chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, has sponsored the legislation.

Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, is the bill’s cosponsor.

The bill was drafted following a roundtable discussion in April with health care and insurance experts.

“This legislation sets up the governing structure and basic functions that are required in order for the exchange to begin to function, while providing for a transparent process and careful consideration of policy choices,” Hannon said.

There has yet to be a companion bill introduced in the state Assembly. Seward says talks are ongoing with the Assembly and the governor’s office.

Seward’s bill establishes the exchange as a public authority with an 11-member board of directors. States have the power to choose how the exchanges are governed and whether it will exist as a nonprofit organization, quasi-governmental entity like a public authority or within a state agency.

“We don’t want this to turn into an expensive and beaurcratic program,” Seward said in explaining the decision to create the exchange as a public authority.

The exchange will not receive any state funding, under the bill. Seward said its operation could be kept going by fees paid by participating health care providers and others. It’s unknown at this point how much it will cost to keep the exchange running.

According to Seward, the federal government has given New York $28 million to date to establish the exchange.

Although a public authority operates with more independence than a state agency, questions still exist about whether the exchange will be sufficiently insulated from political influence and special interests within the insurance industry, including who will be charged with choosing the board of directors. “Some of these decisions are yet to be made,” Seward said.

Under the health care law, states must establish the governing structure of the exchanges by the end of this year. By 2013, states must prove to the federal government they are qualified to run the program. Consumers will be able to purchase insurance through the exchanges in 2014.

Members of Congress, too, will be getting their health insurance through exchanges starting in 2014.

The exchanges are a main provision of the health care law. The hope is that by increasing competition among health care plans and providing more choices for individuals and businesses, costs will come down.

“As a result of high costs, the market for individuals in the state has been in sharp decline for years,” said Paul Howard, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, in a recent report. “As recently as 2001, more than 128,000 individuals were enrolled in (health maintenance organizations) in the direct-pay market. By 2010, enrollment had plummeted to just 31,000.” Premiums have roughly tripled during that period, according to Howard.

“In all, about 15 percent (2.6 million) of New York’s residents are uninsured, a group that is largely young (about half are aged 18 to 34), in good health and without dependents,” he added. Under the new federal law, young adults can remain on their parents’ plan until they turn 26. That provision has already taken effect.

To learn more about the law’s many provisions and when they take effect, visit

“Frankly, I have mixed feelings (about the health care law),” Seward said.

Judges on a federal appeals court panel on Wednesday repeatedly raised questions about President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, expressing unease with the requirement that virtually all Americans carry health insurance or face penalties.

All three judges on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel questioned whether upholding the landmark law could open the door to Congress adopting other sweeping economic mandates. The panel is made up of two Democratic appointees and one Republican appointee.

The Atlanta panel did not immediately rule on the lawsuit brought by 26 states, a coalition of small businesses and private individuals who urged the three to side with a Florida judge who struck down the law. And it's never easy to predict how an appeals panel will decide.

But during almost three hours of oral arguments, the judges asked pointed questions about the so-called individual mandate, which the federal government says is needed to expand coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans.

With other challenges to the law before other federal appeals courts, lawyers expect that its fate will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Chief Judge Joel Dubina, who was tapped by President George H.W. Bush, struck early by asking the government's attorney “if we uphold the individual mandate in this case, are there any limits on Congressional power?” Circuit Judges Frank Hull and Stanley Marcus, who were both appointed by President Bill Clinton, echoed his concerns later in the hearing.

Acting U.S. Solicitor Neal Katyal sought to ease their concerns by saying the legislative branch can only exercise its powers to regulate commerce if it will have a substantial effect on the economy and solve a national, not local, problem. Health care coverage, he said, is unique because of the billions of dollars shifted in the economy when Americans without coverage seek medical care.

“That's what stops the slippery slope,” he said.

Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor representing the states, countered that the federal government should not have the power to compel residents to buy to engage in commercial transactions. “This is the case that crosses the line,” he said.

Hull also seemed skeptical about the government's claim that the mandate was crucial to covering the 50 million or so uninsured Americans. She said the rolls of the uninsured could be pared significantly through other parts of the package, including expanded Medicare discounts for some seniors and a change that makes it easier for those with pre-existing medical conditions to get coverage.

The court, which did not indicate when it would rule, has several options. But Hull and Dubina asked the lawyers on both sides to focus on a particular outcome: What could happen to the overhaul, they asked separately, if the individual mandate were invalidated but the rest of the package were upheld?

Parts of the overall law should still survive, said Katyal, but he warned the judges they’d make a “deep, deep mistake” if the insurance requirement were found to be unconstitutional. He said Congress had the right to regulate what uninsured Americans must buy because they shift $43 billion each year in medical costs to other taxpayers.

Clement, however, argued that the insurance requirement is the “driving force” of the broader package, which he said violates the Constitution's legitimate authority. Without it, he said, the rest of the package should collapse.

“If you take out the hub, the spokes will fall,” Clement said.

Marcus, meanwhile, said the case struck him as an argument over individual liberties, but questioned whether the judicial branch should “stop at the water’s edge” or intervene.

The 11th Circuit is not the first appeals court to hear arguments about the constitutionality of the federal health care overhaul, as panels in Cincinnati and Richmond have both heard similar legal challenges to the law within the last month. But legal observers say the Atlanta panel’s decision could be the most pivotal because the ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida is considered the broadest assault yet on the law.

While a Republican-appointed federal judge in Virginia struck down the requirement that nearly all Americans carry health insurance, Vinson invalidated the entire law, from the Medicare expansion to a change that allows adult children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance. Three federal judges, all Democratic appointees, have upheld the law.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Truth About Nonprofits: Albany Strip Club Loses Tax Exemption Argument


Wonder why there is a negative perception about the nonprofit sector? What would you say if you found out an adult entrainment business in your city was tax exempt? Clearly there is a lack of understanding about the value and educational purpose that are the underlying focus of nonprofits. Case in point, an Albany strip club, Nite Moves, argued (with testimony from a cultural anthropologist who has studied exotic dance and visited Nite Moves) that lap dances should be considered choreographed performances (like ballet) and tax exempt.

Right, that makes sense. And why not argue this in the court system because this is an injustice that should be addressed. Too bad the courts (and everyone else...except for the Nite Moves owners) disagreed. As msnbc relates, four Appellate Division justices agreed with a state tax appeals commission's earlier finding that dances onstage or in private rooms at the club Nite Moves in suburban Albany don't qualify for a state tax exemption as "dramatic or musical arts performances."

Just what we need in the news, a strip club making an argument for not paying taxes and comparing themselves to a nonprofit cultural organization. This isn't just silly, it is outright nonsense. Hey Nite Moves's owners, what are those taxable dollars you so strongly are opposed to paying being used for, other than paying your attorneys? Did you know that nonprofits reinvest any revenue into their mission and programs? Here's a quick suggestion for your appeals case. Consider adding some adult dance classes and some outreach programs and emphasize how you serve the needy and unfortunate. Good luck.