FPN Expresses Concerns About Proposed IRS Form 1023-EZ

Florida Philanthropic Network has contacted key members of Florida’s congressional delegation to express concerns about a proposed Form 1023-EZ from the IRS and to request an opportunity for input from the nonprofit and foundation communities, while also expressing our general support for efforts to simplify tax forms and streamline the application process.

The Form 1023 is filed at the start of a new nonprofit organization. FPN agrees that the existing Form 1023 is cumbersome and is in need of some improvement, so we understand the good intentions of the IRS to simplify the form and manage a backlog of applications by developing a streamlined application process for smaller organizations. But we are concerned that the 1023-EZ’s two-page checklist could increase opportunity for fraud and exacerbate the proliferation of ill-prepared nonprofits.

For example, the current Form 1023 application process requires an applicant to submit its organizing documents, but the Form 1023-EZ just requires the applicant to check off boxes to indicate that its organizing documents contain various critical provisions. While this change will certainly speed up the application process, it also eliminates key evidence that the IRS uses today to perform its appropriate due diligence. Continue reading

At FPN Event, Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan Voices His Support for Philanthropy

This week Florida Philanthropic Network hosted a reception in Washington, DC with special guest of honor Congressman Vern Buchanan, who voiced his support for philanthropy and shared his views about the important role that philanthropy plays in our communities. The event was held in conjunction with the annual conference of the Council on Foundations, and was co-hosted by FPN members the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Florida Blue Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and The Patterson Foundation.

Congressman Buchanan is the only Florida member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has oversight of federal tax issues that can be critical in ensuring that philanthropy remains strong in Florida and across the country. So it’s good to know that he is a true friend of philanthropy, particularly as discussions about tax reform continue to take place in Congress. Continue reading

Florida Governor and Cabinet Honor Florida Community Foundations

Yesterday I was honored to accept a resolution passed by Florida’s Governor and Cabinet honoring Florida’s community foundations for “their service to communities all across the state.” The resolution was introduced by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam at the April 22 Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee, and approved by Governor Rick Scott, Commissioner Putnam and the other members of the Florida Cabinet, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

The resolution also congratulated the community foundation field on its centennial anniversary. The first community foundation was created in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914. Continue reading

The Power of Grantee Feedback

Almost all grantmakers struggle with figuring out the most effective ways to gather feedback from their grantees. And for those that have mastered the data-gathering piece, understanding how to successfully take that feedback and make changes internally is an even steeper uphill battle.

More than 35 grants managers from around Florida came together online and in person on Thursday, April 17 for a webinar on this topic. The webinar was presented as a joint partnership between the Florida Chapter of the Grants Managers Network (GMN) and the Florida Philanthropic Network (FPN). Three presenters took the stage to explain best practices around gathering feedback and how the responses they have been able to gather through both formal and informal survey methods have had significant impacts on how they operate. Continue reading

Legislation That Nonprofits and Funders Can Endorse

Note: The following column written by David Biemesderfer, President & CEO of Florida Philanthropic Network, and Rena Coughlin, Board Member of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance, appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat on March 23, 2014:

David Biemesderfer, President and CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network:

In January, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam announced his legislative proposal to revise Florida’s laws regulating charities and charitable solicitations. His proposal is in response to the Tampa Bay Times’ “America’s Worst Charities” investigative report from last year, which highlighted the unscrupulous practices of for-profit telemarketers used by some charities to solicit donations. Eleven of the charities on the Times’ list of the country’s 50 Worst Charities are in Florida, more than any other state.

Although the vast majority of charities in Florida operate in a proper and responsible manner when seeking contributions, the Times report revealed a handful of organizations that preyed on vulnerable citizens with deceptive and fraudulent practices; spent as much as 90 cents of every dollar raised to generate more donations; and claimed to raise money for worthy causes but actually funneled most of the funds to charity founders themselves and the for-profit telemarketing companies they hired.

Continue reading

Why Hill Visits Matter: Florida Grantmakers Make Their Voices Heard in DC

It’s easy to be skeptical about Washington these days, what with the apparent rise in partisanship, the seemingly oversized influence of money in politics, and the perception that not much seems to be getting done. So why bother meeting with your congressperson, one may ask, particularly traveling all the way to DC to do it. Is it really worth it? It’s a fair question, and one to which I’d respond with an unequivocal “Yes.”

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of being part of a team of Florida grantmakers who gathered on Capitol Hill to meet with Florida’s congressional delegation, led by Florida Philanthropic Network. We were there to talk about the importance to Florida’s future of ensuring a strong and growing philanthropic sector in our state, and to discuss key legislative and policy issues that can help make that happen. The meetings were part of the annual Foundations on the Hill event put on by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, in partnership with the Council on Foundations and the Alliance for Charitable Reform. Continue reading

Florida Grantmakers Explore New Ways to Engage Communities in Grant Decisions

“Place-based grantmaking” has become a popular term in philanthropic circles over the last several years. As described by the Neighborhood Funders Group, place-based grantmaking illustrates a shift in strategy from a traditional issue- or problem-based philanthropic approach to one focused on improving specific neighborhoods or communities. Instead of a more traditional grantmaking model where funders seek requests for funding proposals from the community related to the funders’ focus areas, place-based grantmaking starts with a focus on a community and then lets the funding priorities surface from the community. Place-based grantmaking strategies have taken many forms and the term itself is used quite liberally to refer to everything from grantmaking based purely on geography to multi-faceted collaborative partnerships among philanthropy, nonprofits and governments aimed at large-scale systems change that leads to healthier communities.

In a recent FPN program, three Florida grantmakers shared different strategies they are using to implement new place-based grantmaking programs in their organizations. Each funder is at a different stage in its program, and they are using different strategies and approaches, but the common thread running through all of their experiences is that they are trying to find new and innovative ways to better engage communities in grantmaking decisions that impact those communities. Continue reading