I WILL: Part One

It is hard to believe, but on September 11, 2011, it will have been ten years since the attacks.

I remember the events like it was yesterday… It was my senior year in high school, and I was in Mr. Christner’s Amercia in the World Today class. In the middle of our lesson someone popped their head into the classroom, said what had happened (at that time only one plane that had crashed into one of the towers), and left. Mr. Christner quickly turned the television on and we watched as events unfolded for the rest of class.

Now, I am sure many of you are gawking at the fact my teacher let us watch what was happening, but I was (and still am) thankful he did. I am also thankful that I was taking that exact class, that exact year, at that exact time because the next day Mr. Christner dived into teaching about the different religions, countries, thoughts, perspectives and how they brought us to where America was at that time; it truly was America in the World Today. He provided information that was enlightening and he helped us fully grasp what had happened. His curriculum around September 11 also taught us not to stereotype, judge, or discriminate people who were Muslim or of Middle Eastern decent. The teachings and insight he provided were a steady ship amongst the unknown and panic that was happening around us. He taught us to be informed, knowledgeable citizens.

Now, ten years later September 11 is the National Day of Service and Remembrance. The website, 911day.org, is providing a way for people to pledge what they will do this year on September 11, whether it be a good deed, charitable activity, or other plans, to honor the 9/11 victims, survivors, and those that rose in service.

After thinking of all the different activities I could put into action for my 9/11 pledge, it all came back to Mr. Christner’s class. I will: continue to learn from those around me, seek the truth, and keep myself and others educated to help dispel stereotypes and prejudice.

As you think to the past and the future, what will you do on 9/11 in Tribute? Visit www.911day.org to post your commitment.

For more information: 911day.org, michigan.gov/volunteer

Submitted by Ashley Branoff, Communications Coordinator for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Small Steps

Many advocates wonder if their efforts are making a difference. Those of us in the engagement business often measure success by the number of individuals who take action or by the various laws or policies that are changed as a result of our mobilization efforts. Then there are times when success is measured by what doesn’t happen or by extremely small, but extremely important, steps.

Making changes to Michigan’s redistricting process is one of those difficult mobilization efforts for which successful actions may be difficult to realize. The Michigan Redistricting Collaborative has been working hard to ensure that lawmakers seek the input of the public as the lines for voting districts are redrawn. A decade ago, lawmakers were working in private conference rooms to cut deals and draw maps to secretly preserve incumbencies among both Republicans and Democrats. Once finished, the maps were hastily passed through both chambers of the Michigan Legislature, quickly signed into law, and even debated in court filings before the entire process and map formulas became public.

Ten years later the overall process remains the same. The Legislature gets to draw its own maps provided it remains within the general rules laid forth by the Michigan Constitution, Michigan Supreme Court cases and those requirements provided for by the Voting Rights Act. Within these boundaries, demographers are helping politicians privately pick their constituents. Members of both parties are working behind the scenes to ensure they are not drawn out of their own district or pitted against a challenger in their own party.

And yet, we know this prior to the final decisions on the district lines, albeit barely before the critical votes. Many of my colleagues involved in the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative are frustrated by the lack of change in the system, the haste with which the Legislature and the Governor are moving to dispense this “insider’s game,” and the general lack of interest by the public in the dysfunctional nature of our Redistricting process in Michigan. So you ask, what did all our work accomplish? We accomplished what we asked our lawmakers to do: we increased the transparency of one of the most covert, public processes in Michigan.

At www.DrawtheLineMichigan.org you can see the media traffic over the past two months as lawmakers were asked how the maps would be drawn, what input the public would have on the process, which lawmakers would be making the decisions, and what the impact would be on vulnerable populations. Read the quotes from the leadership in the House and Senate where Senate Majority Leader Richardville and House Speaker Bolger were asked to explain how public comment would be sought and how this time, the process would be different. Look at the work that individual citizens did to draw their own maps using the common electronic media and public information tools available to anyone.

This week we will see quick passage of the legislation that will define the voting boundaries for Michiganders for the next ten years. While many may not like either the outcome or the process used, we can take solace in knowing that we brought the process into the light and injected the important principles of transparency, citizen engagement, competitive districts, and fairness into the debate over redistricting. These small victories may not be what many had hoped for in helping to form our more perfect union, but it’s an important start.


Submitted by Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO, for the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Rising Health Insurance Premiums

If you are a MNA member taking advantage of insurance options through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or Priority Health, you’ll want to pay attention to this blog. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBS) and Priority Health have both introduced new products to help employers deal with rising health insurance premiums. If BCBS is your provider, you may have recently received a renewal rate notice with premium increased of 20 – 37%. Now is a good time for your organization to take a look at the new products that are being offered.

Simply Blue is the new platform for BCBS. They have PPO, HRA and HSA options. All options have a variety of copays and deductibles.

Priority Health recently updated their Rx copays to deal with costly specialty drugs. Their platform offers PPO, POS and HMO products along with HSA qualified plans and an option for HRAs.

With all the changes to health insurance, it is important to make sure you are investigating the latest products and cost saving strategies. If you are a MNA member interested in our Healthy Nonprofits benefit, please contact me at bgesaman@mnaonline.org.

Submitted by Bill Gesaman, Membership Manager for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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One-Time Special Filing Relief Program for Small Nonprofits at Risk of Losing Tax-Exempt Status

The Internal Revenue Service released this press release and video today, announcing that small nonprofits that have failed to file returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009 can preserve their status by filing before October 15, 2010, under a one-time relief program. There are two types of relief available for small exempt organizations:

1. A filing extension for the smallest organizations required to file Form 990-N, Electronic Notice (e-Postcard)
2. A voluntary compliance program (VCP) for small organizations eligible to file Form 990-EZ, Short Form Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax

The IRS has also published a list of organizations that have return due dates between May 17 and October 15, 2010, but the IRS has no record that the organization filed the required returns for any of the past three years. Check out the list at www.IRS.gov to ensure your organization is in compliance.

Don’t risk losing your tax-exempt status. File today!

Submitted by Kari Sederburg, director of public policy for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Don’t Lose Your Tax Exempt Status!

Hourglass

Time is Running Out!

As a nonprofit organization, you know the importance of your tax-exempt status. Be sure not to risk losing that status by submitting your annual return by May 15, 2010!

Whether your organization has a budget in the millions or in the thousands, you are required to submit an annual 990 form to the IRS. Please note – nonprofits with annual revenue of less than $25,000 are now also required to file. This requirement has changed in order to help our government better understand how many 501(c)3 organizations exist.

Beware – this is the first year (2010) the IRS will automatically revoke the tax-exempt status of organizations that have failed for three consecutive years to file the required Form 990 with the IRS. These forms must be filed by May 15th, otherwise your organization may have to submit its application for tax-exemption with the IRS all over again.

The Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics has developed a simple tool to find out if you need to file. Here’s how in 3 easy steps:

(1) Go to this website

(2) Select the name of your state and then enter your nonprofit’s name. If there is an alert “FILE NOW” by your nonprofit’s name,

(3) File a 990 or your nonprofit’s tax-exempt status will be revoked on May 16th.

Filing by May 15th will prevent your organization from having to pay $750 and submit an application for tax-exemption with the IRS all over again!

Smaller organizations can fill out the IRS Form 990-N, known as the ePostcard (http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=169250,00.html). The ePostcard is easy to complete, and only takes a few minutes to answer eight simple questions. Larger nonprofits simply need to file their tax returns.

For more information about filing annual returns, please visit http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/filingrequirementsfactsheet_012010.pdf

Submitted by Kari Sederburg, director of public policy for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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2010 Census: There’s still time!

It’s not too late! You have four days left to fill out and mail back your 2010 Census form. Fill it out TODAY! Michigan is currently one of the top 5 states with a mail back participation rate of 72%.

If you have questions about the form or have not received your form, here is how you can find help.

• If you have not received a census form in the mail, or think you were left off your household’s census form, you can pick up a Be Counted form to ensure you are counted.

• Be Counted forms, available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian, can be picked up in nearly 39,000 community locations nationwide and mailed back in the attached postage-paid envelope.

• To find a Be Counted site near you, go to 2010census.gov (see “Need Help with Your Form”) or click here <http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/>.

• Telephone Questionnaire Assistance Numbers: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/contact/index.php After April 12, you can request a form from the telephone questionnaire assistance phone line. English: 1-866-872-6868, Spanish: 1-866-928-2010, Chinese: 1-866-935-2010, Korean: 1-866-955-2010, Russian: 1-866-965-2010, Vietnamese: 1-866-945-2010, TDD (hearing impaired): 1-866-783-2010.

• Be Counted Site Map: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/

The Census Bureau estimates that if every household completed and mailed back their census form, taxpayers could reduce the cost of taking the census by $1.5 billion.

Submitted by Sam Singh, Census Consultant for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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Resource Friday: Michigan Nonprofit Management Manual

New MNA Nonprofit Management Manual Now Available

The 5th edition of the Michigan Nonprofit Management Manual builds on the informative chapters found in previous editions, with many new features and updates, including: a new chapter on Risk Management, alignment with MNA’s Principles and Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Michigan, updates on laws, regulations and filing requirements, expanded chapters on the use of technology, connections to other resources with many website references and a revised format to help locate information quickly. MNA members can take advantage of the reduced member price of $75.00. The non-member price is $95.00. Order your copy today at MNA’s online bookstore: www.mnaonline.org/bookstore.asp.

Submitted by Kelley Kuhn, Director of Management Support and Capacity Building Services for Michigan Nonprofit Association.

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