Standing Beside Alaska's Non-Profits

The Foraker Group Blog

Over the past several months we have explored the possibilities of changing the delivery model for our human resources shared services. The model we now use has been effective and well received, but we also want to improve and ensure we are meeting the needs of our Partners.

In mid-May we held several focus group meetings on HR shared services and received excellent feedback. We are quite excited about the potential opportunities.

We are now conducting a short online survey that builds on the insights from the focus groups and will further refine them. To assure that we have a broad range of feedback, we ask that you, as a Foraker Partner, provide your thoughts by participating in this survey.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca Savidis or Todd Allen. They can be reached at rsavidis@forakergrioup.org or allentodd50@gmail.com

Please click here to participate in the survey .

We thank you in advance for your participation and for all that you do for the sector!

Take Action: Sign the National Council letter to protect the Johnson Amendment

Over the past several months we’ve shared information with you about the impact of an administration move to repeal the Johnson Amendment. This provision in the tax code, named after President Lyndon Johnson, is intended to keep politics and the money that flows to political candidates out of charitable nonprofits. In March, the Foraker Governance Board issued a statement calling for support for nonprofit partisanship, and we joined over 4,500 nonprofits across the country, including organizations from Alaska, who submitted a similar call through a letter to Congress (join us and sign your organization on today!).

In May President Trump signed an executive order that essentially instructed the IRS to look the other way when it finds that a nonprofit or religious organization violates the Johnson Amendment. Shortly after, we held a positive and productive meeting with Anchorage faith leaders encouraging them to sign on to the letter to Congress.

Today the amendment faces a new challenge. The National Council reports that the House Appropriations Committee on Financial Services approved by party-line vote an FY2018 appropriations bill that includes a provision that would significantly weaken enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. According to the National Council, the provision would “prevent the IRS from spending any funds to make a final determination that a house of worship or its affiliate has violated the Johnson Amendment unless the IRS meets three conditions: (1) the Commissioner of the IRS consents to a determination of unlawful conduct, (2) politicians on the House and Senate tax committees are given 30-days notice of the law-enforcement determination, and (3) an additional 90-days notice is provided before enforcement can commence.

To fight back this effort, the National Council drafted a letter, which Foraker has signed, that strongly opposes this latest attempt to weaken the Johnson Amendment. In addition, National Council President/CEO Tim Delaney submitted an op-ed last week to Nonprofit Quarterly that clearly explains this important issue and ways we can all be involved in protecting the Johnson Amendment. We encourage you to read Tim’s article.

We feel strongly that any attempt to repeal the Johnson Amendment is completely unnecessary. Nonprofits and their individual staff, board members, and volunteers already have many legal avenues to freely express their views on a wide range of policy issues. And as individual Americans they are still afforded the right to free speech. Changes to the Johnson Amendment will only harm religious freedom and free speech – values that are fundamental to our nation and our people.

We will continue to monitor this critical issue for our sector and to advocate to our congressional delegation about the harm to missions and organizations that will result from weakening the Johnson Amendment. We encourage your organization to sign the letter and join us in contacting our congressional delegation.

To read more about our position click here.

 

Last month we wrote about several issues related to the 2020 Census. This month we want to emphasize that the time is now to let your voice be heard. Even though the major census (the Decennial Census) occurs in 2020, each year the American Community Survey (ACS) is conducted. And an accurate count in this survey is critically important to Alaska.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “when Americans respond to the ACS, they are doing their part to help the community plan hospitals and schools, support school lunch programs, improve emergency services, build bridges, and inform businesses looking to add jobs and expand to new markets, and more.” The bureau points out that the ACS generates data that is used to distribute more than $400 billion in federal and state funds every year. You can find a sample of the type of information that is gathered here.

It’s important, too, that we have a good understanding of the value that the Census and ACS data has for our work. That data is broken down by communities around the state and can be used in your funding applications, to help indicate the number and characteristics of the people you serve, and to set a context for your mission. As an example, go here for the data from Anchorage.

To stress the importance of not waiting until 2020 to become involved, we share the perspective of Foraker Operations Board member Gabe Layman, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for the Cook Inlet Housing Authority. Gabe points out:

  • While the Decennial Census is indeed the most significant data collection the Census Bureau undertakes, the ACS also has a tremendous impact. The implementation of the ACS, which was fairly recent, has moved us from a community that must plan for “the Census” every ten years to a community that must plan for Census Bureau data collections every single year. It is imperative that we stop talking about “the Census” as if it’s a once in a decade process.
  • Today, the Census Bureau is being asked to do more with less. For example, with respect to the 2020 Decennial Census, the Bureau is being asked to count approximately 30 million additional people while spending no more than it did in 2010, without consideration of cost increases or inflation.
  • These pressures create a risk that Census Bureau data collections will undercount certain “Hard to Count” populations. This is concerning in Alaska, where, for a variety of reasons, many of our communities are particularly vulnerable to being undercounted.
  • When undercounts occur in Alaska, our communities and the organizations that serve them do not receive their fair share of federal funding for critical programs and services. That is not acceptable.

What can you do now? As we pointed out last month, it’s time to let Governor Walker and our congressional delegation know that you support an accurate census that counts all Alaskans, and that you expect sufficient resources to be devoted to the process. Senator Dan Sullivan is on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that oversees the census. He is a key player in making sure resources are available. You can reach Sen. Sullivan here.

We urge you to learn everything you can about the Census and prepare to advocate for it. We will continue to pass along information as we receive it. If you have questions, please contact Mike Walsh, Vice President/Director of Public Policy, at 907-388-5561 or mwalsh@forakergroup.org.

 

Do you wonder why some decisions seem better timed than others? Or why the expectations of some board members about their service do not fit with the discussions and activities the team needs today? Do you wish your board or staff would see why your line of questioning makes so much sense right NOW in your organization? When you are in a planning session do you struggle to find the balance between internal and external focus in your goals, or find that the board is holding you and your staff back from taking on new goals that would propel the mission forward?

We hear about these tension-filled scenarios a lot, but unfortunately there is little science to give us the answers to eliminate the tension. More often, the gift instead is asking these questions out loud and creating constructive conversations to go with them. Maybe it is even like going to a fortune teller and holding out your hand – the power is in taking the step to ask the questions and the opportunity is to explore the answers.

Since palm reading is not on the menu of services at Foraker, I started working on a tool to help jumpstart these kinds of conversations for board and leadership staff. What emerged is a new life cycle framework. We have not abandoned the other frameworks, including the one based on founders or the version that takes the life cycle from the perspective of a high performing board that we share in our courses. Instead, this is complementary to that work. This framework focuses on the tensions that drive our decisions and explores the environment that supports one kind of decision over another. This framework is not final, but rather a work in progress. My hope in sharing it with you is to spark conversation and inspire action.

First, let’s establish some general “rules of the road” when describing the nonprofit life cycle.

  1. It is not linear. It is a common practice to describe nonprofits in the framework of a life cycle, and equally common to insinuate that it is a linear progression. That is not the case. In each instance, including this one, it is circular, or at times regressive. For this framework, imagine that the visual of this model is actually a three dimensional cylinder where the last step leads us back to the first and around and around we go until we have achieved our mission – or we stop.
  2. Chronological age is irrelevant. Yes, it is true that most nonprofits that start with individual founders begin at the entrepreneurial phase and progress from there. It is equally true that ten years later they can still be in that initial phase. It is also true that organizations start in two other primary ways: either they are created through an act of legislation at the state or federal level, or they are created by a “parent” organization looking to start individual regional or local organizations. These two ways of founding often start in the entrepreneurial phase, but likely spend less time there and move quickly to stability, if not going to that stage immediately. That’s unfortunate. The entrepreneurial phase can be made up of magical moments for an organization. These other ways of formation can dull some of those moments because of the need to comply with a statute or align with a parent entity.
  3. There is gray between the lines. This is not meant to be an exact science, but instead a conversation starter. It is not uncommon to have dabbled in a variety of spaces based on the immediate circumstances or to feel that there is clear movement from one phase to the other. I have seen plenty of groups say they can see how they are clearly in one place but have a strong desire to move. This realization helps to normalize the change that is happening and can also be useful in goal setting. This tool is most helpful, however, if the team can see where they are the majority of the time and then explore the gray from there through conversation.
  4. There can be a difference between life cycle stage and the comfort zone of the leaders. It is possible for CEOs to have a certain comfort zone in which they prefer leading and for the board or staff to have another. It is also possible for the organization to be ready to shift but for the board or CEO to be unwilling to move the organization forward based on their comfort zone. For obvious reasons this is less than optimal and can explain some of the unspoken and often misunderstood discord within the team. Again, the exploration of life cycles and comfort zones is an opportunity for understanding assumptions, obstacles, and opportunities, and to make informed decisions about the future.
  5. There is no value judgment about one phase over another. Each has its opportunities and challenges.
  6. Some organizations don’t thrive. Some missions don’t achieve their intent. Life cycle conversations are often framed in the positive, as is this one for the most part. But the reality is that some missions and/or institutions don’t thrive, some end on purpose, some end from mismanagement or lack of clarity, and some simply get stuck for a long, long time.

With these caveats in mind, let’s look at a high-level view of the stages. You can refer to the diagram below that visualizes our thinking.

 

 

Entrepreneurial: Dream it. Do it.

Perhaps this is the most straightforward phase – most of our organizations have been here or are still here. This phase has superhuman qualities to it. If you dream it, you can do it. Since we start here, it is no accident that the founder is usually present and with that person comes the extraordinary energy, drive, and commitment to a particular definition of mission. There may be staff here, or not. Regardless, the defining moment for everyone on the team is “roll up your sleeves” and dive in. This stage works best when everyone is deeply grounded to purpose and values, and the ideas, projects, and directions come from this place – otherwise the work feels hard and long. You might know this opposite experience when all the creative ideas make everyone but a few feel dizzy and exhausted. Organizations can stay in this positive or challenging phase for a long time. The shift to the next phase often happens when at least one factor appears: 1) the founder or core team leaves, 2) a funder or outside influencer requires internal structure and accountability that does not exist, or 3) there is an overwhelming feeling from the internal team that everyone is working harder, not smarter. In these moments the shift occurs.

Stability: Focus on putting together the structure to support past growth.

Some love this place, others dread it. If you thrived in an entrepreneurial space this phase may not be your comfort zone. Others of you will breathe an audible sigh of relief – “Ahhhh structure.” In this phase, we love planning documents, we love putting the foundation of policies, procedures, tools, and people under all that we have created. We get to have conversations about roles and responsibilities for board and staff often for the first time, and many more times after that. We get to think about process, not just results. We also get new people – both on the board and on staff – which can be equal parts relief and a huge challenge. A note of caution, too many people focused on policy and structure can pull all the joyful energy that got us here from our entrepreneurial days. We need a diversity of ideas, perspectives, and energy in this phase. Again, aligning to our values and culture is key to any new recruitment and retention with an eye to understanding that we need new skills at the table for those who care deeply about who we are. Bottom line, we are building capacity in this phase with best practice tools. We will keep this skill set and desire for strength as we move into the next phases of our life. And, if we are focused enough, we will move forward with renewed energy.

Resilient: Adaptive practices based on what works

We get to this stage by being creative and having some systems. Now we want to know what works. This stage of our life cycle is all about focusing on our data and knowing, truly knowing our results. This stage is about asking questions, entertaining new ideas, keeping what works, and letting go of things that no longer work. The caveat to this stage is that it doesn’t work out very well for the person on the team who forgets all the hard work that just went into getting us here. New ideas and thoughts are welcome, but not at the risk of undoing what is core and not just because someone “thought” it would work. In this phase we want proof. We want data and the systems that hold the data. The challenge is turning data into information, then into knowledge and, critically important, into action. Data itself is not the point, and we can get stuck here or we can use it to launch ourselves into what comes next.

Innovative: “What’s next” thinking.

It is likely by this stage that we are old enough to have many pieces in place. It is not perfect, it never is. But most things work, or we have a process for building our capacity in the areas that need work. So now we take our purpose, our values, our plans, our data, and we look outward. In the resilience stage, the focus is still mostly inward on the organization or the mission. In this phase, we don’t give that up entirely, but instead use that information to ask new questions about the bigger issues and challenges that encompass our mission. The good news is that the team is more open to seeing how critical it is to collaborate. Not just in the “I’m okay, your okay – I know you exist, you know I exist” kind of way we may have experienced previously, but in real partnerships focused on getting better results. Importantly, this stage stops being about the organizational structure and begins to be about the resilience of mission. The institution is just a vessel that currently holds the work together. Our definitions of success are expanded and our tolerance for calculated risk grows in the name of finding deeper and multifaceted external relationships so that we can find deeper and better solutions to our most complex challenges. In our board rooms and with our staff, we are asking not just what we can do and what we can offer to a larger system, but we are asking what we can’t know alone and what is possible when we work “with” rather than “at” or “for.” The gift of this stage can be our greatest challenge – the work is not linear, and it requires many perspectives that challenge our assumptions. This stage is sought after, but generates a lot of discomfort. The reward is progress in mission in a new way that can bring us all the way back around to the entrepreneurial stage either in a new system or a new structure.

These are just snapshots. There is more to say about each phase and more gets said by every group that decides this is the conversation they want to have together. In these conversations, I have seen insights about how the CEO is in one place and the board in another. I have seen a deep desire to move to a new phase by many, but a few hold them back because of fear. I have seen some dip a toe into one space and come back to their comfort zone. People run missions and people do amazing things, some of that is helpful and some is not right now. Such is life. And, just like that life line in your palm, the more you explore the more your opportunity for curiosity, conversation, and contemplation. There isn’t right or wrong, good or bad. There is just your organization on a journey. What does your palm say? Are you ready to have this conversation? How will it and the insights it brings drive your decisions? Let us know where you are going next.

Here at Foraker we are following the current healthcare debate in Congress with concern about its impact on the nonprofit sector and the Alaskans we serve. Foraker’s President/CEO Laurie Wolf summarized those concerns in an email she sent earlier this week to Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and Congressman Young. Laurie wrote:

As you know, The Foraker Group is the nonprofit voice for Alaska. In that role, I am strongly urging you to do what is necessary to take the appropriate amount of time to consider healthcare for all Alaskans. The charitable and philanthropic communities have a major stake in what the ultimate law says and does. Charitable nonprofits make up twelve percent of the private workforce in urban Alaska and more than fifty percent of the workforce in rural Alaska. So often our nonprofits struggle to provide quality, affordable health insurance to their workforce. Nonprofits address the most pressing needs of individuals and communities every day; loss of health insurance by millions of our fellow citizens would likely increase the demands for the services nonprofits provide. And changes in healthcare policy could exacerbate state and local budget challenges that further increase the resource challenges that nonprofits have been experiencing for years. In short, a Senate vote that could make or break the healthcare insurance system could also make or break the ability of charitable nonprofits to serve their communities. I am available to talk with your staff about the huge impact the proposed healthcare bill would have on the nonprofit sector in Alaska. Alaska has so much at stake. 

Congress has started it July 4 recess. When the delegation returns to Washington, a vote is planned in the Senate on its version of a healthcare bill, which, as Laurie noted, could have devastating impacts for Alaskans and the sector.

This is not the time to let up on the pressure for a good healthcare bill. In fact, it’s the perfect time to express your concerns. If a member of the delegation is in your community over recess, pay a visit and let them know about your strong support for a healthcare system that doesn’t hurt Alaskans and the nonprofits that support them.

In addition, spread the word among your colleagues. Urge them and their boards to join Foraker in reaching out to our delegation. Also, feel free to forward Laurie’s statement. And if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Michael Walsh, Ph.D., Vice President of Public Policy, at mwalsh@forakergroup.org.

Contact information for Alaska’s congressional delegation:

  • Senator Lisa Murkowski
    Phone: 202-224-6665

Send an email directly from Senator Murkowski’s website: https://www.murkowski.senate.gov/contact/email

  • Senator Dan Sullivan
    Phone: 202-224-3004

Send an email directly from Senator Sullivan’s website: https://www.sullivan.senate.gov/contact/email

  • Representative Don Young
    Phone: 202-225-5765

Send an email directly from Representative Young’s website: https://donyoung.house.gov/contact/contactform.htm

Failure by the Alaska Legislature to pass a budget presents a grave risk to communities and individuals served by the nonprofit sector. We make a strong call to all legislators to break through the political gridlock and get the job done for Alaskans – pass a state budget that protects Alaska’s most vulnerable populations, our environment, education, and cultural life.

Without a budget, many state operations will shut down on July 1. That’s something we haven’t seen in Alaska. And the lack of action by the legislature that is leading to this dire consequence is both irresponsible and unacceptable.

Our message is simple: Get to work, stop the infighting, compromise, and pass a budget.

As an organization that supports the work of nonprofits in communities around the state, we are profoundly concerned about the impacts of a shutdown. While the most visible are that state employees will face layoffs and furloughs and the vast majority of state services not deemed “essential” will stop, the actual impacts are more far-reaching.

For example, nonprofits that receive state funding, or federal funding that is funneled through the state, will not receive timely payments. Few Alaska nonprofits are in a position to subsidize the state during a shutdown. They, too, will be forced to lay off or furlough employees, or staff who are dedicated to their mission will end up working without pay. This is not how a government should treat one of its most important partners, the nonprofit sector.

For smaller nonprofits without strong cash reserves, the payment delays would be swift and debilitating, leading in some cases to a “nonprofit shutdown,” with organizations being forced to close their doors. Setting aside the severe impact a shutdown will have on organizations, the real disaster will be for Alaskans they serve. Their needs continue, but our sector’s ability to serve them will be seriously degraded.

 

 

You have likely noticed that there has been a lot to say recently about the fate and work of our nonprofit sector. In every community and at every level of government, decisions are being made that affect the work we do. While it has compelled Foraker’s board and our staff to use our voice more often to take a stand for the sector, we have also noticed a few things along the way that might inspire you and your organization to find or use your own voice more often. In this month’s article I want to highlight a few of those observations and, importantly, I want to hear from you about what you are noticing. I also want to share a tool with you that could be helpful as you chart your own course.

 

  • Sometimes the wins are quiet and incremental. You might have read recently about a small win for the sector that resulted from our 2015 public policy priority on changing the state audit threshold. This work was not shiny or full of fanfare. In fact, when the state completed its piece of the process, we had to search to find out it had been done. But this win matters for so many nonprofits in Alaska. It will save you money, time, and energy that you can put towards mission results. This was our most recent example of a long-haul goal that we quietly pursued on behalf of the sector. We kept at it even as more shiny issues engaged us. I bet you have your own long-haul issues and achievements. Before you just check it off the list and move to the next thing, I encourage you to stop. Pause. Smile. And, share the good news. And know that persistence and focus pays off not just for you and your organization, but most importantly for the people and places you serve.
  • Public policy is still not seen as a core responsibility – yet. I have noticed that our call to use your nonpartisan public policy voice is not universally embraced. More to the point, when we have made some very strategic calls to nonprofit leaders to engage in the legislative process (without violating any lobbying rules), the respectful response was variations of: “We don’t do that work.” I have heard the arguments in favor of this position: “It is too risky to be heard,” “The ripple effect could be intense,” “We don’t know how,” or the staff leader is willing but the board may not be. I understand these reasons as a starting place for the conversation. But if we stop at them, I think there is great risk for our collective work. I strongly encourage you to reflect with your team (board and staff) whether this is where you are right now. Start by asking: “If we are not standing up for our mission and cause, who will?” Or by asking: “Is it enough to hope that someone else will speak up? Is it enough to hope it will turn out okay?” Perhaps nonprofits in the past had the luxury of waiting it out in silence. But now, the risks of opting out of the dialog seem, from my perspective, more risky at many levels. Public policy is part of the core responsibilities of every CEO and board. How you do it? When you do it? How often you do it? Those are the new questions of our time.
  • There is an increase in creative solutions for getting the sector’s voice heard from groups that can’t or won’t do it alone. We have savored hearing about long-standing and new public policy coalitions. They have activated their formal networks to include public policy on the agenda. They have found unlikely partners in other sectors and within the sector to strengthen their voice and provide the right messengers. The result that we can see is better data, more capacity, and a safer space. If you identified with observation #2, this might be a safer next step.
  • More groups are asking us for more tools and support to strengthen their public policy voice. We realize it is a struggle to know exactly when to step into public policy. We all need to find the right balance for our organizations between a simple call and action that feels overwhelming and all consuming. Based on our recent capacity building report, we know that few organizations have public policy action plans or any sort of tool for decision-making. Is this you? I know the idea of writing another plan is the last thing you have time to do, so to that end let me offer you four options to keep you moving forward. Do one, or do them all in any order that works for you.

Option 1: Join the conversation. Recently we launched a quarterly public policy check-in opportunity. Our goal is to create a space to get from fear to facts, to understand the issues that are most affecting you, and to strategize the ways you are working on them. Our hope is that this space will be collaborative and that as others hear your ideas, concerns, and next steps, you will find new partners and new opportunities.

Option 2: Log-on and opt-in. We have increased our blog, Facebook, and policy action alert communications about overall policy issues that affect the sector. The alert emails are “opt-in” so even if you get other communications from us, you won’t get the policy alerts unless you sign-up. We value the trust you put in us, and we are committed to sharing information that is accurate and actionable.

Options 3: Schedule some time. We are ready to answer your calls and engage with your team (board and staff) on next steps. Are you just starting the conversation or do you have lots of experience? We will meet you where you are in the conversation. Contact us for more information.

Option 4: Clarify your focus. Staying grounded in your core purpose and core values is a key first step. One of the next tools we offer is creating a public policy decision matrix. It can be hard to distinguish between personal opinion and organizational/mission/cause position. A decision matrix can help. This tool does not have to be complicated or cumbersome. The questions in the matrix are asked and answered by your team, which often includes leadership staff, a public policy committee of the board, and the full board. Implementation of any decisions that come from using the matrix can also come from staff, board, strategic partners, or all of them depending on the issue and the appropriate messenger. It will be up to each team to determine who answers the questions and who takes the lead on next steps. At Foraker for example, each year a joint committee representing Foraker’s Governance and Operations Boards analyzes issues affecting the Alaska nonprofit sector. The committee uses our decision matrix in its analysis, and then recommends a position to the Governance Board during the annual meeting in January. Since each matrix is customized, perhaps the best way to share the tool with you is to share our own as an example. Our decision matrix has four areas for decision-making.

  1. Impact: Does this issue affect the interests of the nonprofit sector in a significant way, positively or negatively? Does it affect the entire sector, or a vast majority of the sector? Is it primarily a local issue but with a high potential for future sector-wide impact? Generally speaking, an issue has sector-wide impact if it has broad relevance to the creation, management, operation, administration, and well-being of nonprofit organizations in Alaska.
  2. Partner Support: Is there already, or could Foraker reasonably anticipate there will be, a general level of support among Foraker Partners on the position to be taken? Gauging Partner support is not expected to be onerous or statistically rigorous. Instead, it will rely on a simple process that takes advantage of the connections and networks that exist among staff, Partners, the Operations Board, and the Governance Board. The key is to connect with individuals who broadly represent the various sub-sectors in Alaska’s nonprofit community. While there are many ways to check the nonprofit perspective on potentially relevant issues, the primary tool for doing so will be the Foraker Operations Board.
  3. Credibility: Would Foraker as an organization be perceived as a legitimately concerned and appropriate advocate for the position to be taken? The answer to this question best comes from the Foraker Governance Board through its public policy committee.
  4. Organizational Capacity: Does Foraker have the financial and human resources to engage in the required advocacy?

Again, I am not suggesting that these questions should be in your matrix, instead I am inviting you and your team to determine your own key questions so that you are prepared to act not just respond. Your matrix can be a useful tool for years to come since it is deeply rooted in your core purpose and can, therefore, withstand the test of time. It can stand alone or be a step in your overall planning process. You decide.

Maybe you want to jump into all four of these options or perhaps one is more accessible right now. Like all new action you can learn from others while you carefully engage. There are lots of ways to get support with this work if you are willing and ready.

This is a dynamic time in our state and in our country. Perhaps the “good old days” will be remembered as a time when we could simply hunker down and do our mission work and not look around at our policy environment very often – or at all. But now, today, we live in a time when our voices must be heard on behalf of the greater good that we serve. It is not about us personally or even our organizations. It was never about us. And yet, we have the ability to use our voices and make a difference. Your mission is counting on it.

 

It may seem a ways off, but planning for the 2020 Census is in full swing – and it’s important that Alaska nonprofits are aware of how the census affects them.

Most importantly, the Decennial Census and its counterpart, the ongoing American Community Survey (ACS), have a significant impact on the amount of federal dollars Alaska receives with much of the funding directed to our nonprofits. With that in mind, Foraker has made the census one of its public policy priorities. Specifically, we are committed to ensuring that everyone in Alaska is counted and that the annual ACS estimates are accurate for Alaska communities. The census is important because it helps decision makers, businesses, and civic leaders better understand their communities and the people who live there.

What can you do now? It’s not too early to let Governor Walker and our congressional delegation know that you support an accurate census that counts all Alaskans, and that you expect sufficient resources to be devoted to the process. Senator Dan Sullivan is on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that oversees the census. He is a key player in making sure resources are available. You can reach Sen. Sullivan here.

We also want you to be aware that a working group has been established in Alaska under the direction of Carol Gore, President and CEO of the Cook Inlet Housing Authority. Carol also is the Vice Chair of the National Advisory Committee for the census, a group that has been charged with considering the needs of Alaska Native populations and communities with limited access to technology. The Foraker Public Policy Committee is part of the Alaska working group. In the next few weeks we’ll be identifying primary issues to ensure an accurate census count, especially in our rural and remote communities.

We urge you to learn everything you can about the Census and prepare to advocate for it. We will continue to pass along information as we receive it. And we encourage you to look at the website for the U.S. Census Bureau and one for the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation. Both provide helpful information to understand the process and why it’s so important to our communities.

If you have questions, please contact Mike Walsh, Vice President and Director of Public Policy, at 907-388-5561 or mwalsh@forakergroup.org.

 

Earlier this week the Trump Administration released a proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. The proposal is a vision document and is not expected to pass Congress in its current form. The House and Senate budget committees will release their own proposals next month. The National Council of Nonprofits has looked closely at how the cuts affect the nonprofit sector. You’ll find their analysis here. We urge Alaska nonprofits to review this analysis and then contact our congressional delegation to share your thoughts on the suggested cuts.

One of our public policy priorities for the past two years has been to bring much-needed change to the state’s single audit regulations. Foraker staff and the public policy committee have devoted significant time to this effort. And that work has paid off.

While we did not see all the adjustments we felt were needed, the state did make changes that will help save time and money for many Alaska nonprofits.

By way of background – Alaska nonprofits that receive at least $500,000 in grant funds from the state in a fiscal year are required to file a State Single Audit. In comments submitted to the state earlier this year, Foraker said that the $500,000 threshold was onerous and diverted resources from critical nonprofit missions. We urged the state to raise the threshold to at least $750,000 to match the requirement for federal audits. At the same time, we called for increases to the thresholds the state uses to classify a “major program,” as well as for a move to a more risk-based system overall.

We are pleased that the state has accepted a portion of our recommendations. The state single audit threshold was increased from $500,000 to $750,000 for grantees whose fiscal year began on or after April 1, 2017. However, that increase was not tied to the federal threshold requirement.

The state also made some small changes to the “major programs” thresholds. Those are:

  • If the total adjusted expenditures for all state financial assistance is less than $1 million, the major program threshold moves from $50,000 to $75,000.
  • If the assistance is between $1 million and $5 million, the threshold moves from $75,000 to $150,000.
  • If the assistance is between $5 million and $20 million, the threshold moves from $100,000 to $200,000.
  • If the assistance is greater than $20 million, the threshold moves from $300,000 to $500,000.

Remember that the major audit threshold is what determines whether a program is “major” and, therefore, requires a single state audit.

We thank Sheldon Fisher, Commissioner of the Department of Administration, and the Division of Finance for their work with us on these changes.

We urge you to check with your granting agency to determine if these changes apply to your organization. If you have questions, you can also get in touch with Mike Walsh, Vice President and Director of Public Policy, at 907.388.5561 or mwalsh@forakergroup.org.

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