On May 18th, I was in Philadelphia for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute’s annual nonprofit conference. I have been one of the course planners for several years and this year I spoke with Michelle Buskey, CPA (Maher Duessel CPAs) on Endowments and Other Donor Restricted Gifts. Michelle and I spoke on defining endowments, reclassifying funds, and financial statement presentation under the new accounting rules for nonprofit organizations. I do believe there is much work that lawyers and CPAs can do together to help nonprofits understand their investments better and possibly “free up” supposed-endowment funds for current spending needs.
One of the great benefits of the PBI Institute is the learning from other nonprofit legal practitioners throughout Pennsylvania. Several non-lawyers were on this year’s faculty and much learning can also be derived from consultants, nonprofit executives, accountants and the like. On the non-legal side, there were sessions on “How to Get More Than a Garden Variety Board” and “How to Generate Income for your Nonprofit”.
One of the highlights of the day is always the Keynote, and this year it was “The Re-Energized Nonprofit Sector: What the New Policy World Means for Nonprofits and Their Attorneys”, by Tim Delaney, CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits (“NCNP”). Mr. Delaney made a strong case for lobbying by nonprofit organizations, citing much misinformation in the nonprofit world about whether nonprofits are permitted to lobby under the law. Mr. Delaney, also a lawyer, made clear the distinction between lobbying and political campaign involvement, with political campaign involvement currently not permissible under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. In this uncertain environment of potential funding cuts, repeal of Obamacare, and possible Tax Reform, Mr. Delaney stated that nonprofit organizations are well-advised to engage in lobbying. In my view, nonprofits should strongly consider lobbying in conjunction with other nonprofits, through groups such as NCNP and PANO, the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations.
All in all, it was a remarkable, learning-rich day in Philadelphia. Please let us know if you have any questions about the current legal and regulatory environment affecting your nonprofit organization.