Tag Archives: nonprofit

Celebrity Fight Night

Nonprofits And Corporations Continue To Work Together As The Economy Falters

Ravaged by the effects of a devastating disease, boxing legend Muhammad Ali can still draw a crowd. Fans who remember the former heavyweight boxing champ in his prime as the handsome, graceful pugilist with the mile-a-minute mouth, still flock to catch a glimpse of this now frail man.

That’s helped turn the annual Celebrity Fight Night into one of the most successful charity events in the Valley. The creation of Jimmy Walker, president of Walker Financial, an estate planning and wealth management firm, Celebrity Fight Night has raised millions for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute.

Celebrity Fight Night is a perfect example of where corporations and philanthropy intersect. However, that intersection is now threatened.

Corporate philanthropy pumps millions of dollars into Arizona nonprofits every year, but there is concern that a troubled economy will result in some restraints on giving.

Cutbacks could occur, even though businesses see philanthropy as a win-win: Organizations that benefit from corporate generosity are able to continue to do all the good things they do, and at the same time, corporations reap the benefits of good PR. They are seen as good citizens giving back to the community. Of course, tax write-offs generally enter into the philanthropic picture.

Even though corporate donations that support myriad causes are estimated at about 20 percent of the total, with individuals giving by far the lion’s share of philanthropic dollars, nonprofits agree that they couldn’t survive without corporate help. Which means it will be up to nonprofits to be more creative and innovative in telling their story.

Robin Dunn, CEO of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Arizona and president-elect of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Greater Arizona Chapter, cannot emphasize enough the importance of corporate philanthropy.

“We have a lot of corporate alliances,” Dunn says. “Our brand is one that companies like to use for cause-related marketing. As a result, quite a bit of income comes from corporate philanthropy.”

Make-A-Wish’s mission is to grant the desires of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

“It lets the community know that a company is helping a charity, which ultimately helps the company,” Dunn says. “We could not do what we do without corporate philanthropy.”

Despite that, Dunn says cutbacks in giving are a distinct possibility.

“I think it’s obvious to think people are being more frugal and maybe a little more tentative,” she says. “I think it’s too soon to say whether that’s going to impact overall giving, but I think there’ll be some impact.”

Patricia Lewis, senior professional in residence at the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation at Arizona State University, expects a slowdown in corporate philanthropy.

“So much of our community is tied up with the financial markets, so it’s bound to have an impact. I think we are already beginning tosee a decline in support for nonprofit events and activities,” says Lewis, who is a former president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. “That includes direct support, as well as support in buying a table at an event. The economy is having an impactful trickle-down effect.”

Perhaps the fundraiser with the most star power is Celebrity Fight Night. Since its inception in 1994, it has raised more than $52 million, primarily for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute. Sean Currie, executive director of the Celebrity Fight Night Foundation, says the event last spring pulled in $6.5 million.

Ali clearly is the draw. Entertainers, including Celine Dione, Garth Brooks, Diana Ross and Rod Stewart, are among those who have performed at the fundraiser. Some 50 to 60 celebrities attend each year.

What It Takes To Form A Nonprofit Or Tax-Exempt Organization

It usually starts with a phone call from a client, or maybe another attorney in your office. Someone wants to set up a nonprofit corporation, usually a tax-exempt charity, often on behalf of a pro-bono client, and assumes it should be pretty easy.

Unfortunately, it’s not.

First, “nonprofit” is not the same as “tax-exempt,” although many people use the terms interchangeably. Nonprofit is a state law concept and is governed by the relevant state statute for nonprofit corporations. In Arizona, that would be Article 10, Chapters 24-40 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Tax-exempt usually refers to being exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. Furthermore, there are different types of tax-exempt organizations. The most common are 501(c)(3) organizations such as schools, hospitals, museums, community foundations, etc. But there are also other types of 501(c) organizations such as trade associations, which are exempt under section 501(c)(6), and social welfare organizations, which are exempt under section 501(c)(4).

Second, although the state filings to establish a nonprofit corporation are not unduly burdensome, there are a number of technical requirements that need to be followed. Also, the IRS exemption application, Form 1023, is not a simple one-page form; instead, it requires anywhere from 12-20 pages of information depending on the nature of the organization. With few exceptions, such as churches, an organization must file Form 1023 and receive a determination letter from the IRS in order to be tax-exempt, and cannot represent to potential donors that it is tax-exempt until such time as it receives such letter.

State law requirements for Arizona nonprofit corporations
In order to create the corporation under state law, an Arizona nonprofit corporation must file articles of incorporation. These will contain the name, purpose, powers and directors of the corporation, as well as the statutory agent for the corporation. The articles will also state whether the corporation will have members. Nonprofit corporations are not required to have members; in the absence of members, the directors will govern the corporation. However, if there are members, the members will elect the directors and will vote on major corporate actions. The procedure for electing members, and the rights of such members, is often set forth in the articles, but can also be contained in the bylaws of the corporation.

The articles are signed by the incorporator of the organization and are filed with the Arizona Corporation Commission. The filing fee is $40 ($75 if expedited treatment is desired). The articles are accompanied by a certificate of disclosure, which must be signed by the incorporator and any individuals who are directors or officers at the time the articles are filed. The articles must then be published (within 60 days after the articles are filed) in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the corporation carries on its business for three consecutive publications.

Once incorporated, the organization must file annual reports with the Arizona Corporation Commission and the Charities Division of the Secretary of State. The filing fees for such reports are nominal.

IRS tax-exempt filing (Form 1023)
IRS Form 1023 requires fairly extensive information about the operation of the organization. The two most important sections are Part IV (narrative description of activities) and Part IX (financial data). The IRS will want to know, in some detail, what activities the organization will carry on. In order to qualify under section 501(c)(3), the organization must be operated “exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific … literary, or educational purposes.” The narrative description should go into some detail (at least a page) outlining the exempt purposes of the organization and why such purposes qualify under Section 501(c)(3). If possible, prior IRS rulings relating to similar organizations should be cited as evidence that the new organization qualifies as exempt.

In Part IX, assuming the organization in question is a new organization, Form 1023 asks for projected budgets for the current year, plus the next two years. These budgets require both income information Ñ expected contributions, investment income, operational income Ñ and expense information, such as outgoing grants, fundraising expenses, wages, rent, interest and professional fees. The organization should make a good-faith attempt to be as detailed and accurate as possible, even though it is understood that actual operations may diverge from the projections. The IRS is simply interested in understanding the scale of magnitude of the organization’s operations, as well as the relative allocation between internal administrative expenses, and expenses directly used to carry out the exempt purposes of the organization.

The filing fee is currently $750 (reduced to $300 if the organization expects its annual receipts to be under $10,000). The form should be filed within 27 months of its date of incorporation and, if approved by the IRS, will be retroactive to the date of incorporation. The IRS review time will vary substantially depending on the complexity and size of the organization. For a simple charity with no complications, IRS approval may only take six to eight weeks. However, if the organization has substantial activities or is expected to be involved in significant transactions with private parties, such as an organization focused on community development, it may take six to 12 months for IRS approval. If the IRS has any questions or concerns, it will contact the organization in writing while the application is pending and will normally give the organization 21 days to respond.

Once approved, the organization will be required to annually file Form 990 disclosing the income and expenses of the organization, the compensation paid to officers, directors and key employees, and other information. Form 990 does not normally require the payment of any tax, but is an information return for the IRS to monitor the activities of the organization. Form 990, and Form 1023, are publicly available documents and must be disclosed if someone contacts the organization requesting copies. Thus, organizations should keep such potential disclosure in mind when preparing the forms.

Conclusion
Forming a nonprofit and securing tax-exempt status is a little bit more involved than simply filing two pieces of paper with the state and with the IRS. Anyone working with a new nonprofit should also work with an accounting or legal professional that is familiar with the state and federal requirements pertaining to such organizations.

Michael G. Meissner is a partner at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey’s Cleveland office. He works with the firm’s Phoenix office on tax issues. Meissner can be reached at (216) 479-8593 or at mmeissner@ssd.com. The firm’s Phoenix office can be reached at (602) 528-4000.

Blood Systems Inc

Blood Systems Inc. Succeeds With A Delicate Balancing Act

When donating blood, many people probably only have a vague understanding of how the entire process works. Most donors certainly don’t understand how complex the mechanisms are that take blood to its final destination, or about the people who make it all happen.

“The general public does not understand what goes on behind the walls of a blood bank,” says Susan Barnes, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Blood Systems Inc. “I actually had someone say to me, ‘Oh, you’re the guys who take my blood, don’t give me anything for it and then sell it to the hospitals and make a fortune.’ I said, ‘There’s a lot in between that you don’t know.’ ”

Founded in 1943 as the Salt River Valley Blood Bank, the nonprofit Blood Systems is one of the nation’s oldest and largest blood service providers with operations in 18 states. Blood Systems is also a high-tech, efficiently run company entrusted with a life-or-death mission.

“We budget very carefully to return to the bottom line just enough to allow us to re-invest in our facilities, in processes that the FDA requires, and to keep things state-of-the-art so we can make sure we always provide the quality of blood product that the community expects,” Barnes says. “Not everyone understands that we can’t have a zero bottom line just because we’re a not-for-profit. It’s important to make money to re-invest, because if you don’t re-invest in the organization, you can’t continue the mission.”

Blood Systems mission is “to make a difference in people’s lives by bringing together the best people, inspiring individuals to donate blood, producing a safe and ample blood supply, advancing cutting-edge research and embracing continuous quality improvement.”

To keep such a noble mission in these trying times is a difficult balancing act, says Blood Systems President and CEO Dan Connor.

“In this particular environment that we have now with the economy, we see many companies laying off folks, so there are fewer people available to donate blood and that makes our job more difficult,” Connor says. “Our hospitals are less able to withstand any new tests or new procedures or new costs that we might have to pass along. As a result, we are trying to do that balancing act between doing everything we can to ensure an ample and safe blood supply, while also understanding the limitations that hospitals face as far as paying a reasonable cost for the blood products that are provided to their patients. That’s particularly difficult right now.”

Thanks to Barnes’ financial acumen, Blood Systems has built up a strong bottom line in its cash reserves.

“These reserves allow us to proceed with projects and expenditures, as well as still give our employees a cost-of-living increase in those years that we are not going to generate as much cash,” Barnes says. “There are also those years that we know our customers (hospitals) cannot afford to absorb our entire increased costs, and these reserves allow us to hold some of these new costs without our usual reimbursement.”

Perhaps Blood Systems greatest strength to its bottom line is its diversification, which has helped the company create new and needed revenue streams. That diversification is centered on four main divisions.

The Blood Centers Division is a network of more than a dozen regional blood centers and about 70 donor centers stretching from the West Coast to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Canadian border to the Rio Grande. The centers are operated through United Blood Services and Blood Centers of the Pacific, and serve patients in more than 500 hospitals. Last year, nearly 700,000 people donated blood an average of 1.5 times through the Blood Centers Division.

The Blood Systems Research Institute in San Francisco has conducted scientific research into transfusion medicine for more than 50 years, studying infectious diseases such as HIV and the West Nile virus. A second institute is located in Tempe.

Blood Systems Laboratories operates two of the most highly rated and high-volume blood-donor testing and infectious disease reference laboratories in the nation. The labs in Tempe and the Dallas area tested about three million donations in 2007, with two-thirds of the blood coming from other nonprofit blood centers.

BioCARE distributes plasma derivative therapies available to patients 24 hours a day, every day of the year at more than 200 locations across the country.

Blood Systems is also extending its reach internationally. For about the last four years, Connor says Blood Systems has sent the plasma portion of blood donations to the United Kingdom in order to help that country reduce the risk of transmitting the human form of Mad Cow disease.

But diversification alone hasn’t made Blood Systems a company that just recently received an upgraded ‘A’ stable credit rating from Standard & Poor’s at a time when many other companies are being downgraded. Blood Systems has instituted performance-improvement efficiency standards such as Six Sigma and LEAN tools, which have resulted in the reengineering of processes in the Blood Centers Division and Blood Systems Laboratories. That in turn has improved efficiencies and ushered in cost savings of more than $2.5 million throughout the organization in 2007 alone.

Blood Systems is also investing in its human capital by developing its own program to produce specialists in blood banking.

“We were having trouble finding qualified blood banking specialists to staff our laboratories,” Barnes says. “We partnered with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (at Dallas), and wrote the actual online modules to train the students and taught them through the University of Texas to become specialists in blood banking.”

Blood Systems graduated its first class of specialists in blood banking in 2007.

“It’s basically growing our own blood banking specialists,” Barnes says. “We have the opportunity to put our own staff through the course and allow them to earn the certification. This enhances their careers while staffing our laboratories with the most qualified specialists.”

Making such long-term investments in its employees’ futures has helped Blood Systems decrease turnover by more than2.5 percentage points from 2006 to 2007, with the average length of service now up to almost seven-and-a-half years. And then there’s the mission.

“When I interview a candidate for a job here at Blood Systems,” Barnes says, “one of the things I always make a point of telling them is it doesn’t matter whether you’re collecting blood from a donor, or volunteering to give the donor a cookie and juice afterward, working in our testing laboratory, or working in accounting and finance — everyone who walks in the door every morning understands and is proud of the fact that they’re helping to save a life that day.”