The CPA Desk

A Thought Leader Production by PKFTexas

Will Having an Advisory Board Benefit Your Not-For-Profit?

Your not-for-profit is likely governed by a core group of board members. But the addition of an informal advisory board can bring complementary — and valuable — skills and resources to this group.

Review representation
Look at your general board members’ demographics and collective profile. Does it lack representation from certain groups — particularly relative to the communities that your organization serves? A not-for-profit advisory board offers an opportunity to add diversity to your leadership. Also consider the skills current board members bring to the table. If your board lacks extensive fundraising or grant writing experience, for example, an advisory board can help fill gaps.

Adding advisory board members can also open the door to funding opportunities. If, for example, your not-for-profit is considering expanding its geographic presence, it makes sense to find an advisory board member from outside your current area. That person might be connected with business leaders and be able to introduce board members to appropriate people in his or her community.

Waive commitment
The advisory role is a great way to get people involved who can’t necessarily make the time commitment that a regular board position would require. The advisory role also may appeal to recently retired individuals or stay-at-home parents wanting to get involved with a not-for-profit on a limited basis.

This also can be an ideal way to “test out” potential board members. If a spot opens on your current board and some of your advisory board members are interested in making a bigger commitment, you’ll have a ready pool of informed individuals from which to choose.

Be candid
Advisory board members likely will be present at board meetings, so it’s important to explain to them the role they’ll play. Advisory board members aren’t involved in the governance of your organization and can’t introduce motions or vote on them.

How you use your advisory board members for your not-for-profit is up to you. Use them as much, or as little, as you need; just make sure they understand limits to their authority.

Mark these Tax Deadline Dates for the Rest of 2018

While April 15 (April 17 this year) is the main tax deadline on most individual taxpayers’ minds, there are others through the rest of the year that you also need to be aware of. To help you make sure you don’t miss any important 2018 deadlines, here’s a look at when some key tax-related forms, payments and other actions are due. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you.

June 15
• File a 2017 individual income tax return (Form 1040) or file for a four-month extension (Form 4868), and pay any tax and interest due, if you live outside the United States.
• Pay the second installment of 2018 estimated taxes, if not paying income tax through withholding (Form 1040-ES).

September 17
• Pay the third installment of 2018 estimated taxes, if not paying income tax through withholding (Form 1040-ES).

October 1
• If you’re the trustee of a trust or the executor of an estate, file an income tax return for the 2017 calendar year (Form 1041) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due, if an automatic five-and-a-half month extension was filed.

October 15
• File a 2017 income tax return (Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due, if an automatic six-month extension was filed (or if an automatic four-month extension was filed by a taxpayer living outside the United States).
• Make contributions for 2017 to certain retirement plans or establish a SEP for 2017, if an automatic six-month extension was filed.
• File a 2017 gift tax return (Form 709) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due, if an automatic six-month extension was filed.

December 31
• Make 2018 contributions to certain employer-sponsored retirement plans.
• Make 2018 annual exclusion gifts (up to $15,000 per recipient).
• Incur various expenses that potentially can be claimed as itemized deductions on your 2018 tax return. Examples include charitable donations, medical expenses and property tax payments.

But remember that some types of expenses that were deductible on 2017 returns won’t be deductible on 2018 returns under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, such as unreimbursed work-related expenses, certain professional fees, and investment expenses. In addition, some deductions will be subject to new limits. Finally, with the nearly doubled standard deduction, you may no longer benefit from itemizing deductions.

How Home Upgrade Can Improve Health and Energy Consumption

Russ: This is the PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook. I’m Russ Capper. This week’s guest host, and I’m coming to you from the Gulf Coast Regional Family Forum. I’m very pleased to have as my guest, Jason Ballard, co-founder and President of TreeHouse. Jason, welcome to the show.

Jason: Happy to be here.

Russ: Tell us about TreeHouse.

Jason: TreeHouse is a home upgrade company focused on helping homeowners make their homes better; whether it comes to design, the way the home looks and feels, or performance, the way it uses energy and creates comfort or the outdoor landscape. The real underlying mission of the company is around health and sustainability, both for people and the natural world.

Russ: How old is the company?

Jason: Seven years old.

Russ: So, if you look at that, you know, landscaping outside, or making the home sustainable, or energy, how would you divide those up as far as how much business you do in those categories?

Jason: It tends to be really evenly split across the company. We tend to do about half of our business around design. So, kitchen remodels, helping expecting parents repaint a nursery, these kinds of things. Then, about half of our business is performance related. So, whether it’s like, I’m a card carrying member of the Sierra Club and I want to put solar energy on my house, or my energy bills are killing me and I want to put solar energy on my house, or I just want to make and investment in my home and so I’m going to do some insulation and some smart home stuff. The business tends to be really diversified in that way, kind of half and half.

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Tips for Fostering Beneficial PR for Your Nonprofit

PR tips for nonprofits

For most nonprofit organizations, there’s no such thing as too much good publicity. If you’re struggling to get enough attention from media outlets, follow these tips:

1. Seize the day. Raise your nonprofit’s profile by putting out news releases regularly rather than just occasionally. A variety of events, such as the addition of a key staff member, an operational milestone, a new grant you’ve received or the kick-off of a fundraising campaign, can warrant a press release.

2. Target the right media. Go beyond simply sending out news releases and become familiar with potential media targets. Focus on outlets that are most likely to use your press releases — for example, local newspapers that have a section devoted to community news. Get to know assignment editors, their key sections and special features, target audiences, and publication and broadcast schedules. By taking the time, you can pinpoint the most suitable outlets for your news.

3. Time your news. When it comes to good publicity, timing can be everything. You might increase your odds of coverage by submitting requests at the start of a new publication cycle. Another tactic is to host an event or release an important announcement on a typically slow news day. For example, daily newspapers and local television stations may be particularly receptive to requests for coverage on Sundays.

4. Make it local. Providing a local angle on an issue of national importance will increase your appeal to the media. Whenever possible, offer an expert source from your organization who can talk knowledgeably about the local impact of a national story. By positioning yourself and your organization as an authority and noting trends and other interesting items, you can grab the attention of reporters and editors.

Getting your nonprofit in the news in a positive way broadens its exposure, enhances its credibility and enables you to spread the word about your mission to potential donors — all free of charge. It just takes a little strategic planning on your part.

Working with Joint Venture Agreements

Russ: The is the PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook. I’m Russ Capper, this week’s guest host, and I’m here with Kirsten Strieck, a shareholder and Director of Operations & Client Services at Joint Venture Strategic Advisors. Welcome to the Playbook, Kirsten.

Kirsten: Thank you, Russ.

Russ: You bet.  Tell us about Strategic Advisors.

Kirsten: We are a specialty joint venture consulting firm that provides any joint venture services to the energy industry, but also to other industries that have an agreement and partners. Continue Reading

Solar Energy – What’s Next?

Russ:  This is PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook, I’m Russ Capper, this week’s guest host, and I’m coming to you from the Gulf Coast Regional Family Forum.  And I’m with John Berger, Co-founder and CEO of Sunnova Energy Corporation; John welcome to the Playbook.

John:  Thank you Russ, nice to be here.

Russ:  You bet.  Tell us about Sunnova.

John:  Sunnova Energy is a residential solar and storage service company.  We operate from near Japan and Guam, Saipan all the way through California, Texas to Puerto Rico and all the way up far north as Massachusetts.  What we do through a network of locally owned businesses, dealers and contractors is they’ll go out and source customers on our behalf and sign them up to our service and then install our equipment per our specifications on the customers’ homes, and then we provide for those customers for 25+ years cheaper power, cleaner power obviously with solar onsite, and increasingly – and just recently – a better service with storage, with batteries.  Onsite they’re working with the solar system and then have more complex IT systems and such so in effect we’re creating wireless power.
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Cryptocurrency and Blockchain: Where is it Headed?

Russ:  This is PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook.  I’m Russ Capper, this week’s guest host, and I’m coming to you from the Gulf Coast Regional Family Forum and my guests Chris Dannen and Brandon Buchanan, Co-founders of Iterative Capital.  Chris, Brandon, welcome to the show.

Chris:  Thank you.

Brandon:  Thanks for having us.

Russ:  Tell us about Iterative Capital.

Chris:  So Iterative is a large-scale cryptocurrency miner, investment manager and private digital exchange.
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2018 Gulf Coast Regional Family Forum Overview

Russ:  This is PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook.  I’m Russ Capper, this week’s guest host, and I’m coming to you once again from the Gulf Coast Regional Family Forum and my guest is Del Walker, tax practice leader at PKF Texas and founding organizer of this forum.  Del welcome to the Playbook.

Del:  Russ always a pleasure, good to be here.

Russ:  Well this completes the third family forum.

Del:  Yep, this is the three-peat.

Russ:  My opinion is they just upgrade every year but my opinion isn’t nearly as important as yours; what’s your opinion?
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Accounting Rules for Leases

Jen:  This is the PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook.  I’m Jen Lemanski, this week’s guest host, and I’m here today with Chip Schweiger, an Audit Director and a member of the PKF Texas SEC team.  Chip welcome back to the Playbook.

Chip:  Thanks Jen, good to be here.

Jen:  So I’ve heard there’s new accounting rules for leases, tell me about that.
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Spring cleaning: Review your nonprofit’s programs — and possibly replace some

Has your not-for-profit’s program lineup remained unchanged for at least a couple of years? If so, consider using the tradition of spring cleaning to review your offerings. Some of your programs might be due for replacement.

Clear out the closets

Many nonprofits keep programs long after they’ve stopped working. Instead of relying on old assumptions about their effectiveness, perform new research. Start by surveying participants, members, donors, employees, volunteers and community leaders about which of your nonprofit’s programs are the most — and least — effective and why.

You may get mixed responses regarding the same program, so consider their source. Employees and volunteers who work directly with program participants are more likely to know if your current efforts are off target than is a donor who attends a fundraising event once a year.

Right tool for the job

If you don’t already have goals for each program, you need to set them. Also put in place an evaluation system with metrics that are strategic, realistic and timely. For example, a charity that provides tutoring to high school students in low-income neighborhoods might measure the program’s success by considering exam and class grades and graduation rates as well as the students’ and teachers’ feedback.

Apply several measures, including subjective ones, before deciding to cut or fund a program. Numerical data might suggest that a program isn’t worth the money spent on it, but those who benefit from the program may be so vocal about its success that eliminating it could harm your reputation.

Shiny and newer

It’s usually easier to identify obsolete programs than to decide on new ones. If one of your programs is clearly ineffective and another is wildly exceeding expectations, the decision to redeploy funds is simple.

Keep in mind that new programs can be variations of old ones, but they must better serve your basic mission, values and goals. Also, no matter how much good programs do, they can’t be successful if they overspend. For every new program, make a tight budget and stick to it. You might want to start small and, if your soft launch gets positive results, simply revise your budget.

It takes a team

Even if it’s clear to you and your staff which programs must go, some stakeholders may object to your proposals. Handle these individuals — particularly donors — with care. Let us know how we can help.