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A Time For Thanks

A Time For Thanks 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

At this special time of the year when our thoughts turn to giving thanks, it is appropriate to reflect on the many reasons Vincentians have to be grateful.

Perhaps the two most important are the ongoing guidance of Divine Providence, which has been wondrously at work on behalf of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul during the past 189 years, and the constant inspiration of the Holy Spirit evidenced so beautifully by the way Vincentians respond every day to the challenges we face in serving Christ’s beloved poor.

We are privileged to participate in the perpetual miracle of our Society:  Ordinary people doing extraordinary things which restore hope to those who have none and change their lives for the better.  Our countless benefactors, whose generosity makes it possible for us to help so many people in so many ways, deserve our gratitude as well.

On the most personal level, going to the essence of Vincentian spirituality, we should be thankful to those we serve for the blessings they bestow on us which transform our own lives.

Very importantly, we have each other, truly something to cherish.  Loving and supporting one another while helping the poor is an integral part of our mission.

Vincentians have been graced by God to be members of one family throughout the world living Blessed Frederic’s divinely inspired vision of a global network of charity and social justice.  We should thank God for our Vincentian vocation, a blessing of eternal value.

And, ultimately, how blessed we are with the gift of faith, and in that faith Christ’s greatest gift – the Eucharist.  How fitting it is that “eucharist” means “gratitude.”

(The series of excerpts from Vincentian Life: Council will resume next week.)

Governance — A Council’s Job One: Serve the Conferences

Governance — A Council’s Job One: Serve the Conferences 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Monitor Special Conditions
The following special conditions should be monitored regularly and addressed as necessary.

1. Conference President’s term of office is limited to two consecutive three year terms. After the two terms, the President must be out of office for at least three years before being elected once again. Technically, as soon as the six years expires, the President is no longer in office and the Conference operates under the leadership of the first Vice President until the election of a new President takes place. In the case of violation of this rule, the Council must ensure that an election is held to replace the outgoing President as soon as possible.

2. Each Conference is to have at least four officers: President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Each office must be held by a separate person. No one person may hold multiple officer positions. In addition, Statute 12 of Part III of the Rule indicates that a President may not appoint his/her spouse or other closely related individual to an officer position.

3. Service area comes into conflict often within the Society. The District Council should ensure that Conferences provide service only to those people living within the boundaries established for the Conference. These boundaries should be established as a formal agreement between the Conferences in the Council. In some cases, the boundaries will simply be the parish boundaries. In other cases the boundaries may be more extensive, as long as they are agreed upon by the Council. This way, people seeking service cannot simply go from Conference to Conference seeking help. The Conference covering the area where that person or family lives is the one that makes the decision as to help or not help.

Voice / Vote in the Council
Conferences should have a voice in every major decision. No Voice, no Vote, no Vincentian will be at the meeting or activity. It is important that every Conference is represented at the District Council and that the Conference President (or his/her designated representative) is there to speak for them.

Most Council bylaws have a clause that will remove a Conference President from Council membership/voice/vote if the President misses a certain number of meetings. This removal is a tragedy for the Council, the Conference and the people we serve.

Up-to-Date
Conferences should be aware of all conditions and circumstances both local and global that will impact them or the Council. Conferences should be especially aware of any major situation that threatens the well-being of the Council. Therefore, it is an obligation of the Council to keep the Conferences well-informed and in a timely manner.

The Council should strive to develop a fabric of communication. One that goes up and down the normal channels but also goes sideways from Conference to Conference and from Vincentian to Vincentian. A strong fabric of communication will strengthen the Council and avoid the problems of it relying on a few people to make it run. If those few leave the Council for any reason it can take weeks or months to learn all that needs to be known on how the Council operates. A fabric of communications creates an informal communications network that helps keep the members informed.

Help in Council Efforts
Conferences should be involved in a regular and frequent basis in the operation of the Council. This can be accomplished by involving them as Council Members, as volunteers, as committee members, on special projects, on fund raising, in special works, in general membership meetings, and in every other way that may be appropriate.

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance

Resolve to Focus on Good Governance 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

The arrival of a new fiscal year is a good time to remind ourselves that loving and supporting one another while serving the poor is an integral part of our Vincentian mission.

Our Conference meetings are where we help each other fulfill that mission of growing spiritually, developing friendships and having face-to-face encounters with those in need.  Meeting at least twice monthly as we should provides the opportunity to continually strengthen those supportive relationships.

Our Councils have a Board of Directors to guide our efforts and oversee our performance.  We challenge you to realize that even the best Councils and Conferences can be better and more effective.  Our Council Boards and our Conferences should always seek to foster and facilitate improvement.  Given the importance of good governance, perhaps this should be your primary resolution for this new year.

Why not start using your Council Board as a support group to review and update your policies and procedures and clean up your record-keeping?  Encourage your Conferences to do likewise.

Review your Bylaws. This is a document that spells out your mission, how you operate procedurally and the need for compliance with IRS requirements for nonprofit organizations. They are not meant to be inflexible when circumstances signal a need for revision.  Assess your programs to see if they remain relevant and are operating efficiently with the right priority. Take a good look at how your Special Works impact all Vincentians in all of your Conferences. Look at your succession planning.  It is of vital significance at all levels of our Society.  If your operating procedures, which are a key part of good governance, need changing, take advantage of the Governance Training DVD and program provided for you by our National Council.

Throughout the year we will address some of these important matters further in Frederic’s e-Gazette.  We urge you to read that information and resolve to enhance your effectiveness.  In so doing you will be heeding the exhortation of Blessed Frederic Ozanam to always seek to be better in our service to Christ’s beloved poor.

Governance — Good Stewardship

Governance — Good Stewardship 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

*Information provided by the National Governance Committee

What does stewardship look like in your life? Then think of this through the prism of a Vincentian lens which should have a spiritual and biblical foundation.

Then ask yourself what stewardship means to you, to members of the Society, and to your respective Councils and Conferences.

Certainly, as good stewards we need to give thanks for all the gifts we’ve received. This means thanks to God, thanks to our bishops and pastors for allowing us to serve within their dioceses and parishes, thanks to our volunteers and employees, and thanks to every person who has helped us by donating goods and money.

Good stewardship involves, among other things, accepting and acting on the following principles:

  1. The principle that everything we have is a gift from God who has given us the ability to serve others
  2. The principle of responsibility
  3. The principle of accountability.

Let’s examine these further:

First, stewardship includes recognition that it is God who created everything and through whose grace and blessing we have been given the ability to serve others and to receive the funds needed to do so effectively. It is God who has given us the graces we need to discern how best to help people.

With this comes the principle of responsibility to use the gifts bestowed on us wisely. This may mean helping other Conferences and upper Councils as well as those who come directly to us. We help those who come to us or who we have sought out and found because they are God’s children. We help other Conferences because we know the people coming to them also need help. We help upper Councils mainly, but not exclusively, through solidarity dues so they can animate and promote our Essential Elements of Spirituality, Friendship, and Service. Responsibility also means not hoarding funds but rather honoring donor intent that those in need be helped in whatever way is prudent and will alleviate material, spiritual and emotional need and anxiety, and that the help be delivered by men and women who are well formed in what it means to be a Vincentian.

The principle of accountability also needs to be considered when discussing stewardship. When we as Vincentians become stewards of resources and money given to us, we have an absolute responsibility to give an accounting to all of our stakeholders – they were discussed in recent articles. This includes filing annual reports which have information that is shared with bishops across the country and helps the National Council fulfill its obligation to account to the greater church.

In short, we all have an obligation to be faithful stewards of all God has bestowed upon us and to see that in the end we are serving the common good and furthering God’s Kingdom.

The Meaning Of Good Governance

The Meaning Of Good Governance 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Good governance. What does it mean anyway?

Governance means:

  • Responsible use of assets and funds.
  • Ensuring the group/organization is fulfilling its mission.
  • Openly communicating with others and listening to others at all levels of the organization.
  • Accurate recordkeeping for the benefit of the organization and those we serve.
  • Maintaining good legal standing through compliance with IRS section 501(c)(3) requirements.
  • Serving as a good role model: In the Vincentian world this also includes embracing servant leadership.

Governance does NOT mean:

  • The leader cannot share responsibilities.
  • Numbers are more important than people.
  • Opinions of others do not matter.
  • Turning the organization/group into something distant from its mission.

Basically, good governance means good leadership. It means taking good care of the Society; it means taking good care of those we serve. It means taking care of each other, encouraging the spiritual growth of all members and friendship among members, and person-to-person service. It means serving with integrity, accountability and in a trustworthy manner. Taking advantage of ongoing learning opportunities and identifying helpful collaborations can help Vincentian leaders govern and lead with great effectiveness and joy.

St. Vincent de Paul once said, “There is great charity — but it is badly organized.” Let us be inspired by St. Vincent’s good governance and leadership and allow the generosity of others to be put to good use.

Governance — Do People Trust You? Advice for Building Trust and Inspiring Confidence

Governance — Do People Trust You? Advice for Building Trust and Inspiring Confidence 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

By: John R. Stoker

One afternoon as I was passing through the airport on my way home, I ran into a colleague of mine, Stephen M. R. Covey, the author of the book, “The Speed of Trust.”  We stopped and exchanged a few pleasantries. I could tell that he needed to get through security, so I bid him safe travels.

As he was hurrying away, I yelled after him, “I know something faster than the speed of trust.” He yelled back, “What’s that?” I responded, “Distrust.” He laughed as he hurried away and responded, “You’re probably right.”

Think about it for a minute. Some people will trust you from the beginning of your relationship without having any experience with you.  Others won’t trust you no matter what you do; you really have to work to earn their trust. Still others begin their relationship with you in a neutral position. They will wait to see what you say and do before they trust you.

No matter where the trust in any relationship begins, what we know for sure is that it doesn’t take much negative behavior to diminish the trust that people have in you.

Here are a few tips to help you assess your trustworthiness and to increase the confidence people have in you.

Do you walk the talk?

There is probably nothing that erodes trust quicker than saying one thing and then doing another. The first time this happens, people will take a closer look at your behavior. But if it happens repeatedly, people will come to distrust you and not believe anything that you say. You will appear as if you just say what you think people want to hear. This seeming lack of credibility will cause people to question your intentions and can cause lasting damage to your relationships.

What to do? Stop and think about what you are about to say, or what purpose your message needs to convey, and then say what you truly mean. Being deliberate and intentional about your message will increase alignment between your message and your behavior.

Do you keep your commitments?

This is closely associated with the previous question. Sometimes we make commitments and things change. When this happens, it is important to acknowledge your commitment and make necessary adjustments. If you let another commitment take priority over a previous commitment and don’t manage that dynamic, then people will learn to not take you seriously and may not keep their commitments to you.

What to do? Keep a calendar of your commitments and manage them. If something changes, then be sure to communicate those changes and make new arrangements as soon as you can. Don’t blow people off or forget to keep your commitments. Using some kind of planning or calendaring software will help you to keep your commitments while strengthening the trust that others give you.

Is your behavior consistent?

If you have wild mood swings and are unpredictable, your erratic behavior will lead people to distrust you. In one of my first corporate positions, I had a manager who had broad swings in behavior and mood. You never knew if your performance would be celebrated or trashed in front of others. The first person to arrive in the morning would test the waters and then alert everyone at the coffee machine if we could engage with our manager or should make ourselves scarce that day. Consequently, few people felt that they could fully trust him.

What to do? Notice if people approach you and ask for your input or support on their work. If you are not approached by others, perhaps you could find a respected colleague and ask for feedback about how you come across. If someone will be honest with you, listen to what they have to say. Ask for examples and thank them when they finish. If you find that people are unsure about how to approach you, strategize some ways to manage your behavior and mood so it is more predictable and consistent.

Do you misrepresent the truth?

This happens more frequently than people would like to admit. People are often afraid to speak up and tell it like it is, fearing the perceived negative consequences that could occur. This perception will have a negative impact on behavior. When people don’t keep their commitments or meet expectations of performance, then they feel forced to cover their mistakes to justify their behavior. This leads others to avoid interacting with those individuals and to distrust the stories they offer as excuses for their behavior.

What to do? If you find yourself misrepresenting or exaggerating situations, then you are at risk to not be taken seriously and are setting yourself up to be distrusted. Stretching the truth and making excuses can become a habitual response. If this is often your first reaction, recognizing your tendency to do it, determining your motivation behind this response and correcting it will go a long way toward building trust.

Do you withhold information from others?

This is usually a power play of sorts where people make themselves the gatekeeper of what others need to know to do their work. Such behavior leads to frustration on the part of others and also can lead to people not sharing information that you may need. Withholding information also leads people to figure out how to work around you so they have as little interaction as possible.

Sometimes, for legal reasons, you may not be able to tell others what you know. When this is the case and others press you for information, you simply need to tell people that you can’t tell them about a certain situation because of legal ramifications to you and your company.

What to do? Ask people what information they need and, specifically, identify deadlines. Look to offer support and address others’ needs and concerns to increase the success of those that rely on you in some way. When people ask you for information that you can’t share, simply manage the situation and tell them that. They will understand.

Do you gossip about others?

Nothing will erode trust quicker than talking about others behind their back. Unfortunately, people often talk about others rather than to others. When you gossip, your behavior tells your listener that if you would talk about someone else, then you would also talk about them.  Although they may listen to you and engage in the gossip, they won’t trust you. This kind of behavior ruins relationships, destroys company culture and creates emotional drama that everyone would rather avoid.

What to do? Stop it. If you have an issue with someone, talk to the person you need to talk to and avoid the rumor mill that puts people on negative alert but never solves the problem. Otherwise you will just get more of the same – poor results and no trust.

Do you throw others under the bus?

This behavior usually takes place when someone is trying to avoid responsibility or accountability for the results that were created.  Sometimes, when others have not kept their commitments to you, their behavior has a direct negative effect on your results. When this is the case, ask yourself, “Did I manage the situation in such a way that kept them from being successful? Did I do my part to help them to be successful and to achieve the desired results?” Sometimes we become so busy and have so many things to do that we fail to manage a person or a situation in an optimal fashion.

What to do? Be responsible and take accountability for managing others, facilitating activities that will produce the desired results. When things don’t go as planned, examine your part in the process and accept ownership. Doing so will go a long way to creating and strengthening trust.

Do you keep confidences?

Someone once told me that there is no such thing as a secret until the person you told it to is dead. If someone shares something sensitive and important with you in confidence, unless there is a specific and legal reason not to, you should keep those things confidential. If you are going to share something important with another person, you should assume that sometime or somewhere what you share will be shared with someone else.

Are you supportive of others?

Nothing increases trust like being sincerely interested in and supportive of others and their efforts. If you are a leader and you frequently ask people what they need from you and how you can help and support them, they will feel the satisfaction that comes in knowing someone cares about them and their success. That care and concern will translate into increased trust.

What to do? Check in frequently and offer support. This will afford you the opportunity to get to know them, how they are doing and what you can help them with. Making interpersonal connections such as these will improve their work and their performance.

Our interactions with others serve either to build trust within our relationships or call it into question. Recognize that what you do and say is the first step in building and strengthening trust. As you consciously work to increase others’ confidence in you, your interactions will improve and you will achieve greater results. And, you’ll never have to worry about the speed of distrust.

Connect with John R. Stoker on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

Governance — How To Avoid Confusion With Clear Communication

Governance — How To Avoid Confusion With Clear Communication 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

By: Michael S. Hyatt

Under-communication is a consistent problem in nearly every business. You can solve that by taking ownership of the communication happening around you.

I’ve worked with more than my share of poor communicators over the years. One was a boss who rarely shared information and never in a timely way. My office happened to be in a different building than his, so getting to our weekly one-on-one meeting took a little effort. Each week, I prepared a status report on my major projects, developed a list of answers I needed to make progress, and drove to the office in time for the meeting.

I can’t tell you how many times I was greeted by his assistant with a pained expression. “I’m so sorry,” she’d say. “He had to step out.” Not only did he cancel most of our meetings, but he did so without notice.

When we did meet, he provided little or no clarity. And he dodged most of my questions with “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” It was maddening!

Most under-communication is inadvertent. People are simply unaware of the gap between what’s in their mind and what’s in yours, and you suffer from that same lack of awareness. In fact, a team of researchers writing in the Journal of Political Economy labeled this phenomenon “the curse of knowledge.” It means that when you know something, it’s very hard to remember that other people don’t.

Fortunately, the solution is remarkably simple. All you have to do is step up and take responsibility for all the communication that comes from you or to you. Here’s how:

Determine To Be The Solution
Most of us are not fully aware of our own part in the communication quagmire. We may expect others to do all the work of conveying information. The first step in communicating clearly is to determine to be the solution, not the problem. Are you ready to champion clear communication in your workplace?

Externalize Your Thinking
The curse of knowledge affects everyone, including you. As a result, we don’t communicate or don’t communicate enough. Be aware of the gap between your understanding and that of your team. Stop assuming that people know what’s important or what needs to be done. Get your thoughts out of your head where others can read or hear them.

Push For Clarity
Before you compose your message (or say it out loud), ask yourself, “How can I set the other person up for success?” Before you hit send, reread the communication to be sure it’s clear. Would you know exactly what you meant? Clarity is vital for communication. Sometimes that will mean pushing others for clarity. Remember, they also suffer from the curse of knowledge and may have a tendency to omit information or use ambiguous language. Gently ask them to make their meaning clear.

Confirm Understanding
Communication hasn’t really happened until the other person not only receives your words but also understands them. You can request a “read receipt” when you send a message, but you also need to get an “understand receipt.” You can do that with questions like “Is anything unclear about that?” or “What do you understand based on what I’ve said?”

Over-Communicate
Actually, you can’t over-communicate. Or at least it is pretty hard to do. People are busy and distracted. They forget things they should remember – things they want to remember. Communication is not a one-and-done event. Communicate again. And again.

What would it be like to come to work in a place where you never had to go on a deep dive for the information you need to do your job? How would it change the culture of your office if everyone was clear, direct and intentional in their communication? Why not take responsibility for making that happen and find out?

 

Governance: Owners and Stakeholders — Part Two

Governance: Owners and Stakeholders — Part Two 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

Last week we discussed five groups of people who should be considered stakeholders in what we do as Vincentians. Here are five additional groups:

  • Collaborative Nonprofit Organizations
  • Governmental Entities
  • The Community At Large
  • The Local Bishop (in the case of all Catholic organizations)
  • Pastors and Clergy (in the case of any Catholic organization supported by a parish)

Other nonprofit organizations are stakeholders. We all share a com­mon goal to some degree. All nonprofits influence other nonprofit or­ganizations in their community. Especially important are those nonprofits that we partner with. If the Society does something to dam­age its reputation, then those that collaborate with it also may suffer collateral damage.

Every nonprofit needs other nonprofits to accomplish larger projects. With diversity of missions nonprofits can share the overall needs of those served by sharing our strengths with each other. For example, a person may need shelter that is provided by another nonprofit while the same person also needs clothing or food that is available from our Society.

The city, county, state, and federal govern­ments are additional stakeholders. Nonprofits and their volunteers are significant contributors to the support of the responsibilities of all these governmental entities. If federal and state governments did not allow donations to nonprofits to be tax-deductible, much of our work would be impossible to fund. If nonprofit organizations did not exist, it would be left up to the gov­erning bodies to provide necessary services to the public. Government agencies are very interested in what is done, how it is done, and the level of effectiveness and efficiency with which it is accomplished. They are also responsible to ensure that all laws are followed and that services provided do no harm to those who are served.

The entire community is a stakeholder. It has an interest in how those in need are served. The overall community and its image are improved when the disadvantaged are taken care of. The community is then thought of as a better place to live, raise children and experience a better quality of life. Where the care of those in need is provided by nonprof­its, the taxes necessary for broader social services are lessened.

Residents of the community often consider themselves “owners” of our Society. Because the people of the community see our work, some become donors, some volunteer and some know of someone who was served. Most agree with our work and readily identify with what we do even though they may not be directly involved. They may simply know that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is in their community and helping the poor. That knowledge is im­portant to them.

The finances of the nonprofit corporation are also more important to a wider community than the finances of a for-profit. Everyone who contributes in some way, who receives services, or who simply knows about its work consider themselves an owner or stakeholder. There is a perceived level of stewardship by the community. They expect the nonprofit to be run efficiently and that the money donated or granted to it goes toward intended programs. In fact, many people believe that nonprofit organizations should have plain, inexpensive offices and equipment. To them it is an indication that most of the donations are given to the poor and not to the people running the nonprofit. The people of the community will not tolerate what they consider to be excessive salaries.  In their eyes a nonprofit employee is really a dedicated volunteer and does the work because of a love of the mission and not for a well-paid job. For many employees that is a reality.

In our Society we recognize the need to maximize the amount of our donations that goes directly to those in need. But that maximization cannot come at the expense of our employees who deserve adequate wages. The Society’s Voice of the Poor Committee has developed a policy about a just wage for our employees. That policy has been approved by the National Council Members.

In the case of Catholic organizations, the local Bishop is responsible for all activities related to the Church in his Diocese. Because our Society is in the Diocese at the pleasure of the Bishop, he is a stakeholder. He allows us to be in the parishes because of our close relationship to the Church and the work we do for Christ’s poor. Because the way we operate directly reflects on the Diocese in the eyes of the community, and because our Society also contributes to the spiritual growth of its members and evangelizes by its members’ actions, the Bishop has great interest in what we do. He knows that we assist in fulfilling the Church’s preferential option for the poor. This vital relationship requires regular and close attention. Keeping your Bishop informed about the activities and achievements of your Council should be a high priority.

Pastors and Clergy are stakeholders for reasons similar to those of the Bishop. Our presence in the parish helps the pastor and other clergy serve the poor and relieves the parish burden of responding to the needs of people coming to the Church for assistance. Always keep in mind that St. Vincent de Paul serves in the parish with the pastor’s permission.

(The source of this article is Governance: Council and Board, the original version of which was authored by former National Vice President Terry Wilson.)

 

Governance: Owners and Stakeholders — Part One

Governance: Owners and Stakeholders — Part One 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

The source of this article is Governance:  Council and Board, the original version of which was authored by former National Vice President Terry Wilson.

Have you ever considered the audiences you have as a Vincentian and especially as a Vincentian leader? Whether you are a Conference or Council President, a member of a Board of Directors, serve on a Committee, or are an active or associate member of a Conference there are a number of people to whom you are accountable, are your audience, or have a stake in what you do and how you do it. We call these people “stakeholders.”

In for-profit companies the finances are mainly of interest to those who own the corporation or those interested in becoming owners. Nonprofit corporations, however, have many “owners,” also known as stakeholders. This week we’ll discuss five of these groups and in the next issue an additional five.

  • Members
  • Those They Serve
  • Donors
  • Volunteers
  • Employees

Let’s talk about these one at a time:

Members are stakeholders. In the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, most Vincentians consider their work to be a vocation. They believe in the mission and have invested heavily with their time, talent, and resources to help achieve it. More than that, it is often their very way of life.

The needs of those served make them stakeholders. For example, our Society’s mission is carried out by supplying people in need with serv­ices and goods they require to live a decent life. In many cases our help is the difference between the abject poverty of living on the street or the peace of having a place of their own in which to live.

Our Society’s work goes beyond food, shelter, clothes, furniture, etc. When life circumstances such as illness, job loss, or poor decisions fall heavily on a person or family, Vincentians can bring hope, share our spirituality, and provide at least for basic needs.

Donors make our work possible. They want to be sure their dona­tions are used to achieve the greatest amount of benefits for the program to which they contributed. Even though they know it is not possible, they would like every dollar they give to go directly to those in need.

Donors give of their time and money because they believe in what we do and how we do it. They want to find a way to give to the poor or make a difference in someone’s life. Our Society and the way we oper­ate gives them confidence that their support will achieve their desires to help those in need.

Volunteers are closely aligned with any nonprofit, especially ours. They desire to contribute to those in need and to give back to the community for their own good fortune. They see the Society as a well-run organiza­tion that knows how to reach those in need and assist them. It is not uncommon that a volunteer will eventually become a member.

Employees work for any corporation or business to provide for their own needs.  In our Society they become our partners in our mis­sion. More than that, they become believers in our work and who we are. We expect them to present themselves to those we serve and the public in the same way a member does. They are often so involved that you find it hard to separate them from our Vincentian members.

They are true stakeholders because they both support and foster the mission and because they need to earn a living. Some may even be will­ing to continue to work for less than they can earn elsewhere. The Soci­ety has a responsibility to pay a living wage and provide necessary benefits. All members of the Society must ask: How can we live out our mission to help others if our own employees are underpaid?

(The source of this article is Governance:  Council and Board, the original version of which was authored by former National Vice President Terry Wilson.)

Governance: Annual Review — Part Two

Governance: Annual Review — Part Two 1200 628 Michelle Boyer

*(Excerpted from Vincentian Life: Conference)

IRS Form 990

The IRS requires all nonprofits to submit a Form 990 describing their financials and works at the end of their fiscal year. The IRS gives our Councils and Conferences until February 15 of the following year to submit this report. However, not all Conferences are required to submit it.

Only those Conferences that have their own EIN need to submit this report. For all Conferences that have been allowed to use their Council’s EIN, the Council (District or Diocesan) will submit a consolidated 990 to the IRS which includes the Conference information. (Additional information about submitting Form 990 tax returns appears at the end of this article.)

Guidelines

The Conference guidelines for service should be reviewed each year during October and/or November to ensure that they reflect current conditions. This is the time that changes in the guidelines should be considered. However, the guidelines are the work of the Conference members and they may change them at any time. There is nothing magic about this time of year. A regular review is good practice.

Audit

This is the time of year recommended for all Conferences to have an annual audit. This is an informal audit and may be done by two or three members of the Conference, but not by those responsible for accounting or disbursing funds. The purpose of the audit is not to find fault. Its purpose is to assure the members of the Conference that all proper procedures are being followed and all the funds of the Conference have been reconciled on a regular basis. It is recommended that an audit take place when a new President takes office.

The National Council website has a sample audit procedure on the Growth & Revitalization page under Conference Officer Training.

Recordkeeping

In the Manual of the Society, there is a list of the various types of documents and records that the Conferences typically deal with. Some are kept permanently. Some are kept for seven years and then destroyed. Some are kept for three years and then destroyed. Some are kept for one year.

The beginning of the fiscal year is the time for the Secretary and Treasurer to review their records and do what is appropriate with each type of document.

Summary

The beginning of the fiscal year is a time to ensure that everything related to last year has been properly reviewed and reported. It is also time for records to be properly stored. This is a time when Conference members should have every assurance that they are moving into the new fiscal year in good form.

Form 990 Tax Returns

Tax-exempt organizations, such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which operate with a 501(c)(3) status are obligated to report their activities to the Internal Revenue Service on an annual basis. This reporting is done on a Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. The form is intended to give the government and public a picture of the organization’s activities each year. Some donors rely on Form 990 as their primary or sole source of information about a particular organization when selecting charities to support.

Form 990 includes information about the organization’s finances, governance, and compliance with certain federal tax filings and requirements, as well as compensation paid to the highest-earning employees. Additional schedules may be required depending upon the entity.

Generally, subsidiary Conferences that are using the Council’s EIN can rely upon the Council to submit a Form 990 to the IRS if they provide their information to the Council. A Conference whose tax exemption is covered under a Council’s group ruling must annually submit a Form 990 for their individual EIN. The Form 990 is due on the 15th day of the 5th month following the end of the organization’s taxable year. Most Councils end their fiscal year on September 30. These Councils should file their tax return by February 15.

There are two alternate versions of Form 990:

  • Some Councils may be eligible to complete a simplified Form 990-EZ, Short Form Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax. Criteria include gross receipts of less than $200,000 and total assets less than $500,000 at the end of the tax year. The short form is also open to public inspection.
  • Form 990-N, Electronic Notice (e-Postcard) for Tax-Exempt Organizations Not Required to File Form 990 or Form 990-EZ, applies to small tax-exempt organizations with annual gross receipts of $50,000 or less. Councils and Conferences that are included in a group return may not use this form. Furthermore, it is important to note that the 990-N must be completed and filed electronically. There is no paper form.

Conference and Councils are encouraged to seek professional advice by hiring an accounting firm or Certified Public Accountant familiar with nonprofit taxes to review the organization’s finances in order to produce audited financial statements and the Form 990 tax return.  Accounting firms will typically complete Form 990 on behalf of the organization, ask leadership to review the documents and file on your behalf.

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