Aug. 21, 2010 - 2011: The Opportunity
Next year in 2011, an event will occur which will change the way the internet looks: ICANN, the international domain registry, will open up the registry for top level domains (TLDs). Right now, over 150 million domain names use the ‘.com’ TLD, but ICANN’s actions next year will make it possible for a whole new wave of top level domains—domains based on products such as ‘.IBM’ or generic groupings.
The process has been slow: During the 32nd International Public ICANN Meeting in Paris in 2008, ICANN started a new process of TLD naming policy to take a "significant step forward on the introduction of new generic top-level domains." ICANN envisions the availability of many new or already proposed domains, as well a new application and implementation process. Observers believe that the new rules will result in hundreds of new general TLDs being registered with ICANN approved organizations.
What this means is that for each new TLD that ICANN approves in 2011, new names can be adopted and registered. It’s a unique opportunity to adopt and maintain an internet marketing brand. I am personally supportive of the MLS Domains Association a group of US MLS organizations which has formed in order to make application to ICANN for the top level domain ‘.MLS’. As the association embarks on its membership drive in anticipation of the 2011 ICANN event, it has already begun the process of taking top level domain name reservations--over 120 have been approved by the MLS Domains Association.
As you can see by browsing the list of reserved names, many MLS organizations have given much thought to their selection. And that’s important: your domain name is the single most important investment in your web presence in the eyes of your members, and of the public at large.Here are some thoughts as you select your MLS Domain names:
1. First, adopt a domain name that reflects your location or business and try to make your site name and your url (address) the same. For instance, ‘ChicagoOpenHouses.mls’ is very clear about where it is, and the business featured there. Good domain names must be memorable.
2. Remember that some sites don’t even have a geographic reference—people just remember them: Yahoo, Google, Amazon, DogPile are examples. If you can’t find a domain name that suits your business, perhaps a word that conveys a feeling or quality will work, as in the previous examples.
3. Don’t expect consumers to memorize a bunch of letters which make no sense: they won’t do it. Even though your current organization name like ‘consolidated metropolitan regional residential mls’ has been shortened to CMRRMLS, most folks (including your own members) won’t find that series of letters anything they can remember after they log out.
4. Keep your domain name reasonably short and easy to type. Longer is NOT better, and hyphenated words are a pain in the neck. Practice saying the name aloud, too, and remember that you will probably have to spell it for people in the course of doing business. If you have to say “ThenospaceRecord-hypen-Eagle-dot-com” too many times, you may come to regret the excess.
5. Avoid site names to which you’ve added ‘the’, ‘my’, or a plural form to distinguish your site name that already exists (like ‘NYCopenhouses’ becomes ‘TheNYCopenhouses’. The confusion is obvious. Also, if you must use an article like ‘the’ in your name, make sure you always advertise your site name accurately: don’t leave out any words.
6. Remember that your domain name automatically becomes your brand-name, whether you intend it or not. It will forever after affect how your organization is perceived. Find domain names that also describe the purpose of the site and be creative about it. In organized real estate we are accustomed to NAR’s rather strict naming policies, but those policies don’t apply with internet domain names which are primarily marketing tools. You might get started with some helpful sites, like nameboy.com or domainfellow.com—both sites will let you play with work combinations and think about some creative alternatives.
If you’re an MLS with or without an online property search site, you’ll want to carefully consider investing in your online presence. And if you’ve inherited a domain name which is undistinguished and flat, and contributes little to your overall marketing plan, now’s the time to re-invent yourself.Further information is available at www.mlsdomains.org.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
List of Organizations At Risk of Automatic Revocation of Tax-Exempt Status
Tax-exempt organizations that do not satisfy annual filing requirements for three consecutive years automatically lose their tax-exempt status. The IRS is providing one-time relief for such organizations that have filing due dates on or after May 17 and before October 15, 2010. The list includes organizations for which the IRS does not have a record of a required annual filing for 2007 and 2008, and whose 2009 return, due on or after May 17 and before October 15, 2010, has not yet been received.
The list, which was generated on June 30, 2010, includes only organizations with an annual filing requirement. Certain exempt organizations are exempt from this requirement. See Annual Exempt Organization Return: Who Must File
The list may be incomplete, as certain organizations may be at risk of automatic revocation even if their names do not appear on these lists:
- Subordinates in group rulings for which the parent has not filed a required group return;
- Very small section 501(c)(3) public charities not required to file an application for exemption;
- Other section 501(c) organizations not required to file an application for exemption.
These organizations should check their records and determine whether they are at risk of automatic revocation because they have not satisfied annual filing requirements.
In addition, the list may include organizations that were required to file Form 990 or Form 990-PF. These organizations are not eligible to take advantage of this one-time IRS filing relief to bring them into compliance.
Note: Donors to section 501(c)(3) organizations may rely on the organization’s determination letter or listing in Publication 78 to deduct contributions until the IRS publishes notice on IRS.gov that the organization’s 501(c)(3) exempt status has been automatically revoked.
The chart below categorizes at-risk organizations by state. For each state, lists are provided in alphabetical order by organizations' names, in Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Excel formats. How you use the list depends on the format chosen.
Acrobat Excel Clicking on link will open the file. Clicking on link will give option to save or open the file. File may be saved. File may be searched by fields. Use software's search feature to locate organization by name, employer identification number, address, city, state, or zip code. If downloaded, data may be sorted by each data field.
Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming All Others (including international)
Click here to download a combined list of these organizations (ASCII delimited text format - 12.8 MB compressed).
- Filing relief for small organizations - home
- What to do if you think IRS records are in error
- Frequently asked questions(FAQs)
Filing relief program - detailed overview
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: July 28, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
6 Social Media Lessons for Nonprofits
It’s a great pleasure to welcome special guest Carol Buckheit of NonprofitMediaWorks.com to the Wild Apricot Blog today. Carol’s been studying Idealware’s Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide – the latest in a line of Idealware’s terrific research-based publications – and she’s kindly agreed to share her top “take-aways” from this new publication:
6 Maine Lessons from the new Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide
I admit it: I’m an unabashed fan of Idealware, that energetic little nonprofit in Portland, Maine that produces terrific Consumer Reports-like reviews of nonprofit software from events management to blogs. Laura Quinn, Idealware’s Executive Director, is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to software for nonprofits out there trying to stretch a dollar. (I’ve taken at least six of her webinars.)
A few months back I ordered my copy of Idealware’s Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits and I swear I didn’t leave my couch for two days. It was a thoroughly engrossing read for a geek like me.
[Full disclosure: I’m an unabashed fan of all things Maine—blueberries, lobster, outlet shopping, flannel….But I digress.]
So, Idealware released their Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide last Friday, and yet again I was a weekend couch potato. The guide is unique in that laborious research informed the findings and recommendations—research that spanned 6 months and encompassed surveys, focus groups, and case studies of hundreds of nonprofit staff.
Laura Quinn and Andrea Berry co-authored the document and it’s downloadable from the Idealware website. The Guide also offers handy worksheets so folks can craft their own social media strategic plan.
Some of the findings were intuitive and expected; other findings answered some real questions I had often wondered, yet could only answer anecdotally.
Here we go with my top 6 top (research-based!) take-home lessons for nonprofit organizations from this superb guide:
- Twitter is very useful as a tool to get your message in the media, since many reporters and media professionals use Twitter. Lesson: make sure you are following your local media folks (radio, TV, influential bloggers, print) on Twitter. If/when they follow you back, you have a direct line to the folks who can broadcast your public education messages broadly.
- You could be losing potential volunteers who look for a Facebook page for your organization and don’t find one. A hefty percentage of Facebook users who responded to the Idealware survey—38%--said they would “definitely” or “probably” look for a Facebook page for an organization with which they were considering volunteering. Quinn and Berry conclude, “It’s worth creating a [Facebook] page simply to ensure that people looking for you can find you.”
- A Facebook page with a lot of fans seems considerably more effective than just having a page at all. Interestingly, “31% of people who said they don’t care if you’re using Facebook say they might be moved to volunteer if you have a lot of fans—and 12% of that group say they would be concerned if you didn’t,” said the report.
- To optimize success, plan on spending 5 hours per week on social media. Idealware reported that “tangible, substantive results” were reported by 75 nonprofit organizations who each devoted about 5 hours per week to their social media efforts; on average, they were using 2-3 channels apiece.
- Blogging was surprisingly underwhelming in its return on investment. However, blogs were useful to nonprofit organizations in a few keys areas, according to Idealware: 1) publicizing your expertise, 2) promoting your cause or educating people, 3) telling stories about your day-to-day work, 4) engaging folks in your decisions or work, 5) promoting your website and online information.
- “Use the social media channels that best fit your needs and resources in a way that helps you fulfill your mission.” Wise words from Quinn & Berry. No matter what everyone else is doing with social media, if your social media channels are not helping you reach your organization’s goals, then toss them. You have limited resources—use them wisely.
Carol Buckheit is the President of Nonprofit MediaWorks, helping Connecticut nonprofits advance social change through creative, cutting-edge, strategic communications. (You can find her on Twitter at @NonprofitMediaW.)
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Aug. 1, 2010 - "She's got BIG plans," said the Association Exec
I had a call yesterday from the AE of an 1100 member association where I’d recently facilitated a strategic planning session. “I don’t get it,” she said. “We spent a lot of our resources on designing a strategic plan, and we voted on it, and we approved it, and I’ve got the strategies scheduled out over the next year, and—suddenly, THIS!” The “THIS” was the incoming president, an energetic and professionally successful young woman with a personal agenda. Turns out Patty Prez-Elect has a six year-old daughter who is hearing-impaired, and Patty wants the theme for ‘her year’ to center on raising money and awareness for the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).
“She’s got BIG plans,” said the AE. “A fundraising marathon, a community free clinic, and a poster campaign for school kids. She wants to do these things next year, which is the year we had planned to begin our campaign to renovate the association building and surpass our RPAC goals. I have a staff of three, and a budget deficit. How are we going to complete her agenda too?”
All associations have the potential of being victimized by the personal agendas of the current leadership, of course—and much of what we do with our governance structure is designed to help the organization keep its eyes on the goal and its resources focused on the mission of the group. That’s why we have a president-elect system, a mid-year budget, and a strategic plan which encompasses more than one year.
And of course there are management techniques to keep long-term goals flashing in everyone’s line of vision like yellow caution signs on a slippery road: put the mission statement on every meeting agenda, always have a strategy item on the directors’ agenda, give regular updates to the members on the progress of the plan—you know the drill.
But how do you forestall an ambitious Patty Prez-Elect in the first place? She’s good hearted, enthusiastic, and means well. Her heart is in the right place, and she’s a charismatic leader. Her cause is laudable. How do we say ‘no’?
We’ve all faced this as AEs, no matter what the size of our organization. In every community the public sees us as the largest association in town and as a public resource: we have many bodies, lots of them work ‘part time’, and our members want to make contacts—right? So why can’t they collect money for the United Way, or raise sell tickets to the community college barbeque, or set up a box for food pantry donations in each brokerage office? As staff and as leaders we turn away requests like these on a weekly basis, it seems.
The answer lies in the long term, consistent positioning of the association in the minds of the public AND the members?
First of all, begin with the organization’s mission statement. It probably says something about providing professional services for members as your primary goal. When requests come in (and they will, with regularity), measure them against this mission. Use the strategy screen I suggested in an earlier blog, or just rate these requests on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of their relevance to your association’s stated reason for being.
Remember, too, that the Realtor group is a professional trade association—it may be tax-exempt but it is not a ‘non-profit’ in the publicly accepted sense of the word, like the American Cancer Society or some such. The specific cause-related interests are better served by organizations that do this work—churches, service organizations, and others.
Secondly, develop a community service policy statement and ask the board of directors to approve it. Then, make sure it’s a part of your organization’s operating policies. Spend a directors’ meeting developing a mini-strategic plan for your community service activities and reaching a consensus on answers to the following questions: What are your association’s goals in adopting community service projects? What percentage of the operating budget will you spend on such activities? Are there other requirements that future decision-makers should consider when adopting a community project? (One major one that comes to mind is that the project might be housing-related. This requirement gives continuity and direction to your public image and your expenditures, and precludes many irrelevant requests).
Also, consider forming partnerships with other organizations engaged in the same project you are considering: Habitat for Humanity, and Affordable Housing Commission, a homeless shelter –you will be able to leverage your investment by sharing the spotlight and the workload.
And finally, always prepare a business plan, no matter how immediate the need or appealing the project. Association leaders should be fully informed about the commitment they are making: how many volunteer hours? Staff resources? Dollars? Other overhead costs? Only with complete knowledge can they make an informed and responsible decision about the allocation of the group resources.
The goal of this planning effort is to avoid being victimized by the enthusiasm of the moment, whether it comes from a member request or is the result of a public need. People will understand that your group supports housing-related projects, or has spent its available community resources budget, or is encouraging direct support of a partner agency. And your organization and its resources will be protected by a consistent, clearly articulated and thoughtful approach to association public service and charitable giving.
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