May 24th Call for Community Solutions: Lawyers for Nonprofits

by | May 24, 2021 | Past Events | 0 comments

“We now find ourselves in this unique space in time where we really have to explore what our world needs from us and what are we willing to give to this world.”

Fred Brown, President and CEO of The Forbes Funds

The Forbes Funds was joined today by special guest Jeffery Fromknecht, Co-Founder and Managing Attorney for Lawyers for Nonprofits. It is a virtual legal office that provides general legal counsel and support to nonprofits. A recording of this call can be accessed at this link.

In this informative talk, Jeffery Fromknecht began by talking about his background in social work. Especially in community organizations. This abiding interest in community organizing and the ideas around asset-based community development (ABCD) or seeing local institutions as assets for community development and mobilization guided Jeffery in assisting nonprofits in their social missions. So how?

Jeffery emphasized that his organization wants to help nonprofits build a strong legal foundation for nonprofits where donors can trust it and be confident in giving them money. And so, through the organization Lawyers for Nonprofits, they provide general counsel advice or what Jeffery called “Lo-Bono” low cost-high quality work for nonprofits. Other examples of the organization’s work include providing training on legal & compliance issues such as ensuring all policies and procedures are in place, annual filing requirements being met, and any potential tax-exempt issues. They also assist with fundraising compliance and registration issues, such as with the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations, among other legal requirements.

In addition, Lawyers for Nonprofits have a Meet With a Lawyer Day. Here, nonprofits will have a chance to speak with Jeffery or several volunteer lawyers for a one-hour consultation to figure out any legal issues and the rules depending on the nonprofit’s size. Moreover, Jeffery mentioned that his organization is holding two Meet With a Lawyer Day with the Forbes Funds on 17 and 18 June.

One important point that Jeffery stressed in his talk is that he and the organization do not deal with litigation. They would assist a nonprofit in finding a good litigation lawyer, but they themselves do not directly engage in that process.

Another important detail that Jeffery raised in his talk was the topic of fundraising. He noted that it could potentially bring liabilities. Nonprofits needed to be aware of this, including signing off on a form about commercial co-ventures. The other was the topic of intellectual property rights. This comes in two forms. The first is registering copyrighted material for a nonprofit. The second is ensuring that nonprofits are not violating someone else’s intellectual property and avoiding large fines.

During Q & A, Jeffery discussed how his organization had worked around covid-related issues. For example, helping nonprofits applying for PPP loans or currently designing covid waivers. Jeffery also mentioned that the organization does assist nonprofits with mergers and acquisitions and helps write memorandums of understandings.

Jeffery cautioned against using free templates & forms because it could get a nonprofit in legal trouble. He emphasized that what’s worse than not having a rule in place is not following it even accidentally. This becomes a red flag for the IRS or State Regulators.

Finally he provided a list of resources nonprofits could draw on including a compliance checklist for nonprofits to be used during consultations.

ACCEL

Flyer for The Forbes Funds ACCEL Fundamentals and Advanced ACCEL Applications.

Dr. Hannah Karolak is excited to announce the applications for ACCEL Fundamentals, and Advanced ACCEL is open and currently taking applications. She noted the class sizes would be smaller to emphasize 1 to 1 learning and peer-to-peer learning. To register, please follow this link.

Innovation Lab

Innovation Lab flyer that outlines the entire process. For those interested in challenging and advancing equity in SW PA.

Kellie announced that the Innovation Lab has already started and is currently accepting applications until next Friday or 4 June. This is a wonderful opportunity to devise innovative solutions for social problems in a collaborative environment. For more information about this event, please follow this link.

Public Policy Updates with Colleen Young

Election Updates

The successful passage of constitutional amendments 1 and 2 will mean that the governor’s power to declare emergencies will be limited. Meanwhile, amendments 3 and 4 also passed and by wide margins. The former protects equality based on race & ethnicity while the latter increases funding for emergency services.

PA results for proposed constitutional amendments 1, 2,3 and statewide referendum act of 2020

Colleen noted that in county and city-wide political results:

  • Pittsburgh elected the first Black Mayor with the primary win of Representative Ed Gainey
  • Allegheny Counter voters approved restrictions on solitary confinement
  • Pittsburgh votes approve of no-knock warrant ban

Voting Update

In this election, over 2 million votes, or 22% of the electorate, were cast by voters. This is out of a pool of 9 million registered voters. Colleen noted that this is double the usual amount of voters in a municipal election year but still low.

Over 587,000 mail in ballots returned or a 72% return rate with over 820, 900 who applied for a mail in ballot.

Election Law Update

Colleen reported that Pennsylvania Republicans are calling for substantial changes in PA election law pointing to supposed irregularities in the past election. Changes they want to make include:

  • Stricter voter ID laws
  • Earlier voter registration laws
  • Mandatory signature verification for ballots

Colleen noted that this push to limit voting is not strictly a state-level phenomenon but also a national one as well.

National State-Level Voter Restriction Bill. Nationally over 361 bills have been introduced in 47 states.

However, there are attempts to increase voter expansion as well. Colleen noted that over 112 bills in 31 states are making their way through state legislatures on the state level. For example, they would restore voting rights to those with past convictions or expand voter registration possibilities.

On the federal level, Colleen said there are two bills. These are the “For the People Act,” which would introduce sweeping voter protection rights, reduce money in politics and limit gerrymandering. The second bill is the “The John Lewis Voting Rights Act.” If passed, this bill would reintroduce parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. However, given political opposition, neither are likely to pass the senate.

GPNP Public Committee Update

The GPNP policy committee is exploring ways to increase voting among nonprofits. They are referring to their staff, boards, and constituencies. Hence, the public policy committee is currently exploring a potential partnership with Nonprofit Vote (NPV). NPV would provide materials and some funds, while GPNP members would engage communities to register and pledge to vote.

GPNP members interested in participating to please contact her.

Biden Administration Update

The redesign of the federal pardon process is currently underway and reflects a desire for racial equity. The White House Office Counsel and the Department of Justice are overseeing the process. For more information, please follow this link.

Starting in July, the monthly child tax credit payments will begin. Expert analysis suggests that over 39 million households would benefit and lift 5 million children out of poverty. For more information, please follow this link.

The Treasury Department announced the interim final rule for state fiscal recovery funds on 10 May. Pennsylvania will receive over $7.3 billion.

Wolf Administration Update

The Wolf administration has allocated $5 million to reduce community gun violence. Community-based organizations and local governments are eligible to apply for up $225,000. The deadline to apply is 30 June, and for more information on this initiative, please follow this link.

The Wolf administration has improved access to the Pennsylvania Senior Food Box Program with no proof of income needed. For more information about joining the program, please follow this link or call 1-800-468-2433.

The Wolf administration invested $2.8 million in the Schools-to-Work Program. This program provides grants to support partnerships that create training and employment career paths.

The Wolf administration has announced $5 million to expand broadband in unconnected communities through the Unserved High-Speed Broadband Funding Program (UHSB). Applications for the program are due 1 June. For more information, please follow this link.

Covid Update

Colleen noted that statewide, vaccination numbers are going up while covid cases are dropping down at the same rate the vaccination rate is going up.

Sick Leave Update Reminder

Allegheny County Board of Health has recently approved a public commenting period regarding sick leave, which will run from 20 May to 26 June. Information on how to submit written comments can be found on this link.

Also, there will be a public hearing that will take place on 26 June 2021. For more information on how to register and please follow this link.

Upcoming Events

As part of its resiliency series, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburg is hosting a free event titled “Bringing Mindfulness and Compassion to the Workplace, Policymaking, and the Community Around the Globe.” The event takes place on 25 May at 2 pm. To register for this event, please follow this link.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Keystone Pennsylvania will host a workplace mental health webinar titled “Working From Home or Always Working?” This part of the CEO Against Stigma Initiative. The event takes place on 25 May at 12 pm or noon. To register for this event, please follow this link.

“I appreciate the technical advice and opportunity we have for this sector. As a result of covid, a lot of us face a multitude of new challenges that require legal support.”

Fred Brown, President and CEO at The Forbes Funds

Future Events

You can register for future Community Solutions Calls and programming by The Forbes Funds at this link. See you at the next Community Solutions Call or a number of our upcoming events here!

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