Friday, January 23, 2015

Red Tape and the waiting game.

As my nonprofit was granted the 501(c)(3) status at the beginning of January I thought we were out of the woods. But the fun times with following up and filing more applications were just about to roll. I've been keeping busy this week dealing with volumes and volumes on paperwork so that our Resource Director could have her pick of any type of campaign she can think of, so  that we can finally figure out a strategy, generate some funding and finally do what we originally intended, which is- help people. So here's the problem- you get a letter from the IRS informing you that your organization was tax exempt. It then further tells you that until the charity listings are updated donors can rely on it when they give to your institution. What it doesn't tell you however is that businesses that have wonderful tools and solutions for non profits such as Google Apps and the AdWords grant, Amazon Smile (where buyers can give a small amount to an approved organization), the PayPal Giving fund (similar, but for ebay)  or the Paypal rate discount - don't really care to see your paperwork and just verify the information against the IRS electronic listing. It used to refresh once every quarter. Now it's republished every month, just not in January. I got this little bit of information as I was able to get through to their phone agents some time after 8 in the morning. I attempted to call yesterday- forgetting it was the tax season- I spent an hour and a half on the phone waiting for a person and then it was 5 pm so I had to hang up. I felt like Phoebe from an episode of the 90's sitcom friends, where she's waiting day and night on a customer service rep to pick up, hearing only "Your call is important to us", refusing to give up. But I finally got my answer- it's expected to refresh on the second Monday of February. Then I followed up with the Florida Department of Agriculture, about our solicitation application that we filed and learnt that it takes up to 15 days- so we'll get it next month as well. A non profit should register with every State  where  it plans to raise money. And it becomes a real concern where money cross State lines through online fundraisers and campaigns. Some States but not all have exempted small nonprofits from that obligation, so it is something all of us need to watch for. While in most jurisdictions I reviewed failure to do so result in civil penalties, in some they are criminal. I know not to put as much as a Paypal button until my State approves me and to make sure to list the Stats where I do and do not solicit to avoid any confusion. Then the next step- USPS has interesting, lower rates for non profit entities, and there's a form for that. A form that- what I learned with many others I had to submit, was a non interactive, ready to print PDF. But I'm thinking and dreaming two steps behind- about what it will be like where we get to first strategize and then send out our first batch of postcards or other mailers announcing that we have arrived. I really don't mind, and I found myself re energized when the IRS letter came. I can get DOT if I want to have activities  at the public rest stops- there's a form for that. To get there I need to submit an Application for Customer's Certificate of Exemption. I don't mind the work and I don't mind the calls, the emails and the faxes. It's weirdly exciting to be able to get things done. But when there's nothing to do but wait, I feel stuck. Because I can't do anything to help the process, we can't speed it up, we've done all this work and now it's out of our hands.

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