Writing Wrongs: Elizabeth Ortiz’s Story

Photo f Kristen Cervenak

Kristen Cervenak

Writing Wrongs is a journalistic magazine that features stories about social issues written by students. Last year’s issue, “Addiction: Stories of Hope”, contains interviews with residents at Easy Does It (EDI), an addiction recovery facility in Leesport, PA. The following is the summary of a piece that was originally produced for the magazine by Kristen Cervenak of Northampton Community College.

Cervenak interviewed Elizabeth Ortiz, who became an addict at the age of nine. She started with snorting cocaine to escape from the abuse she faced from her stepfather. Her drug problem snowballed from there, and by the time she turned 15 she was an IV heroin user. Ortiz was a functional addict for most of her life, but her struggles increased after she had put her children through school. This indomitable woman was able to commit to wellness after facing numerous pitfalls. At Easy Does It, she has finally found a healthier way to relieve her pain.

Click here to read more about how Ortiz overcame her lifelong struggle.

If you like what you read, use this link to support Writing Wrongs and HSI by purchasing a copy of the book.

Are you interested in joining the Writing Wrongs staff in 2017 to explore the topic of immigration? Writing Wrongs is looking for students from a variety of fields to participate in the project. Applications are open now and can be found here. The deadline to apply is May 1st.

Banner Photo: Portrait of Elizabeth Ortiz by Katelyn Bennett


Writing Wrongs: Tyler Kline’s Story

Writing Wrongs is a journalistic magazine that features stories about social issues written by students. Last year’s issue, “Addiction: Stories of Hope”, contains interviews with residents at Easy Does It (EDI), an addiction recovery facility in Leesport, PA. The following is the summary of a piece that was originally produced for the magazine by Chloe Schultz of La Salle University

At 19 years old, Tyler Kline is one of the youngest residents at EDI. His struggle with drugs began when he was 15, and persisted through a year of homelessness and one other treatment program. He arrived at EDI just two weeks before the interview after being asked to move out of his girlfriend’s house because of his drug habits. Tyler realized he needs to make a real change, and is now learning to care for himself and his environment.

Read more about Tyler’s transformation here.

You can also purchase the entire book here.

Are you interested in joining the Writing Wrongs staff in 2017 to explore the topic of immigration? Writing Wrongs is looking for students from a variety of fields to participate in the project. Applications are open now and can be found here.

Banner Photo: Portrait of Tyler Kline by Katelyn Bennett


Program Focus: Bringing Up a Bookworm

Bringing Up a Bookworm, which provides children with foundational reading skills by encouraging parents to read aloud to them from the day they are born, is an inspiring example of what an organization can achieve through fiscal sponsorship. Bringing Up a Bookworm has been with HSI for a year now and has been working hard to expand their outreach since they first launched.

Marsha Townsend, the organization’s founder, is a fourth grade teacher in the Schuylkill Valley School District. During her free time in the summer she worked diligently to bring more books to the youth of Berks County.

“I’ve mostly been working on sending out letters to various doctors’ offices in the Berks County area. Hopefully by the end of the month I will have reached all offices,” said Marsha.

As of now, Bringing Up a Bookworm is in five doctors’ offices around Berks County. Each office receives 15-25 copies of Mem Fox’s book, “Reading Magic”, for their young patients’ parents along with a postcards that explain Bookworm’s mission and vision.

“Each office has reordered, and we expect them to reorder again at the end of the month! The response from the offices has been great. They always say they love the bags, and their patients are really excited about the books—they’re appreciative.”

When we asked Marsha if she had any advice for new nonprofits, she had this to say:

“Get some money under [your] belt. Have some type of financial footing, a base, to get started with. I didn’t have any of that, so when I started I had to get businesses interested first then order my supplies. Now I have to keep it going. I’ve started. I have to finish.”

As for the future, Marsha would love to get to the point where she is able to supply gift bags to all the doctors’ offices in Berks County. In a few years, she’d like to stretch into other counties and eventually go national.

Marsha is looking for more personal feedback from the parents that receive her gift bags. Each bag of books includes a postcard with Marsha’s contact information. If you or a member of your family receives a gift bag, please don’t hesitate to contact her so she can improve her outreach.


Writing Wrongs: Angela Powell’s Story

Justin Sweitzer

Writing Wrongs is a journalistic magazine that features stories about social issues written by students. Last year’s issue, “Addiction: Stories of Hope”, contains interviews with residents at Easy Does It (EDI), an addiction recovery facility in Leesport, PA. The following is the summary of a piece that was originally produced for the magazine by Justin Sweitzer of Kutztown University.

Writing Wrongs 2016 Edition

Buy the book!

Sweitzer’s article, “Angela Powell Finds Chance for Redemption at EDI”, tells the story of a mother of three who just wanted to do what was best for her kids. “I just wanted to be supermom,” she told Sweitzer during her interview while describing what started her drug use. She had been trying to do it allworking full time while caring for her childrenwhen an injury lead her to painkillers and eventually alcohol. She found her way to Easy Does It after a chain of misfortune caused her to make an attempt on her own life.

You can read the full story of Angela’s redemption here

You can also purchase the entire book here.

Are you interested in joining the Writing Wrongs staff in 2017 to explore the topic of immigration? Writing Wrongs is looking for students from a variety of fields to participate in the project.

Applications are open now and can be found here.

Banner Photo: Portrait of Angela Powell by Katelyn Bennett


Contest Winner: Education in Every Language

On November 28th, 2016, the Humanitarian Social Innovations board of directors met to review submissions for the Lehigh Student Enterprise Plan Pitch Contest. The HSI sponsored contest asked Lehigh University students to submit a business plan for a social enterprise they wanted to bring to life. The three winners are to receive incubation and free application for fiscal sponsorship should they choose to move forward with their programs.

The first place winner of the Student Enterprise Contest is Education in Every Language— a program that will provide native-language tutoring to English Language Learning (ELL) elementary school students by pairing them with Lehigh University students of the same ethnic background.

Education in Every Language is the brainchild of Anastassiya Perevezentseva, Heather Wadyka, and Chelsea Cooper. The three women were motivated to create this program by a shared interest in education, and said they had noticed a need in the community for a mentorship program that not only provides English language tutoring, but also fosters cultural kinship for students that have smaller ethnic communities in Bethlehem.

“If a kid needs to know what a word is in Spanish, there will probably be five other kids in the class who can help him. But if a student speaks Chinese, there might only be one,” said Cooper.

Education in Every Language would like to set up their program with Donegan Elementary School on 4th Street in South Bethlehem, PA.

“Donegan has the exact makeup we need,” said Perevezentseva. This is due in part to Donegan being a community school that focuses on student development and works with community stakeholders to further their goal. Donegan already has a partnership with Lehigh University, which would ease the program’s incorporation.

Education in Every Language may be off to a rocky start. Cooper and Perevezentseva are to leave the country after this semester, which will leave most of the planning up to Wadyka. Even though she is facing a busy final semester, Heather will try to get the program off the ground and into capable hands before she graduates.


Four Guidelines for Selecting a Fiscal Sponsor

Navigating the nonprofit sphere can be daunting, especially when it comes to getting your 501(c)(3). You may consider fiscal sponsorship as a means of gaining access to tax-exempt funds while your nonprofit organization is without official tax-exemption. It is important to make sure the fiscal sponsor you choose, like any other service provider, will fit your needs and the needs of your organization. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind while selecting a fiscal sponsor to partner with.

 

1. Align Your Vision

 

Many fiscal sponsors have a specific purpose in mind when they look for clients. Before you seek a relationship with a particular fiscal sponsor, it is essential that you take their mission into consideration to ensure they will be effective in assisting you. Humanitarian Social Innovations specializes in humanitarianism and social entrepreneurship, sponsoring projects that make the world a better place for a sector of humanity. However, there are over 200 fiscal sponsors in the United States that are involved in issues from the arts to international affairs.

2. Transparency

Transparency is the key to a good sponsor-client relationship. It is vital to keep track of what funds your sponsor holds on your behalf, to know how much of that money goes to administrative fees, and to have a general knowledge of what the administrative fees are covering. Your sponsor should be willing and able to provide you with any relevant information you request. If the sponsor does not readily respond to your inquiries, it may be a red flag.

3. Competency and Accountability

Competency and accountability are important when selecting a fiscal sponsor

Two of a fiscal sponsor’s responsibilities to their clients (other than providing the sponsorship, of course) are maintaining their tax-exempt status and staying in business. A good fiscal sponsor will demonstrate networking abilities, have a working knowledge of the grant system, and be capable of handling funds wisely in the face of a fluid economy. They will also be well informed on the non-profit industry and be on top of filing taxes and paperwork necessary to keep their 501(c)(3) status.

 

4. Know Your Model

The two most common models of fiscal sponsorship are the comprehensive fiscal sponsorship (Model A) and the pre-approved grant relationship (Model C). In Model A, the fiscal sponsor takes responsibility for the program’s assets and activities, managing the liabilities while the creator of the program remains free to run the program as they see fit. In Model C, the fiscal sponsor will provide a structure in which an incorporated project can access tax-exempt donations and grant funds, but the non-profit is otherwise a separate entity from the sponsor. When selecting a fiscal sponsor, you should determine which model aligns best with your goals and make sure your contract appropriately follows the guidelines for the model you have chosen. In a pre-approved grant relationship, a fiscal sponsor should not try to take ownership of assets or activities aside from those designated for fundraising. Humanitarian Social Innovations practices both Model A (Acceleration) and Model C (Certified Grantee). 

The world of fiscal sponsorship may be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you have been taken safely under the wing of a trustworthy sponsor that meets your specifications, you will be able to turn your focus away from administrative worries and back to making the world a better place. 


Should You Use the 1023-EZ to Get Your 501(c)(3)?

          Back in July of 2014, the Internal Revenue Service saw a need to address a growing backlog of applications for tax exempt status. Their solution was to introduce a new, shorter application (the 1023-EZ) aimed at small-revenue charity applicants. Although the 1023-EZ sounds like an organization’s dream, there are some drawbacks when compared with the original long form. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons, and determine if you may be eligible for this EZ form. 

Eligibility to Complete Form 1023-EZ

  • You are not eligible to use the 1023-EZ form if your organization:
    • has received more than $50,000 in its previous three year existence.
    • is projected to receive more than $50,000 in the next three years,
    • has accumulated more than $25,000 in assets.
    • was formed, or has a mailing address, outside of the United States.
    • is a limited liability company (LLC).
    • is a church, school, college, or university.
    • has replaced a for-profit organization.
    • is a private operating foundation.
  • A complete eligibility worksheet can be found at the end of the Form 1023-EZ instructions at this link.

Rationale for Using Form 1023-EZ:  Pros

  • Shorter and easier to complete

Instead of filling out the 26-page application, the new EZ application is only 3 pages.Planning a nonprofit The IRS estimates that it takes 19 hours to complete this form. However, this is mainly due to preparation hours, which they consider will take up to 10 hours. If you’re prepared it should only take you 4-5 hours to complete. In contrast, the estimated completion time for the long Form 1023 is 105 hours.

  • More rapid determination and notification of status

Normally the determination process can take anywhere from 6 months to a year and a half. With the 1023-EZ, the IRS gives you an approval or denial letter within 2-4 weeks of completing the application. We have even heard of organizations receiving notification within 3 days.

  • Less costly

Because the new application is fairly easy and self-explanatory, you will not have to hire legal counsel to assist with the form.

The filing fee for the 1023-EZ has been reduced to $275 as of July 1, 2016, whereas the filing fee for IRS Form 1023 is either $400 of $850, based on your organization’s projected income.  

Basis Against Using Form 1023-EZ:  Cons

  • Lack of IRS backing for donors

 From the perspective of donors, the Form 1023-EZ process transfers the responsibility for attestation of appropriate organizational materials from the IRS to the signer of the Form 1023-EZ. IRS Revenue Procedure 2014-40  clearly states,

“a determination letter issued to an organization that submitted a Form 1023-EZ…may not be relied upon, if it was based on any inaccurate material information submitted by the organization.”

Inaccurate material is rather subjective in this instance, as this could pertain to your organization’s projections, exemption purpose, conduct of prohibited and restricted activities, or even organizational documents. Form 1023-EZ, does not provide the IRS with as much information as the original application does, so there is less verified information to make a determination on the attestations the signer made.

  • Signer Liability

There are numerous liabilities the signer of the 1023-EZ Form takes on because the statements and representations penalty-of-perjurymade in the application fall under penalties of perjury should the statements be shown false.

For instance, the signer is accountable for any false information on the application. The signer also must attest to conditions he or she may not be qualified to fully understand. Some of these, but not all, include the verification of the organization’s charitable purpose, the existence of the proper founding documents, and that the founding documents contain the appropriate wording to ensure that the organization will be obeying laws regarding political activity, inurement of funds, and dissolution to name a few.

The form’s instructions do not mention any of these liabilities, only that the signer must check the box “penalty of perjury.”

  • Research Findings

The Taxpayer Advocate Service, (TAS) in its 2015 Report to Congress, stated,

“analysis of a representative sample of Form 1023-EZ applicants that obtained exempt status: 37% of the organizations in the sample did not satisfy the legal requirements for exempt status.”

In that same report, the TAS provides the following graphic showing that normally 95% of 1023-EZ applications are approved for exemption, however when the documentation is requested from a representative sample, only 77% of organizations are approved.

Should we be concerned that those running fully one-third of the 1023-EZ organizations are not aware of the requirements on 501(c)(3) organizations?

Read the full report here

Boiling it Down

     Generally speaking, the 1023-EZ application seems to best-fit smaller nonprofits looking to quickly get on the grid and not spend a huge sum of money. However, if you’re an organization who decides to go down this avenue, proceed with caution. This is a fairly new process, with some contradictions and confusing consequences. Perjury is as serious as it sounds. You will want to consult a knowledgeable source before proceeding.

Andrew MengelContributed by Andrew Mengel

HSI Intern, Summer ’16


Journalism Exposing Societal Issues

 

Exposing Societal Issues Through Journalism

 

“It is the opportunity to learn from others, to experience a life-changing weekend and to share the stories of those who need to be heard.” 

 

 

FaydenWriting Wrongs continues to expose societal issues in Pennsylvania. It is a charitable project that aims to change lives through journalism. Similar to photojournalism projects like Humans of New York, Writing Wrongs captures and publishes strangers’ stories. However, Writing Wrongs is making distinctively different strides to make a lasting impact on the people they meet. The interviews conducted allow young critical thinkers to converse with people in need. This benefits the usually unheard voices of those in need and allows college students to see a different way of living.

 

 Teenager and homeless man in journalism projectLast year Writing Wrongs addressed the issue of homelessness by interviewing residents at Opportunity House, a homeless shelter in Reading, Pennsylvania. Continuing in this tradition, in September, 10 college students will once again gather — this time to tackle the issue of addiction. The students will share the stories, knowledge, and hope extended by the residents at Easy Does It, an addiction treatment facility in Leesport, Pa.

 

 Last year’s homelessness issue has impacted people from across all walks of life. By devoting time, a listening ear, and photojournalism skills to the societal issue of addiction, Writing Wrongs hopes to have even greater impact this year.

On Saturday, August 27, 2016, members of the student photojournalism team who will participate in Writing Wrongs 2016 will gather to publicly read the work of their predecessors.  They hope to shed light on the issue of homelessness and raise funds for the production of Writing Wrongs 2016.  Please see details below.  Can’t make the event?  You can still donate if you would like to help support this project.  As our thank you gift for donating, you will receive a complimentary copy of Writing Wrongs 2016.

*photo credits: Stephanie Giannakis, Writing Wrongs 2015 Staff
Donate to Writing Wrongs

 

 

Humanitarian Social Innovations is proud to fiscally sponsor this program.

 

Writing Wrongs Fundraiser for Journalism Project

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Considerations When Starting a Nonprofit

There are many benefits to starting a nonprofit organization: the chance to start a cause that you’re passionate about, becoming your own boss, perks that come with professional independence and more! Although the impact of a nonprofit is more societal and less monetary than a for-profit business, it is still a business that functions much like any other. You’ll still have to set up financial systems, create a payroll and open a bank account; hire staff and prepare a personnel manual; buy the right kinds of insurance, and so on. The systematic functions of a nonprofit also mirror a for-profit business, as it will still need organizational structure, mission statements, long-range planning, evaluation, etc.

Preparation

Though this process may seem daunting, the end benefits could be incredibly intrinsically rewarding. Most think that startingPlanning a nonprofit the paperwork for becoming tax exempt or partnering with a financial partner is the first step. However, your organization needs a purpose, vision or direction before you can even think about the means.

Your first task should be to create a mission statement that encapsulates the work your organization will do, who you will do it for and why this work is important. From here, you can create a vision and short-term and long-term goals to keep you focused and on track towards successful impact.

Another task that’s vital to the preparation process is creating a Board of Directors. This team will serve as your organization’s backbone. All members of the board should be eager and ready to support the organization with the individual talents and skills they bring to the table. This will give your nonprofit a solid foundation and a platform to launch. Check out HSI’s Board of Directors and mission statement for a concise and effective example of each. 

Incorporation

Once you’re well prepared you must establish your organization within the laws of the state. Each state’s regulations vary so you’ll have to do your research on your specific state. Not only do state regulations fluctuate, but so do the benefits that  states offer to nonprofit organizations. For example, states differ on when exemptions or provisions must be applied for, when fees must be paid, etc. Make sure you do your homework on all aspects of this process. You cannot function on a corporate level until you’ve been recognized by a state.

However, if you check out The National Association of State Charity Officials website, they have updates in a state by state list on the differing regulations. There’s also a book available on Amazon by NOLO Press titled How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation in Any State.   (While you are there, sign up to raise funds for HSI with Amazon Smile.  It is fast and doesn’t cost you anything-ever!)

Another resource that may help your cause not only for state incorporation but also for future endeavors might be seeking legal advice. Obviously an attorney costs more than a book plus shipping and handling from Amazon, but you can find people that have been through this process before, who know the boundaries and way through the system.

Tax Exemption or Fiscal Sponsorship

You will need to complete the IRS Form SS-4 to receive an EIN so that you can open a bank account.

Also, for the IRS to acknowledge your organization it must be structured as a corporation, trust or an association. Once this is established, you will need to complete an IRS Form 1023 or 1023-EZ. Then you wait. It could take the IRS anywhere from three weeks to twelve months to get back with a decision.


Social entrepreneur starting a nonprofitIt is possible to shorten the amount of time you spend waiting to access tax-exempt funds by applying for and receiving fiscal sponsorship. A fiscal sponsor, such as HSI, supports the charitable activities of an organization by allowing access to its own 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Donors may make tax-exempt contributions to the sponsor to support your work.  The fiscal sponsor accepts certain liabilities for the charitable work you do.

Getting Started

Humanitarian Social Innovations offers assistance along several startup pathways for non profit organizations.  

Join our startup workshop series.paths to innovation, nonprofit

Not only will you gain the information you need, but you will also create some important take-aways from each session. You will meet people who can answer your questions and be a sounding board for your ideas. Plan to bring team members!  You will be able to synergize throughout the workshop and team discounts apply!

  1. Changing the World: Paths to Social Impact-August 13-Come away with a business structure and path forward that will best meet your goals.
  2. Building a Strong Foundation: Mission, Vision and Values-September 10-Walk out of this workshop with a draft mission, vision and core values for your organization.
  3. Board Selection and Governance-October 8-Enter with a long list of potential board members and leave with a short list (or smart list!) and your board governance documents.
  4. Meeting Your Legal Obligations: All-Access Pass to a Helpful Attorney-November 12-Explanation of your legal obligations, Q & A time, and the opportunity to work on your own documents with an attorney as your tutor.
  5. Get Out There: Building a Manageable and Cost-Effective Website-January 14-You will build a website-no prior skill needed!

Eventbrite - Changing the World: Paths to Social Impact
Hop Into the Incubator or Apply for Fiscal Sponsorship

If you would like a more customized experience, sign up for Humanitarian Social Innovations’ Incubation program.  Set your goals at the start and enjoy our one-on-one partnership with you as you systematically meet them and begin to see the impact of your work.

Perhaps  you are ready for fiscal sponsorship and are looking for a fiscal sponsor to support your charitable activities. If so, contact HSI for an initial interview and an application.  

Email today!  office@humanitariansocialinnovations.com

 


Meet the Interns!

Humanitarian Social Innovations has been fortunate this summer to host three excellent interns.  All are focused students who are living intentionally in order to have impact not only after graduation, but also in the present time between semesters.

Dawn Heinbach

HSI Intern Dawn HeinbachDawn Heinbach graduated Summa Cum Laude from Kutztown University as well as from KU’s honors program with a BA in English/Professional Writing and minors in Public Relations and Digital Communications & New Media. She is the Chief Executive of New Dawn Enterprises, LLC, a PR, Professional Writing and Publishing firm she founded, and is also the project manager and founder of Writing Wrongs, a program of Humanitarian Social Innovations.  

This summer she is working as the Public Relations and Professional Writing Intern here at HSI. Dawn will be beefing up our PR strategy, producing press releases and researching and writing grant proposals. She is excited to be interning at HSI because she gets to interact with people who have fantastic ideas that will help humanity. “I can identify with their passion and want to assist them in launching their projects for social good. HSI provides a way for these entrepreneurs to get started right away. The HSI umbrella equips the innovator…, freeing them to focus on building their idea.”  

Dawn identifies with this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Jenny Kocsis

HSI Intern Jenny KocsisJenny Kocsis attends Arcadia University near Philadelphia where she majors in Cultural Anthropology and minors in Global Public Health and Religious Studies. Last year Jenny Interned at Maori Outreach in Wellington, New Zealand, helping young students grow and learn in an open, resourceful community. This summer she is on staff at Humanitarian Social Innovations as a Social Media and Marketing intern.

She is responsible for great posts like this one which can be found on our Instagram account. Stop on by and give us some love by following @hsi_innovators on Twitter and Instagram, or by liking our Facebook page.

 

Jenny’s interests include photography, yoga, dancing, exploring, and writing poetry. She identifies with this quote from Ram Dass: “I would like my life to be a statement of love and compassion — and where it isn’t, that’s where my work lies.”

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 hsi_innovators We can create a better world by supporting social innovators.                                   #humanitariansocialinnovations  #loveglobally       #nonprofit 

Andrew Mengel

HSI Intern Andrew MengelAndrew Mengel attends Moravian College in Bethlehem where he is an English major with minors in Education and International Studies. Andrew volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club of Bethlehem and recently returned from a short-term trip teaching English to Kindergarten and First Grade students in Kathmandu, Nepal. When not traveling this summer he is on staff at Humanitarian Social Innovations as a Content Writer intern. He is responsible for the last two blog posts on our website, What Can Fiscal Sponsorship Do For Your Organization? and Which Types of Projects Does HSI Sponsor? as well as many posts he has written for later publishing.

Stop by and comment or share the posts!

Andrew is a missionary and advocate for humanitarian prosperity at heart, and he believes that under the right circumstances, anyone can change the world.  

 

You can see that Dawn, Andrew and Jenny are great matches for the mission of HSI and their contributions are valuable to the work of the organization. Thanks, glad to have you on board, and best wishes in your future!