red for hire sign

It may sound basic, obvious even, but if your nonprofit organization is hiring any employee or independent contractor, you NEED to have job descriptions for each role. And, not just basic job descriptions, but comprehensive overviews of the open position. Be it a position for chief executive officer, marketing manager, or programs director, the advice remains the same.

Job descriptions are in part a legal protection, and in part a primary means for announcing the open position to both internal and external stakeholders which is going to help you find or recruit the best candidates for the organization. If that’s not enough to convince you, consider these four major reasons:

  1. Job descriptions can be used as a basis for objective performance management. It provides both management and employees a shared understanding of the duties of the position.
  2. Job descriptions assist in making sure staff duties align with your organization’s overall mission and vision.
  3. When conducting interviews, job descriptions can, and should, inform the development of interview questions.
  4. Job descriptions can be the foundation of a compensation system that accurately reflects employees’ qualifications and responsibilities in the organization.

woman working on computer

I’m here to assist you and your organization on the legal aspects of nonprofit employment ranging from new hires, to employee handbook, to employment contracts. Don’t hesitate to contact me via email or phone (515-371-6077). We’ll schedule your free one-hour consultation and make a plan to set your organization up for success!

wall street sign

A less-than-obvious, but ideal asset for charitable giving is appreciated, long-term, publicly traded stock. The merits of this giving tool are numerous, but there are some questions I hear from donors considering this options. For instance, when do you assess the value of a stock donation—before the donation, during, or after? And, how do you determine a specific dollar value on an asset that’s perpetually fluctuating?

Simple Stock Equation

Forget stock charts or complicated formulas, there’s a simple solution. The value of a gift of publicly traded stock is the mean average of the high and low prices on the date of the gift.

For example, Jill Donor gifted 100 shares of Twitter stock to her favorite charity. On the date of Donor’s gift, the high was $25 per share and the low was $23 per share. In this case, the value of a share for charitable deduction purposes would be $23.50 ($25 + $22 divided by 2). The charitable deduction value of Donor’s gift would be $2,350 ($23.50 per share x 100 shares).

Any subsequent sales price, or current valuation (if the charity retains the stock), is irrelevant for valuing publicly traded stock and determining a donor’s charitable deduction. Again, only one factor matters: the average of the high and low selling price of the stock on the date of the gift! Of course, this equation doesn’t account for changes in the stock market in terms of what day would be better to donate over another. For that you’ll need to talk to your financial professional advisor or watch the trends to donate on a date with preferred value.


If you’re interested in gifting stock to a qualified charity, ensure you’re doing so in a way that maximizes all of your financial benefits and contact me for a free consult. Or, if you’re a nonprofit leader wanting to accept gifts of stocks but are unsure of how to facilitate, don’t hesitate to reach out via email or phone (515-371-6077).

happy new year fireworks

Happy New Year! It’s 2018 and if you’re like me, “Auld Lang Syne” was playing merrily in the background as a cup of cheer was raised and confetti fluttered on New Year’s Eve. The title and main chorus of song ubiquitous with the holiday roughly translates to “for old times’ sake.” On that note I’ve spent some quality time (like the song eludes to) reminiscing about the year that’s gone by. I’ve reviewed what Gordon Fischer Law Firm tackled in 2017, but more importantly I’m looking ahead to where we want to go, how to get there, and how to improve along the way. I have a few “resolutions” I want to share…resolutions we actually intend to keep! These goals will work to further advance the mission of the firm “to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa.”

At Gordon Fischer Law Firm we fully intend to:

  • Post even more regular content on the GoFisch blog to make it ever easier for both donors and donees to effectuate charitable giving to/for their favorite causes.
  • Continue growing the monthly GoFisch newsletter (have you subscribed?).
  • Additionally, I would like to produce a regular specific newsletter for professional advisors (accountants, financial advisors, insurance agents, and fellow lawyers) with smart planning information to be able to further help Iowans.
  • Present an all-day seminar (for continued education credits) targeted to both nonprofit leaders and professional advisors to discuss all aspects of charitable giving and facilitate beneficial networking.
  • Continue demystifying estate planning for all Iowans—complete with basic forms to help that process along.

Tomorrow I’ll highlight aspects of estate planning and charitable giving you can (and should) incorporate into your goals for 2018. Do you already have such goals in mind? A few examples could be to stop making excuses to avoid estate planning, finally establish that living trust, or consult with a professional about a retained life estate. Don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss. Together we’ll likely be able to set a plan in place for you to achieve your goals (or resolutions) to truly make 2018 your best year yet.

Fight for Iowa

Whatever you can do to a Buckeye—shellack, roast, soak, toast, chop, peel, finely ground, boil, crush, smash, cut, peel, and wait for it…a-salt—the Iowa Hawkeyes did last night in a stunning 55-24 rout of Ohio State. Iowa didn’t just beat the number three ranked team in the nation, they dominated the entire game from the very first play, and on both sides of the ball.

This was an epic win. It will last forever in Iowa Hawkeye football lore.

As the mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm is to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa, I can’t help but think the smart and gritty play of the Hawks last night hold lessons for nonprofits too. Here are four:

Don’t Stop Believin’

If the Hawks went into the game without believing, truly believing, that they could win, well, it simply would have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whether you are trying to snag new donors, put into place some long-needed policies and procedures, get approval from the IRS to become a nonprofit – whatever your goal – you’ve got to start with a belief in yourself and your organization that you can match the mission to the moment.

Think Outside the Box

The Iowa Hawkeyes used two trick plays last night. There was a fake punt (from inside their own 20-yard line!) and also move called the Polecat Play. When facing a formidable opponent, or formidable goal, maybe the same-ole’, same ole’ won’t work. You may need to get creative.

Now, remember, for nonprofits, when you say, “think outside the box,” that box is essentially the IRS. So get good legal counsel to be sure you’re not being too creative and are in fact in full compliance with all laws and regs. But, the right kind of creativity is sometimes necessary when facing long odds.

Get Your Crowd into the Game

You need your fans for that extra juice—that extra bit of adrenaline. While you may not be able to fill Kinnick Stadium with supporters, you do have many folks who’ll help you in a wide variety of ways, and sometimes moral support and cheerleading is just what you need.

Iowa Hawkeye Fans

Take It One Play (Day) At a Time

The odds may seem insurmountable. For example, you’ve been trying to tackle the redo of your governing documents forever, and you just can’t ever seem to get there. Remember to take it a day/play at a time. Break it down.

Say you want to revise your general Independent Contractor Agreement, last looked at in the 1970s when Bob Commings was the Iowa Hawkeye football coach? Start with small steps. Something like this would be a good drill:

  • Distribute the aging document to the board of directors.
  • Explain why it needs updating.
  • Especially explain why your organization would work better with updated agreements, and/or what risks would be mitigated with updated agreements.
  • Form a committee to find competent counsel.
  • Hire a lawyer experienced in nonprofit law to look over and re draft.
  • Share the drafts back and forth between your lawyer and your committee until “perfect.”
  • Share the new Independent Contractor Agreement with the board of directors for final approval, and don’t forget to thank the board members who helped. And, be sure to celebrate reaching your goal!

Taking it one play at a time, suddenly revising major documents isn’t so overwhelming anymore.


I’d love to help coach your nonprofit to greater success. I offer a free one-hour consultation to anyone/everyone. Just email me at gordon@gordonfiscerlawfirm.com or call me on my cell at 515-371-6077. Together we’ll figure out a game plan that’s both sensible and affordable.

Hope Lodge Iowa City

From the outside looking in, with its lush landscaping and towering brick chimney, the Russell and Ann Gerdin American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Iowa City gives an immediate impression that it’s a home. Which is what the facility does indeed become for the cancer patients receiving lifesaving treatments.

Hope Away from Home

Doors to the Hope Lodge opened in September 2008 following a $4 million donation from the Lodge’s namesakes, Russell and Ann Gerdin. (University of Iowa provided the land for the construction.) It was the first of its kind in Iowa and the 28th facility of its kind in the U.S. The Hope Lodge offers amazing service in the form of 28 private guest rooms free of cost to cancer patients (and their adult caregivers) undergoing active outpatient cancer treatment at area medical facilities: The Veterans Administration Medical Center, Mercy of Iowa City, or University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The guest rooms each have a private bathroom and two beds, but the bedrooms are just the start when it comes to the other welcoming, inviting spaces.

Hope Lodge; Hope Sweet Hope

Quinn Hackert, assistant manager of the Hope Lodge, said that the facility has a Midwestern “lodge-y” feel to it and has plenty of community spaces to encourage people to get out their rooms and “really get to know each other.” Guests can enjoy a community dining area, sit in two screened-in porches, computer room, laundry, library, exercise room, and cook meals in two complete kitchens. Musical groups and weekly potluck dinners are another community-building opportunity to take advantage of.

The level of service the Hope Lodge is able to offer is truly amazing with a small staff of 12 (most are part-time employees), they were able to offer 13,355 nights of free lodging in 2016. Hackert said the Hope Lodge is typically full; if that’s the case and a patient needs/qualifies for accommodations, the American Cancer Society hotel partner program is utilized until a Hope Lodge room opens up. The hotel partner program means hotels in the area can offer a room for free or a significant discount. “The average length of stay is 22 days, however that’s a little skewed since our radiation patients often stay for six to eight weeks,” Hackert said.

American Cancer Society - Hope Lodge

In order to stay at the Hope Lodge patients must meet some eligibility requirements, such as the patient must live at least 40 miles away from the treatment center, have an end date to their current plan, and be cleared by a physician of infectious diseases, among others. According to the Hope Lodge’s website, prospective guests need their physician or a member of their cancer health care team to fill out a Hope Lodge referral form.

Another major benefit for patients staying at the Hope Lodge is the breadth of cancer-related services and programs including support groups for general cancer support, breast cancer, head and neck cancer, as well as a group specific for female patients.

Get Involved

American Cancer Society’s 2017 Hope Lodge “10th Anniversary Dancing for the Stars” Gala

Hackert reiterated that the Hope Lodge is supported and funded entirely through donated funds and times. The nonprofit’s highly anticipated annual fundraiser—10th Anniversary Dancing for the Stars—is coming up on November 11, 2017 at the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. The black tie event features delicious food, enticing auction, and the main entertainment: local celebrities dancing in routines choreographed by professional dancers. Interested in attending? Tickets are $100/person and $1,000/10 person table. Hackert also indicated they’re still searching for additional sponsors.

Hope Lodge donations

On the general donations front, Hackert said, “We’re always in need of paper products like office paper, toilet paper, paper towels.” He added that those interested in donating time should contact Lynn Johnson at Lynn.Johnson@cancer.org or by phone at 319-248-5400. “We always need general volunteers and drivers that drive patients to the hospital in a Prius donated by Toyota,” Hackert said. “We have volunteers at guest services—the front desk and people can make and bring in meals for the guests.” Hackert added that the volunteers just need to go through a short orientation.


Note: GoFisch is happy to feature Iowa nonprofits and the great work they do in our community. A feature does not indicate any client relationship. If you’re interested in having your nonprofit featured, please don’t hesitate to contact Gordon.

Gordon works with nonprofits and the donors who support them in a number of different ways, including coordinating complex gifts. If you’re a donor or donee looking to maximize the benefits of your charitable gift, contact Gordon at any time by email, Gordon@gordonfisherlawfirm.com, or by phone at 515-371-6077.

nonprofit board members discussing duties

In wise words attributed to Voltaire (and the Spider-Man comic book), “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Never have these words been more true than when it comes to serving on a nonprofit’s board of directors. Being asked or elected to serve on a board can be a huge honor, but it also comes with great legal and fiscal responsibilities.

Legal Duties

Let’s start with three of the major legal duties:

  • Duty of care: This means that board members are expected to actively participate in making decisions, resolving issues, and participate in planning.
  • Duty of loyalty: Board members must put the interests of the nonprofit ahead of their own personal and professional interests. This means that even merely potential conflicts of interest must be studiously avoided. (Your nonprofit MUST have a Conflict of Interest Policy that each board member signs.)
  • Duty of obedience: Compliance with all local, state, and federal regulations and laws applicable to the nonprofit is an essential responsibility for board members.

Additionally, these three major legal duties ensure the organization is committed and stays true to its stated mission.

 

nonprofit board room

Financial Duties

Board members must act as fiduciaries by closely overseeing the nonprofit’s finances. Board members are tasked with reviewing financial reports (i.e. donations received and expenses), evaluating policies (such as a cash handling policy or a gift acceptance policy), and approving budgets. They must also take into account the resource needs of the organization, in addition to accountability to donors, parties served, and the general public.

Whether you’re donating your time and serving on a nonprofit board, or running a nonprofit and are training the board (sometimes called “managing up,” and not an easy thing to do), it’s important the aforementioned duties are fully explained and understood by all parties.

Let me suggest two good and very practical ideas. First, consider providing a board orientation, once a year, where the entire meeting is devoted to an outsider explaining and discussing with the board the full extent of its legal and fiscal duties. Second, consider drafting and distributing a “job description,” not only for your employees, but also for your board members. Put in writing what you expect of the board, including the legal protection they must offer.


Working with nonprofit leaders is one of my passions and a critical part of my main mission to promote and maximize charitable giving in Iowa. If you’re on the board of, or work for a nonprofit that is facing challenges, or if you simply want to be prepared to avoid challenges, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

I can be contacted at anytime by phone (515-371-6077) or email to schedule a free consultation.

Headphones

Podcasts undoubtedly are a component of the upper echelons of the Interwebs—one of the aspects of digital content that actually help us be more knowledgeable, interesting people. Unlike cute animal videos on Reddit, the time suck that is Twitter scrolling, or the easily enabled spending sprees on Amazon Prime, podcasts open our eyes to stories that capture our minds. They give us tidbits to discuss with our dinner companions, can help us forget we’re cleaning the house, and make driving through the long swaths of nothing-but-cornfields in the Midwest that much more manageable. Podcasts give us a chance to enrich and enhance our personal and professional lives in an accessible way.

A major sector of my practice is dedicated to working with nonprofits and the donors who support them. Be it writing and filing organizing documents, offering valuable training for nonprofit boards and staff members, handling compliance issues, or coordinating complex charitable gifts, I love working with Iowa nonprofits. In order to do my best work in the intersection between nonprofit operations and law, I try to stay on top of news and best practices in the industry. One way to do that? Podcasts—they’re like free professional development. If you work for a nonprofit, serve on a board, or are simply an interested donor, here are four top-notch podcasts related to nonprofits.

Business of Giving

Business of Giving

Hosted by Denver Frederick, who can boast 40 years of valuable experience “in the world of philanthropy and social good,” the Business of Giving explores topics and solutions to complicated social issues. In the past, the program has explored topics such as affordable housing, education, access to clean water, and global poverty. Based out of New York City, a new episode is released on Sundays, 6-7 p.m. The best place to listen is on Soundcloud. Recent episodes of the show (of the over 300 tracks available to listen to) include interviews with Dan Cardinali, President and CEO of The Independent Sector, Megan O’Neil, Staff Writer for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Adarsh Alphons, Founder and Executive Director of ProjectArt.

Nonprofit Leadership Podcast: Making Your World Better

Nonprofit Leadership Podcast

This is a great listen for nonprofit leaders (like the name of the show says) as each episode covers opportunities, trends, and problems applicable to leadership in the sector. First hand advice from other leaders can be invaluable in helping others apply the same practices in their own respective organizations. Dr. Rob Harter hosts the show and brings with him more than two decades of work in “leading and building non-profit organizations, leveraging resources, communication and personal development.” The episodes (available in iTunes) give advice and tell stories to help you ultimately be more efficient and effective in your leadership. I liked one of the recent episodes from June that featured the “Fundraising Coach,” AKA Marc A. Pitman, on how to lead with less stress.

Tiny Spark

Tiny Spark Podcast

Not only does Tiny Spark have a cool owl logo, it also has pretty fantastic episodes that dig in deep on “philanthropy, nonprofits and international aid.” Founder and managing editor, Amy Costello, is a rock star reporter who has an impressive reporting resume including PBS, BBC, and NPR; she was nominated for an Emmy Award on her reporting on Dafur, Sudan. Subscribe on iTunes for episodes such as the recent ones on “The Rise of Philanthropy’s ‘Shadow Giving System’,” and “Why Big Philanthropy Needs Scrutiny Not Gratitude.”

Nonprofit Ally

NonProfit Ally

The Nonprofit Ally podcast wraps essential topics like “social media strategies, capacity building, board of director development, fundraising and budgeting,” into conversations with nonprofit leaders. Episodes are under an hour and after tangible advice you can with you into your nonprofit role, such as how to have better board meetings with Roberts Rules, how to fundraise over email, and tips of the trade from a professional grant writer. The podcast is hosted by Steve Vick of the podcast’s associated website, nonprofitally.com. You can listen on the website or subscribe on Android and Apple platforms.


What nonprofit-related podcasts would you add to my listening library? Share below in the comments. (On a related note, I also wrote about how the podcast S-Town made a strong case for the need and power of estate planning.)

If you want to discuss the issues your nonprofit is facing, don’t hesitate to reach out via email or phone, at 515-371-6077. I’m more than happy to offer a free consultation.