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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.

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.

Babies faces in a grid - Healthy Birth Day

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24,000 babies in America are lost every year to stillbirth. Emily Price learned about this and an inspiring Iowa-based organization, Healthy Birth Day, working to reduce the number of stillbirths in America, for a story she did as a reporter at KCCI-TV. In a recent Des Moines Register article, Price credited the organization with giving her with the knowledge to recognize something wasn’t right with her pregnancy. She brought the concern to her doctor, and ultimately saved the life of her son.

Emily Price

Price (who currently is the Board President, but will assume the role of Executive Director of Healthy Birth Day, Inc. on May 8), said, “Aside from raising our family, it’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life. To hear about a baby saved is the most impactful thing—it stops us in our tracks and we cry tears of joy.”

She was happy to share more about how Healthy Birth Day began, the significant impact the organization has made so far, and details on some exciting developments coming up in the future.

How did Healthy Birth Day come to be?

Healthy Birth Day Founders

EP: Healthy Birth Day was created by five Iowa moms (Kate Safris, Kerry Biondi-Morlan, Janet Petersen, Tiffan Yamen, Jan Caruthers) who all lost daughters to stillbirth or infant death in the early 2000s. They took their grief, researched stillbirth prevention methods and discovered that by encouraging moms to track fetal movement in the third trimester that some stillbirths and premature births could be prevented.

(Side note: Since its founding, one of the major accomplishments for the organization was getting the Stillbirth Registry law enacted in Iowa, which has brought over $2 million in to the state for prevention research.)

Scientific studies indicate kick counting, a daily record of a baby’s movements (kicks, rolls, punches, jabs) during the third trimester, is an easy, free and reliable way to monitor a baby’s well-being in addition to regular prenatal visits.

Can you shed some light on Count the Kicks? What’s the campaign about and how has it helped mothers in Iowa?Count the Kicks Logo

EP: In Iowa we’ve watched our stillbirth rate drop by 26 percent as the rest of the country’s stillbirth rate has remained stagnant. Some states, like Tennessee, are even seeing stillbirth numbers increase. We have received quite a few stories from moms in Iowa where they’ve been monitoring their baby’s movements, notice a change in how long it’s taking them to get to 10 kicks, call their provider, provider runs tests, tests show a baby in distress, doctor decides to deliver baby via emergency C-section, mom wakes up to doctor telling her, “Congratulations, you saved your baby!” It is incredible to hear and we are so grateful when moms feel empowered to not only count their baby’s kicks, but to also speak up when they notice a change. Sometimes it makes all the difference.

In the five short years after Count the Kicks launched in Iowa, our state went from 33rd worst stillbirth rate to third lowest in the country.

Are there any specific resources related to the organization that people may not know about, but should?

EP: We have a free Count the Kicks! app in Google Play and iTunes online stores that allows expectant moms to monitor their baby’s movement, record the history, set a daily reminder, count for twins, and is available in English and Spanish. We have Count the Kicks Ambassadors in 18 states, a national PSA that’s generated more than 300 million viewer impressions, and a monthly Huffington Post blog that reaches moms across the globe. We also have a growing network of supportive doctors, nurses, hospitals, and clinics that give Count the Kicks materials to their patients. (Count the Kicks materials are free to ALL providers in Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska!)

We also offer resources on our website and we are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Does the organization have specific needs from volunteers or donors at this time?

EP: Yes! We have volunteer needs in graphic design, data collection, research, and clerical work, as well as donations to our Save 6,000 Babies campaign. Just being an advocate for kick counting means the world to us. When you know someone who is pregnant, tell them to download our Count the Kicks! app; tell them about the importance of tracking their baby’s movement in the third trimester. We also love when you spread the word about our organization on social media. Share, retweet, like—it all helps spread the word about our campaign. You never know who you might save.

What’s ahead for Healthy Birth Day?

EP: Oh lots of incredible things are happening in 2017! In February we launched the Save 6,000 Babies campaign (the same month our Founders were featured in O Magazine!).

O, The Oprah Magazine

We have a bold vision to save 6,000 babies each year in the U.S. If we can decrease the entire country’s stillbirth rate by 26 percent, we will save more than 6,000 babies every year.

We have a plan in place that will replicate exactly what we have done in Iowa in all 50 states. We are ready to implement this plan just as soon as we have enough funding. To us, this is urgent as we hear far too often from expectant moms who did not know the importance of tracking fetal movement in the third trimester and find us only after losing their precious son or daughter.

In order to go after our goal of saving 6,000 babies every year in the U.S., we need to raise $2 million for increased staffing and programming. This will completely cover our plan to replicate what we have done in Iowa in all 50 states and set us on a true path to success. Success to us equals saving babies.

We are also about to move into our very first office space thanks to the generosity of Telligen Community Initiative. It will be located in a non-profit incubator space near Gray’s Lake and we are thrilled to move in!

If someone wanted to get involved with Healthy Birth Day, how would they go about doing so?

EP: Please send us an email at info@healthybirthday.org! Thank you so much.


Gordon Fischer works with nonprofits and the donors who support them in a number of different ways including coordinating complex gifts. If you’re a nonprofit or 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.