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Old 10-05-2017, 07:51 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Not-for-profit Charity perspectives wanted...

This partly me just venting, partly me looking for any useful ideas that I can give my folks who are losing sleep over this issue.

I don't personally have a lot of experience with not-for-profit organizations. (I'm in California, which is so strict that only certified unicorns qualify as not-for-profit.)

My folks are volunteers at the "Friends of the Public Place4DeadTrees(*)" a not-for-profit chapter that receives donated "dead trees" and sells them. They donate the profits to the Place4DeadTrees. They are, as far as 'friends' organizations go, very successful.

The Place4DeadTrees lets the 'friends' use an attached space, built specifically for them, rent-free. It's pretty awesome, few 'friends' chapters have such a space.

But, it's not a big space. Only a fraction of the total donated inventory can be on display at a time. (but it's available during periodic side-walk sales).

The chapter president thinks that space is holding them back. That if they could display more Dead Trees, their revenue would increase.

So... they've planned a move to a retail strip mall. Where rent alone will be more than their current revenue. (wtf!?) The president is certain that the additional space and (relatively small) permanent signage along a busier street will miraculously result in twice the revenue they make now. Even though the popular sidewalk sales will have to stop.

I'm convinced their current casual walk-ins from The Public Place4DeadTrees will suffer horribly and they'll burn through their reserve and fail as an organization inside of 18 months. The Public Place4DeadTrees doesn't seem to care either way, and can find other uses for the space, despite the loss of charitable revenue.

To make matters more complicated, no one wants to replace the president who came up with this hairbrained idea, because they do a lot of stuff that no one else wants to. That and their adherence to Robert's Rules of Order and over-sight are all but non-existent.

I'm not sure what I'm asking really... other than does anyone have any really solid, perhaps legally based, reasons which might scare this nutjob into NOT going forward with this stupid idea?



(*) Friends of the Place4DeadTrees is obviously a pseudonym to keep this from showing up in google results related to the actual organization.

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Old 10-05-2017, 08:29 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 10-05-2017, 08:37 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Are they a separate 501(c)3? Their lawyer is the best option if no one wants to be blunt (and quite frankly the Library Director should be...that's their job). Use the phrase "fiduciary responsibility" a lot.
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Old 10-05-2017, 09:14 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I have a good friend and her husband who *used* to run a used bookstore. They now have a storage unit and sell on Amazon, because the overhead is way lower.

You can suggest to your chapter president that they try to sell a selection of their books on Amazon. They don't have to list all of them, perhaps 100 to start with. See if they sell. Ask him how could a local storefront get more exposure to buyers than Amazon can give them?

Running a physical storefront may involve getting a business license, paying minimum wage, having staff present for lots of hours, etc. If it is anything like dead-tree-recycling places I have used in the past (which is a lot of them), they can run mostly unattended. Mailing stuff off when it sells can be a "whenever someone has time" activity, not 10-6 Mon-Sat. A physical storefront needs to be open, otherwise it is not selling.
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Old 10-05-2017, 09:27 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I have a good friend and her husband who *used* to run a used bookstore. They now have a storage unit and sell on Amazon, because the overhead is way lower.
I spent 20+ years working in a used bookstore so this is interesting to me. I never heard of someone running one out of a storage unit. Hopefully the books were on shelves rather than crammed in boxes or how do you get a requested title out to ship it?
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Old 10-05-2017, 10:10 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Maybe they can start with popup stores to test the waters. Less capital outlay so they could survive a bad experience.

Permanent storefronts mean leases, which means you keep paying even after you realize it won't work.

Introduce these concepts and others quietly as suggested below.

Sometimes the only way to defeat a bad idea is to be enthusiastically for it to get around the trust issues, and only then can you start defeating it through FUD ... plant ideas as a question and have them take the credit for any changes. When I was younger sometimes the only path I could take to get my way was to quietly suggest it and get it in people's minds, and 20 minutes latersomeone else would come up with the idea who had an easier time getting "their" idea accepte, not realizing I had suggested it.
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Old 10-06-2017, 01:09 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Are they a separate 501(c)3? Their lawyer is the best option if no one wants to be blunt (and quite frankly the Library Director should be...that's their job). Use the phrase "fiduciary responsibility" a lot.
Very helpful... I sent my folks something about "if less than half of their efforts go towards supporting the library... they're violating their charter, and revenue collected for other purposes is likely going to be considered 'taxable'. Failure to report and pay taxes on non-exempt revenue may result in leins/legal action taken against board members for failing their 'fiduciary responsibility'.
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Old 10-06-2017, 01:17 AM   #8 (permalink)
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You can suggest to your chapter president that they try to sell a selection of their books on Amazon. They don't have to list all of them, perhaps 100 to start with. See if they sell. Ask him how could a local storefront get more exposure to buyers than Amazon can give them?

Running a physical storefront may involve getting a business license, paying minimum wage, having staff present for lots of hours, etc. If it is anything like dead-tree-recycling places I have used in the past (which is a lot of them), they can run mostly unattended. Mailing stuff off when it sells can be a "whenever someone has time" activity, not 10-6 Mon-Sat. A physical storefront needs to be open, otherwise it is not selling.
Thanks!

As far as staffing goes, they do have a surplus of qualified volunteers (not sure how thrilled they will be to work in a run down strip mall vs at the snazzy new-ish public library). And they are, at least, aware that they might have to pay someone if they have trouble scheduling volunteers to cover standard operating hours, and the can of worms of drama that will result from paying some people and not paying others.

However, none of the volunteers seem to want to spend any of their time looking up and listing books on the internet. They resorted to paying someone to do it for a while, but they left. I can see the reluctance... the rates they charge for books would be more than lost to shipping in most cases.
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Old 10-06-2017, 01:25 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Maybe they can start with popup stores to test the waters. Less capital outlay so they could survive a bad experience.

Permanent storefronts mean leases, which means you keep paying even after you realize it won't work.

Introduce these concepts and others quietly as suggested below.

Sometimes the only way to defeat a bad idea is to be enthusiastically for it to get around the trust issues, and only then can you start defeating it through FUD ... plant ideas as a question and have them take the credit for any changes. When I was younger sometimes the only path I could take to get my way was to quietly suggest it and get it in people's minds, and 20 minutes latersomeone else would come up with the idea who had an easier time getting "their" idea accepte, not realizing I had suggested it.
Personally, I think the landlord at the strip mall has promised to build a swimming pool in someone's back yard. Or some other kind of kick-back.

The problem with being 'enthusiastically for it' is that the signing of a lease is coming up -very- soon, after which they'll be stuck and they'll lose the free space they currently have.

And if it gets to that point, I've suggested that my folks stop volunteering. The new location is in a worse neighborhood than the library, and it's only a matter of time before someone desperate decides to take advantage of a shop staffed by one or two senior citizens at a time.
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Old 10-06-2017, 12:23 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Jopsy, from my experience working with a non profit organization for 10 years (ABATE of MS) there are two types of people who need to be consulted before signing a lease (from a business POV*). Those two are an attorney who specializes in non profit law and an accountant.

I think, between the two professions, that idea would get shot down pretty quick. There is a ton of things that need to be considered before signing a lease of any kind. If you just jump into one blind you leave yourself and your organization open to liability of all kinds. It is a nightmare no one wants to be stuck in.



*even non profits are considered businesses
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Old 10-06-2017, 03:36 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Ask any salesman if he would rather do cold calls or be provided qualified leads.

Ask any shopper if they plan to browse a while when they go to the deadtree store.

When someone walks into the Public Place4DeadTrees, they are qualifying themselves as a lover of deadtrees. And they likely have time in their plans for browsing.

Strip malls are not shopping destinations like real malls. No one pulls into a strip mall, gets out of their car, and looks around wondering where to go first, like it was Disneyland. Strip malls are for errands. Everyone that pulls in is on their way to somewhere else, and is just picking up some milk, or a pizza. Or, they're not even shopping, they're there for an appointment at their dojo or hairdresser. Busy people use strip malls, and busy people don't have time to browse.

And even if someone did pull in to simply go shopping, would the windows and signage of the deadtree shop attract them? Or would there be other store displays more promising? At the Public Place4DeadTrees, the only competition is late fees.


So, yeh, I think it's a really horrible idea.

Also, I'm betting that if you had a sidewalk sale with the same number of books displayed as inside, you'd still see a spike in sales. It's not the extra inventory on display, it's the magic of a "sales event" that's at work. And if that's true, then all the moving would be for naught; they should simply have more sidewalk sales.
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Old 10-06-2017, 06:19 PM   #12 (permalink)
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So true.

The decider thinks that the nearby Goodwill at the new location will help attract casual walk-ins. It might, but only a fraction compared to being next to the library.
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Old 10-06-2017, 08:57 PM   #13 (permalink)
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my recommend is to not try to put any obstacles in the pathway in the first instance

there is a person who has a ton of energy to want to do good. They are also a maniac. Maniacs are quite normal in these kinda local endeavours

there is a group of willing volunteers ready to staff the place. They are all maniacs as well, in their own ways. Maniacs who give their time generously for little to zero personal reward other than the fuzzies that come from doing good

given also that nobody willing to give their time is terribly motivated to make money for the org, or for money's sake in and of itself. That they can't already find people willing to spend all day in a solitary role packing and shipping online orders, speaks volumes about this, for this particular group of people

the only caution I would advocate, is for an arrangement with the landlord for a month-by-month rent on the premises. So that if it doesn't work out (meaning unable to pay the rent) then the arrangement can be exited

another thing that should be considered in these kinds of local charity initiatives. It is probable that people will be prepared to chip in a little bit each month to pay the rent. Similar to how people do chip in for SL tiers to help provide charitable spaces that are of interest to them
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Old 10-06-2017, 09:14 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I seriously doubt anyone could find a commercial lease on a month to month basis in a strip mall. They are mostly (if not all) run by management companies and I've never run across any of them that didn't require a minimum 6 month lease. All of the leases I've signed for business locations have been a minimum of 12 months.
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Old 10-06-2017, 09:29 PM   #15 (permalink)
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that would be something for the charity group to discover for itself. Whats possible to secure, and what is the fallback position in terms of meeting the commitments entered into
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Old 10-06-2017, 11:17 PM   #16 (permalink)
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that would be something for the charity group to discover for itself. Whats possible to secure, and what is the fallback position in terms of meeting the commitments entered into
That is what I said. I have worked a major non profit (in the biker world) and have owned a business or two.


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Jopsy, from my experience working with a non profit organization for 10 years (ABATE of MS) there are two types of people who need to be consulted before signing a lease (from a business POV*). Those two are an attorney who specializes in non profit law and an accountant.

I think, between the two professions, that idea would get shot down pretty quick. There is a ton of things that need to be considered before signing a lease of any kind. If you just jump into one blind you leave yourself and your organization open to liability of all kinds. It is a nightmare no one wants to be stuck in.



*even non profits are considered businesses
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Old 10-07-2017, 03:46 PM   #17 (permalink)
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my recommend is to not try to put any obstacles in the pathway in the first instance

there is a person who has a ton of energy to want to do good. They are also a maniac. Maniacs are quite normal in these kinda local endeavours

there is a group of willing volunteers ready to staff the place. They are all maniacs as well, in their own ways. Maniacs who give their time generously for little to zero personal reward other than the fuzzies that come from doing good

given also that nobody willing to give their time is terribly motivated to make money for the org, or for money's sake in and of itself. That they can't already find people willing to spend all day in a solitary role packing and shipping online orders, speaks volumes about this, for this particular group of people

the only caution I would advocate, is for an arrangement with the landlord for a month-by-month rent on the premises. So that if it doesn't work out (meaning unable to pay the rent) then the arrangement can be exited

another thing that should be considered in these kinds of local charity initiatives. It is probable that people will be prepared to chip in a little bit each month to pay the rent. Similar to how people do chip in for SL tiers to help provide charitable spaces that are of interest to them
3 different points to respond to:

1) Maniacs and 'this particular group of people':
Hey, that's my parents you're talking about. The 'decider' in my folk's group might be a maniac, but the rest of them are just senior citizens looking to fill the time with something that's a bit social and purposeful. Listing books online isn't social. And it's frustratingly far beyond most of their technical comfort levels. They don't have an 'expert' to hold their hand as they get comfortable with it. It's difficult to get volunteers to do things they dislike or feel they can't do.... they'll just quit, and you'll exhaust your volunteer pool if you keep pushing them to do something they won't.

2) month to month:
Even if they could negotiate such a lease (and apparently the location they want won't give it to them), sure it would make the inevitable failure of the organization less painful to whomever is left holding the bag. They will still have lost the free space they had, and the organization will still be dead... but the people who made the bad decision will escape deeper financial liability. ?yay?

3) donations for rent:
The org is supposed to generate revenue for the library, not for itself... or for some profit-seeking slumlord. If they can't make rent without asking for donations for themselves... how are they going to do what they exist for? Which is generating money for the library?
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Old 10-07-2017, 04:37 PM   #18 (permalink)
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1) Maniacs in a good sense. Volunteers are all maniacs for the thing they volunteer to do

2) month-to-month. Not an option. Am assuming there is a business case document (numbers, projections, etc) that will be presented and decided on. You did mention the lead maniac has a tendency to rush into things (Roberts Rules what?) when they get a bit excited. Agree that its up to your parents and the others to help ensure that a mature approach is taken with this. The numbers work or they don't work

3) Donations for rent. Its pretty standard to solicit donations from fellow travellers to cover overheads, separate from any donations raised from the public for the charitable purpose

It seems to me that the lead maniac maybe wants "their" own bookshop. The royal "their" meaning that you all work here for free and I get to be the boss of it

if I was in the group then I would turn the conversation to how could there be both. Retain the library spot as it is. And set up a second working group to explore the bookshop option further

i would advocate against accepting what appears to be the lead maniac's view that this is a binary decision. When it doesn't have to be and shouldn't be
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Old 10-07-2017, 05:02 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I spent 20+ years working in a used bookstore so this is interesting to me. I never heard of someone running one out of a storage unit. Hopefully the books were on shelves rather than crammed in boxes or how do you get a requested title out to ship it?
I assume they put shelves in it, they had those in the store previously. I had a storage unit up until a year ago back in Alabama, because I wasn't ready to move my tools and lumber. You can pack an amazing amount of stuff in them with floor to ceiling shelf units and a step ladder to reach up high.
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Old 10-07-2017, 05:07 PM   #20 (permalink)
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the rates they charge for books would be more than lost to shipping in most cases.
Some years back, when I sold a few surplus books on Amazon, they paid you the sale price less their 15% cut + a shipping allowance. The post office book rate was less than that, so I had a bit left over on the shipping allowance.

I haven't done it in a while, so check Amazon's site for their current policy.
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Old 10-08-2017, 02:21 AM   #21 (permalink)
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... Am assuming there is a business case document (numbers, projections, etc) that will be presented and decided on. ...
Sure. The maniac scribbled something down on a computer and printed it up. No accountancy review, no legal review, no sanity check.... just "I have an idea, and here's a few graphs I made ... let's vote on it!"

The board voted on -something-. It's not at all clear what the board members thought they were voting on. Some think it was to investigate the idea further... the maniac, on the other hand, believes that they voted to fully commit to the relocation. And there's no real way to prove them wrong, (or right), apparently.

And, I guess, neither the library itself nor the wider network of 'friends' has any leverage to make this maniac take a step back and present a properly reviewed business plan.
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Old 10-08-2017, 07:25 AM   #22 (permalink)
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And, I guess, neither the library itself nor the wider network of 'friends' has any leverage to make this maniac take a step back and present a properly reviewed business plan.
if is a fait accompli at this late stage as it seems, the others can take their own step back

the spot in the library becomes available when the maniac picks up their toys and vacates. Nobody has to go with them

everybody is a volunteer and like all volunteers they can each decide for themselves what they spend their voluntary time on

the others can just wish the maniac all the best with their shop venture, and continue doing what they are doing now under a different arrangement with the library
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Old 10-08-2017, 09:45 AM   #23 (permalink)
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The next step is to protect the library. And the Library Director needs to be the one to take the lead. Make sure they do not have any financial exposure, and if possible keep their name off of the doomed venture. This can cost them not just one misguided volunteer, but a lot of community goodwill. Explain that to the person responsible for this mess...if they Really care about the library, now is the time to stop and think before they do actual harm to the organization...

The Director needs to sit down and be blunt. Preferably with their attorney and the support organization's attorney. Also, check the bylaws to find out who is entitled to enter into a contract for the support organization before anyone signs a lease. This could well be leading to a legal difficulty that can easily entangle the Library itself.
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Old 10-08-2017, 12:24 PM   #24 (permalink)
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The next step is to protect the library. And the Library Director needs to be the one to take the lead. Make sure they do not have any financial exposure, and if possible keep their name off of the doomed venture. This can cost them not just one misguided volunteer, but a lot of community goodwill. Explain that to the person responsible for this mess...if they Really care about the library, now is the time to stop and think before they do actual harm to the organization...

The Director needs to sit down and be blunt. Preferably with their attorney and the support organization's attorney. Also, check the bylaws to find out who is entitled to enter into a contract for the support organization before anyone signs a lease. This could well be leading to a legal difficulty that can easily entangle the Library itself.

Thanks for taking what I said to the next step.

Jopsy, the books being sold are used library books correct? If so, doesn't the library have final say over how and where the books are sold as used? Or does the non profit purchase the used books from the library to sell? Ownership of the used books at the time of sale is, perhaps, a minor detail but it is an important one.
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Old 10-08-2017, 03:41 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Thanks for taking what I said to the next step.

Jopsy, the books being sold are used library books correct? If so, doesn't the library have final say over how and where the books are sold as used? Or does the non profit purchase the used books from the library to sell? Ownership of the used books at the time of sale is, perhaps, a minor detail but it is an important one.
I don't know about Jopsy's situation, but most "Friends of the Library" groups don't own the books. They are donated to the Library, and the Friends organization just volunteers to sort, shelve, and staff the space where they are on display.
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