Some forty five trustees and library directors stepped out of the “library bubble” and entered the broader world of Pennsylvania nonprofits when they attended the May 10, 2017 multi-district workshop, Nonprofit Law and Your Library, presented by the Northeast, Wilkes-Barre and Pottsville Districts.
Patricia Mogan, Standards for Excellence Director, Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO), presented information on topics ranging from by-laws, and disclosure requirements to the general responsibilities of board members. It soon became apparent that most of the attendees were in need of information, especially about the legal requirements of nonprofit boards. Related topics covered included how to file for tax exempt status, filing IRS form 990, PA Sales and Use Tax report, and the Decennial filing of form DSCB 54-503, on continued existence of the association. The Annual/Periodic Checklist of items that require a board’s attention was discussed in some detail. The necessity of detailed minutes as a record of corporate actions, annual review of the executive director’s performance, and a board self-evaluation were some of the items on the list. It was suggested, e.g., that a board member sit down once a year with board minutes and the by-laws to be sure that what happens at board meetings is not in conflict with the by-laws. In addition to a regular review of by-laws, key policies should be reviewed at least once every five years. The importance of having a mission and vision statement easy to understand and explain to others and that is known to board and staff members was also stressed.
Among the handouts participants received were a guideline for writing minutes, a sample job description for board members, a sample board commitment form and a sample board member orientation checklist.
One of the helpful resources noted was Philadelphia attorney Don Kramer’s Non Profit Issues®, Nonprofit Law You Need To Know. (http://www.nonprofitissues.com/to-the-point/should-%E2%80%9Cfriends%E2%80%9D-organization-have-liability-concerns) In addition to being a wealth of information on nonprofit law, the website includes a section titled, “Your Legal Questions Answered” which may prove helpful to libraries. There is at least one question there referencing a Friends of the Library group and whether it has any liability for a library program for which it provides funding. Subscribing to the weekly Q& A and submitting a question is free, as is access to select articles from the newsletter, but there is also an opportunity to purchase a subscription that allows full access to and full printable versions of each edition.
Another invaluable resource is PANO itself. http://pano.org/ offers links to downloadable documents such as The Standards for Excellence, An Ethics and Accountability Program for the Nonprofit Sector as well as links to resources on a variety of topics ranging from board governance, fundraising and finance to community collaboration.
When asked what they hoped to implement upon return to their libraries, participants noted the following:
- Review policies and bylaws and implement items discussed in this session •
- Re-evaluate by-laws and be more specific with board responsibility
- Create a self-evaluation policy
- Begin thinking about a long range plan;
- Pass retention of documents and conflict of interest policy
- Implement board orientation (at least start the process
(this workshop was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor).
Mary Ann W. Yonki
Wilkes-Barre Library District Consultant
Osterhout Free Library, North Branch