Tips for and explanations of various banking topics

Avoiding “Fashlas” by Your Accountant

"Empty Pockets" by DanielMoyle (Flickr)

The word fashla is Hebrew colloquial for “screw-up”. And yes, even your accountant, an Israeli charity’s best friend, can make a few.

As a banker I see this particular slip-up more often than you think. Here are two ways to avoid your accountant inadvertently putting your organization in the red.

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Why International Nonprofits Should Consider Incorporation

"Registration Desk Sign" by NHS Confederation

“Why or why not should one be incorporated?” is the question American lawyer Don Kramer asked in his Weekly E-Newsletter back in 2010.

For Mr. Kramer, the question is a legal one. The pros and cons that he outlines deal with personal liability and procedural/substantive questions. His fantastically succinct answer refers to state statute and case law.

For some, incorporation is relevant not because of legal concerns but rather taxation benefits. Others might contemplate incorporation through the lense of fundraising and its effects on donors. And yet to others, the act of incorporation or registration is simply a question of time and money — lacking either of the two might automatically render incorporation as an unwarranted expense.

As a banker, and more specifically, as a banker that deals with international nonprofits, I’m interested in easing a charity’s ability to open and manage a bank account.

So like any good Jew, I’ll answer a question with a question. When seeking to solve the riddle of “Should I incorporate?” I ask the following: Will your charity operate internationally?

If the answer is yes, then incorporate. It will make banking a whole lot easier.

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Is PayPal the Best Option for International Fundraising?

"Free Money Collection in Cash" by

Paypal is one of the leading Internet-payment options in the world for for-profits and nonprofits, alike. With only a PayPal logo and some code easily inserted onto a website, payments are a breeze. And with over 230 million PayPal users worldwide, the chances are good that your customer or donor either already has a PayPal account or trusts the company enough to register for a new one.

Combine the above with the one percent discount PayPal offers qualifying charitable organizations and you’re looking at a strong argument why PayPal should be the online payment-system of choice — for local donations.

However, for international fundraising, PayPal’s “cross-border fees” should prompt nonprofits to tread carefully before jumping head first into this particular pool.

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6 Reasons "Friends of" Orgs Should Bank Abroad

The fiscal requirements of an American charity have become more complicated in recent years. Increased scrutiny from the IRS, more intricate tax documentation, the recent economic crisis, and donors’ need for transparency, are just a few of the challenges facing the sector. When a charity operates internationally these difficulties are only exacerbated. These global organizations are expected to be familiar with regional and global charity regulations, comfortable working in foreign languages and cultures, able to cope with inherent increased expenses, and capable of forging new relationships – all while maintaining a high level of accountability.

A powerful tool in helping a “Friends of” organization cope is an additional account abroad in the country in which it operates. When used to its potential, this kind of account is invaluable.

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3 Dangers that Money-Changers Pose to Charities

In Israel, more than in most countries, foreign currency is an integral part of every facet of the country’s daily economic enterprises – private, business, and public sectors, alike.

A recent released study showed that 53% of financial support to Israeli charities came from abroad. Thus, making foreign exchange exchange fees, rates, and processing times of the utmost importance to Israeli charities.

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Insight Not Accuracy: Why The New York Times is Important

A recent New York Times’ article attacked American charities that help build communities in Israel’s West Bank and IRS policy that enables donations to these organizations to be tax-deductable. As with any piece about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, many people have been quick to attack or defend the veracity of the article.

To nonprofit organizations, the value of the article is not the accuracy of the authors’ claims, but rather the article’s insight into current concerns and trends influencing the nonprofit sector. These can serve as warnings and guidelines to US charities that operate internationally.

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4 Reasons Why NOT to Establish an "American Friends of" Organization

Israeli charities (amutot in Hebrew) rely on donations from overseas – no secret there. Many foreign-based charities choose to create an American based nonprofit, more commonly referred to as a “Friends of” organization so donations can be tax-deductible vis-a-vis the American Federal Government. (In a previous post, I spoke about IRS trends when a “Friends of Organization” is applying for tax-exempt status.)

However, it could be that establishing a “Friends of” organization is not in your charity’s best interest. The following are some considerations that elaborate on: Why not to raise funds through a U.S. registered “Friends of” Organization?

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Are “American Friends of” Organizations a Thing of the Past?

International organizations have been highly successful in raising funds from the United States through U.S. based charities commonly referred to as “Friends of” organizations. These charities are registered in the States and have 501(c)3 tax-exempt status and, thus, allowing these donations to these essentially foreign organizations to be tax-deductible.

As you can imagine, many international causes consider a “Friends of” organization as a crucial step in their fundraising strategy.

Hence, recent conversations I have had are causing me to worry.

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