As you build the foundation it is important to understand some of the actual work you will need to do as you start operating as a Network. It is also important to consider the governance structure.
Typically, networks have a governing body and a volunteer or paid staff person. Boards establish policies, board members and staff execute the policy. This model is referred to as a working board. As you think about roles, be aware of the kinds of tasks that need to be done to manage a network and which roles can be done by members of the Board. Assess where you have in-house expertise and which functions you will need to staff, whether through your staff person or through a contractor.
Sustaining a social justice ministry relies on your SAN’s ability to develop new leaders who will take on responsibility and can lead the SAN in new and positive directions.
Think of leadership development as a way of approaching everything you do as you engage in social justice work.
Steps you can take to develop new leaders:
The Board, in most cases is a legal entity with overall responsibility for the organization.
New members need to understand this role and be given the tools to do this work. Listed below are key functions of the board and some on-line resources to provide further information.
Public Policy and Research Committee identifies and implements the process for determining the priority issues for education and advocacy; maintains awareness of relevant NJ legislative developments and emerging priority issues; develops and maintains strategic relationships with other statewide advocacy organizations to establish partnering opportunities; coordinates with other UULMNJ committees to maintain effective channels of communication, problem identification, and establishing overarching
policies and procedures; identifies and maintains effective mechanisms to communicate emerging legislative and public policy developments; obtains or develops and shares relevant advocacy and educational materials with interested congregants, statewide.
Mobilization/Rapid Response works under the Public Policy & Research Committee to develop templates for advocacy, including decision maker/legislators to be contacted, and develops alerts to be issued through the Communications Committee.
Priority Issue Subcommittees: Economic Justice, Health Care, Environment, and Emerging (other issues): Each subcommittee has a coordinator, researches upcoming legislation, develops and recommends position statements and advocacy action to the Public Policy & Research Committee. Research will include input and assistance from local Congregational Action Teams.
Communications oversees the various mechanisms for communicating with congregations, the public at large, media, and public officials. It coordinates work with other committees and subcommittees that provide content for the website, media outlets, and communicates with congregations and interested individuals. It serves as a resource, housing communications tools such as a News Bureau, a speakers bureau, publications development and fact sheets, e-communications, etc.
Congregational Relations develops, maintains and enhances the relationship between the UULMNJ and NJ congregations to support UULMNJ’s advocacy efforts through Congregation Action Teams and congregations’ local social justice programs. It fosters the spiritual foundation of justice ministry; gives input about, and assistance; with, the Affiliation Agreement and process; supports the dynamics of the Plenary Council; develops and disseminates educational and worship materials; assists with leadership
training opportunities, lobby days, and conferences; fosters the engagement of youth and adult UUs.
Task Force for Organizational Structure and Incorporation coordinates and oversees completion of necessary steps to establish UULMNJ as a non-profit organization; researches and presents options concerning incorporation to Steering Committee/Board; oversees application process to obtain status as a non-profit organization (501c3) at federal and state level; reviews bylaws to ensure consistency with
UULMNJ’s mission and intention to obtain non-profit status.
Development Committee researches and identifies funding sources; coordinates and implements fundraising campaigns; outreaches to individuals to become Friends of UULMNJ.
Financial/Budget Committee develops annual operating budget and monitors expenditures; develops and maintains financial procedures; liaisons with fiscal sponsor, as long as applicable.
Personnel/Policies and Procedures Committee develops job descriptions and personnel policies; oversees hiring process, drafts policies and procedures necessary for governance and operation of organization.
Important Steps in Retaining Volunteers (From the Praxis Project Advocacy Curriculum, available at buildthewheel.org):
Follow Up: Thank-you, “no show” and reminder calls are all an important part of keeping volunteers.
Incentives: Frequent helper points, certificates, etc., really make a difference.
Flexibility: Not everyone can make it to the meeting. Find things to do for those who can’t.
Fun: People should look forward to the next time they volunteer!
Democracy: Everyone likes to have some say in what they’re involved in. Share decision making when possible.
Rituals: They don’t have to be fancy; just regular “customs” that build organizational culture — like special ways of opening or closing meetings, welcoming new volunteers, etc.
Efficiency: Respect people’s time, be organized.
Production: Make sure you accomplish something and always acknowledge what you’ve done together.
Not all State Action Networks are incorporated. Below are some options for the organization of your SAN:
Questions to Consider
Make sure you understand the rules for being an advocate. It is critical that you understand what 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations can and cannot do. Even if you decide not to incorporate, you will be obligated to follow the same rules as your fiscal agent, or any church that supports you.
Nonprofit corporations are created by states. The federal government determines the tax status.
Your first step is to establish a corporation in your state. Generally the information as to how to do this is available from your Secretary of State. You should be able to get information online by going to your state website. Many states allow you to file for corporation status online for a small fee. You will be required to submit at a minimum:
Articles of Incorporation are required by each state if you wish to incorporate. Note that you must be incorporated by the state before you can obtain tax-exempt status from the IRS.
The Articles of Incorporation are a legal document that establishes you as a specific type of corporation within your state, provides a legal description of your organization, and assigns specific powers to the Board. Each state has its own rules which can generally be found in the Secretary of State section of each website.
By-laws are a legal document that establishes the rules for how your Network will operate. They serve as the contract between the corporation (the Network) and the owners. By-laws can be very simple, but should include:
The IRS requires that tax-exempt charitable organizations file an application under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. Most organizations use Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption. Due to changing rules it is impossible for us to detail the process here. Generally it is recommended that you obtain legal assistance to, at a minimum, review your application and ensure that your By-laws and Articles of Incorporation are consistent with all the requirements.
There are two types of IRS designations: 501(c)(3) Non-profit, tax exempt
General IRS resources:
If you are seeking status as a 501(c)(4), you still must file with the IRS to ensure your revenues remain tax exempt. This IRS publication provides more details:
Here are a few resources:
Alliance for Justice – The Nonprofit Advocacy Project (NAP) and Foundation Advocacy Initiative (FAI) work to strengthen the voice of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors in important public policy debates by giving tax-exempt organizations a better understanding of the laws that govern their participation in the policy process.
UUA – The Real Rules
Rules for Church Lobbying can be found at these IRS sites:
Comprehensive guide from the IRS on Church activity