A Family Focus On Business: Relph Benefit Services serve the north country

From left to right: Jack Gorman, John Bartholf, Bob Relph Sr, Fred Tontarski, Bob Relph Jr, Mike Wiley stand together at the site of their newly built office in 1989.

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Today For Tomorrow: The power of endowment

Rande Richardson

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” — Chinese Proverb 

More than ever, nonprofit organizations providing valuable services that enrich and enhance our lives are finding the wisdom and necessity of diversifying their revenue. Just as in the private sector, survival is enhanced when there are reliable streams of operating funds. Just as there are short-term, near-term and long-term needs, there should be a resource approach built with each in mind. 

    Currently, over 150 nonprofit organizations, churches and schools serving Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have committed to ensuring their long-term viability by partnering with the Community Foundation. Through these partnerships, they have consciously established and built dedicated resources for the purpose of creating a financial bedrock for the sustainability of their work and mission and best stewardship of gifts entrusted to them. While organizational endowments are not a one-size-fits-all proposition, I can point to many charitable organizations, large and small, whose strength has been enhanced by a permanent fund with the accountable discipline only an endowment brings. 

    This approach continues to be of interest to donors who seek to extend their annual giving beyond their lifetimes. Individuals often prefer to make major gifts, including legacy bequests, to provide support for specific charities that will remain in place in perpetuity or to those charities for specific purposes. Recognizing the importance of annual support, the typical Community Foundation donor creates or adds to a permanent endowment for multiple charities at various percentages. Contributing to an endowment provides an enduring gift that can support programs, projects, buildings and initiatives that the donor may have helped previously provide for. 

    This is a primary reason why the Community Foundation now routinely couples grants with an incentive to help build protection for the initial capital expense. To that end, we are currently doubling gifts to build endowments for over 30 local organizations. Just as in life, it is wise to consider the ability to maintain, improve and properly care for things we have made investments in. Even for smaller charitable organizations, an endowment demonstrates to the community and donors a long-term thinking and a commitment to building capacity for the future. In many ways, earnings from endowments help complement and maximize the annual giving that is so critical to fulfillment of mission. This may draw further support from those who wish to provide for an institution that has stability, longevity, permanence and strength. 

    While some may point out that an endowment is of minimal help until it reaches a certain level, taking the first step to proactively focus on the long-term may help a nonprofit’s most loyal supporters see a clear pathway to do the same. The endowment goal should be aligned with realistic levels of giving for this institution even though organizations often underestimate the ability of one donor to be a game changer for future strength. By demonstrating to donors a responsible, stewarded mechanism to perpetuate their support, the case becomes more compelling. Community Foundation endowments help build even more confidence knowing that there is an additional layer of oversight and accountability through leadership changes over time. Being able to stipulate alternate uses for endowment funds in the event an entity ceases to exist is also incredibly powerful from a donor advocacy perspective. This aligns closely with the sanctity of donor intent knowing that what an organization does is likely the ultimate motivation for the gift over the organization itself. The delivery of that program or service may someday be offered in an alternate form. 

    Whether you are a board member, donor or employee, if you believe that the work your organization does is important enough to support today, finding ways to support that mission long-term should be equally critical. As with a savings or retirement program, there is no substitute for starting early. Endowment gifts help ensure that legacies are best remembered for generations to come, in service of the things about which you care most. Ultimately, this protects the investments you’ve made in those causes during your lifetime and has the potential to provide many times the impact of a gift made in one lump sum. When the generosity of the past is combined with the actions of today’s donors, a powerful effect is created, making both acts of kindness more powerful and far reaching. Together, this helps increase the chance that organizations that are here for good can remain here for good. 

Rande Richardson is executive director of the Northern New York Community Foundation. Contact him at rande@nnycf.org. 

20 Questions: Nurturing Northern New York

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/NNY BUSINESS
Nutrition Program Manager at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County April Bennett poses for a portrait inside the cooperative’s office kitchen in Watertown.

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Pollinator Partners In The North Country

Randy Young

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) understands the critically important roles bees and their pollinator partners—bats, butterflies, and wasps—play in supporting public health, our ecosystems and our economy. That is why DEC is abuzz with activity designed to support honey bees. 

    A honey bee’s daily job of collecting and discarding pollen is a heavy workload for a flying insect that only weighs .00025 pounds; 4,000 bees together weigh just one pound. Despite their size, New York’s ability to produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins, and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of these and other pollinators. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. 

    Honey bees can fly up to 12 miles per hour and visit as many as 100 flowers each day to collect nectar. These bees live only five to six weeks and can produce about one tablespoon of honey during their lifespan. It takes the work of several hundred bees to fill a 9.5-ounce jar of honey. 

    Unfortunately, honey bees and their pollinator partners are facing a host of threats that are harmful and, in some cases, deadly. These threats include: 

  • habitat loss;
  • non-native species and diseases;
  • pollution;
  • pesticides; and
  • climate change.

These are just a few of the threats these species face. To combat these threats, DEC works with its partners to support the four priorities of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Pollinator Task Force, which works to conserve and grow the state’s pollinator populations. Priorities include sharing best management practices with pollinator stakeholders, enhancing habitat, research and monitoring, and developing educational outreach programs for the public. 

    With a third round of funding from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) allocated in the NYS 2018-2019 budget to implement the Pollinator Protection Plan, New York continues to make great strides restoring the health of pollinators. Our state’s leading efforts to promote the health of pollinators include policies to enhance foraging habitats, the creation of an inventory of wild pollinators, and encouraging pollinator-friendly planting and the use of natural forms of pest management on state lands, just to name a few. 

    For instance, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets is expanding its NYS Grown & Certified marketing program to include honey producers. The program markets local farmers and producers that adhere to food safety and environmental sustainability standards. To be eligible, honey producers must harvest 100 percent of their honey in New York and must successfully complete Cornell University’s Honey Food Safety Best Practices Manual test and label their honey products accordingly. Applicants must also submit the Honey Bee Health Information form and are required to have a bee health inspection every two years. These efforts are in addition to the state’s creation of a Technical Advisory Team that assists beekeepers in identifying and combating the causes of poor hive health. 

    DEC staff are also diligently working to educate the public on ways to reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides that could be harmful to pollinators. Additionally, the agency has a dedicated hotline to report pollinator incidents (a situation where several bees or other pollinators have died or appear to be dying). The public can call DEC’s Pesticide Program Headquarters at 1-844-332-3267 to report it. 

    We also participate every year in promoting “Pollinator Protection Week,” which highlights New York’s key pollinators, including butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. This past June, Governor Cuomo issued a proclamation commemorating the importance of pollinators to New York’s environment and agricultural economy and affirmed New York’s commitment to promoting the health and recovery of the state’s pollinator population. 

    Recently, DEC’s Region 6 operations staff and wildlife experts planted approximately one-quarter acre of pollinator seed in a small field at Perch River Wildlife Management Area. DEC plans to increase this acreage over time in hopes of providing flowering plants to benefit the declining native bees and other insect pollinators. DEC also plants flowers at its regional substations and campgrounds to attract pollinators and encourages the public to participate by planting their own native plant species. These so-called Pollinator Pathways can make a big difference in a bee’s lifespan and will add color to properties. 

    The St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management has a brochure online that contains everything the public needs to know about pollinator pathways https://www.sleloinvasives.org/learn/educational-material/slelo-pollinator-pathway-project-brochure/ so that all New Yorkers can support DEC’s work to protect this crucially important wildlife. 

FAQ In Marketing: A North Country Professional’s Cheat Sheet

Jessica Piatt

As the Director of Marketing at the Greater Watertown – North Country Chamber of Commerce, I often get asked questions about my responsibilities at the chamber. While there are many interesting aspects of my job, managing social media seems to pique the most interest. Without fail, I am asked to delineate. 

    This typically ignites a flurry of questions. With north country Businesses in mind, I have selected some of my favorite FAQs.  

I’m asked questions such as: 

  • I don’t have time; can’t I just link all our accounts? 
  • Is itreally necessary? 
  • What even is engagement?
  • How can my business benefit from it? 

    Let’s set the record straight. Yes, you can link your social media platforms to regurgitate the same content verbatim. But, just as we have all learned from the Jurassic Park franchise, just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. When you post the same content on all your social media platforms, you might be getting the job done faster, but you’re lowering your performance in the process. Instead, consider posting similar content with copy that is unique to each individual platform. In this way you achieve the objective of getting the word out without coming across to your audience as repetitive or robotic.  

Is it really necessary? 

    You wouldn’t deny a free advertising opportunity or intentionally cut back on your customer service efforts, would you? Having a presence on social media is a place where you can increase brand awareness and engage people directly as an effective (and measurable) method to generate leads and sales. Need I say more? 

What even is engagement?  

    In essence, engagement is any time someone interacts with your social media. It comes in the form of metrics such as: likes, follows, comments, shares, re-tweets, and click-throughs. Any way people interact with you on platforms is social media engagement. Not only are these metrics essential for tracking the success of your campaigns on social media, they are an integral part of accomplishing goals in the digital age.  

How can my business benefit from it? 

    Come on people! I mean it is 2019. Having a presence on social media platforms offers your business the opportunity to highlight the services you provide or products you offer. It can also be used to enhance your brand’s other marketing efforts. Your digital presence can engage your audience and grow your consumer or client base. Ultimately, your presence on social media platforms will further your goals as an organization. 

    As the director of marketing at the Greater Watertown – North Country Chamber of Commerce, I welcome curiosity. Talking to members and interested businesses about their concerns or questions  surrounding social media platforms is one of the highlights of my job. If you are curious, I challenge you to seek understanding. Use resources such as chambers, or other organizations dedicated to promoting and supporting businesses, to gain insight. Glean from the expertise of those in your professional network. Finally, employ your findings to benefit your business. 

20 Questions: The State of Health in NNY

NNY BUSINESS
Jefferson County Public Health Planner Stephen A. Jennings.

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A Dream for a North Country Endowment for the Arts

Rande Richardson

“Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves, and to others, the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.” — Lyndon B. Johnson  

I am not alone in the way the arts have contributed to the quality of my life. I was blessed to have early influences from parents, teachers and other adults that fostered an exposure to and appreciation for the arts. Some of my best childhood memories occurred in an environment where arts were seen as an integral part of developing the mind, heart and soul. There was an early understanding of the relationship between the knowledge of and appreciation for the arts and the education of the whole person and the advancement of society.  

    Consider all of the nonprofit organizations that deliver music, dance, theater, visual arts, film, literature and folk arts to north country residents. Access to the many benefits of arts programs would not be possible without a commitment from both public and private sources. Nearly all of the region’s arts organizations and museums rely on this hybrid funding approach. Most would agree that the role of the arts in education, in civic life, in the economy, and art for the sake of art, is worthy of our continued and sustained investment. Arts and culture contribute more than $760 billion to the national economy and employ nearly five million people with earnings of more than $370 billion.  

    Several years ago, I was fortunate to have served as a panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts. That experience opened my eyes even wider to the many diverse forms of artistic expression and the breadth and depth of ways they are offered. In my time at the Community Foundation, I have often literally had a front row seat to the way the arts in all forms reaches deep inside the core of what makes us human. Many reading this column have similarly experienced the way the arts touch a different part of who you are.  

    I believe gifts given to the Community Foundation over the past 90 years were made to invest not only in basic human needs but also enrichment of life in our region. Over the past decade, requests in support of the arts have far exceeded available resources. Most grants to arts activities in the tri-county area are made from our unrestricted funds. Our largest endowments directed for the arts are restricted to supporting live orchestral music performed in the Watertown area and classical music in Clayton. Some donors have made generous future provisions through their legacy planning to establish or build Community Foundation endowments to benefit specific arts organizations in the region in perpetuity. This is will be transformational as arts organizations will require greater commitment of resources to survive.  

    In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965. The act called for the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities as separate, independent agencies. That foresight has helped ensure the survival and accessibility of the arts. One of the reasons I advocate for Watertown’s annual Concert in the Park is that there is no charge for admission. There is no barrier to experiencing the joy of the amazing gift of live orchestral music. However, keeping access affordable does not come without a cost.  

    I am fortunate to be part of very personal and meaningful conversations with those who want to leave a legacy. If there is an indication that the arts have touched them, I don’t hesitate to make the case for a north country endowment for the arts. While I am grateful for generous expressions of support for specific arts organizations, I also recognize the importance of a permanent, ongoing resource for the arts themselves, in all forms in all places, for all people, forever. Just as it has nationally, a regional endowment for the arts would help ensure the arts will always remain a priority and help leverage additional sources of funding.  

    There are programs, projects and initiatives as-yet unknown that will only happen with a shared commitment to the arts. We need an enduring resource that promotes and strengthens the creative capacity of communities across Northern New York by providing diverse opportunities for arts participation — a defining strength of our shared experience. Think for a moment about that one song that touches the deepest part of your soul. I am confident that in my lifetime, someone will leave a legacy that will forever be that song. 

100 Years Strong: Association For The Blind celebrates milestone

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/NNY BUSINESS
Olivia Kassoum-Amadou, executive director of the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired of Northern New York, poses for a portrait behind the glass door inside the association’s Watertown office.

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All In A Night’s Sleep: Respiratory therapy and sleep center of NNY

NNY BUSINESS
A technician places polysomnography sensors on a patients head.

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Changing Urgent Care: WellNow Urgent Care provides ease of treatment

DAYTONA NILES/NNY BUSINESS
Wellnow Urgent Care in Watertown.

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