Friday, November 30, 2012

Guest Blog: Nonprofits

Ever wanted to really know what a nonprofit, like us, is really all about? Check out this guest post below by Lani Hanson. She gets down to the nuts and bolts as to how we operate.

Profit From Knowledge of Non-profits:

Green is all the rage right now: community gardens, co-ops, farmer’s markets.  But what about it’s do-gooder predecessor and now compadre, the Non-Profit?  With the world’s citizens going the way of eco-conscious, kale-wielding composters, it’s about time the myths of non-profits are debunked.  Find out how to maximize your contribution to your community by understanding how the non-profit and other associated organizations work.

Let’s start with our very own San Antonio B-cycle:

San Antonio Bike Share is striving to provide citizens and tourists the ability to maximize the environmental, economic, cultural, and social benefits of bicycling. The nonprofit organization provides an efficient, sustainable mode of transportation, while also promoting health, quality of life, and preservation of the environment for San Antonio residents, commuters, and visitors.  

They say they’re trying to benefit the environment and people, but is this just another green-washed program?
No.  As a 501c3, San Antonio B-cycle is legally obligated to operate not for a profit (hence the name), but for its constituents, meaning you the residents and visitors of San Antonio.  There are no incentives to non-profits to deceive the public.  Non-profits by definition are there to provide for the community they have professed to serve, upon receiving the 501c3 tax exempt status.

What does green-washed mean?

Wikipedia’s definition says: Greenwashing, or "green sheen", is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's aims and policies are environmentally friendly. Whether it is to increase profits or gain political support, greenwashing may be used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims.

What does 501c3 tax exempt status mean?
A non-profit is a charitable organization.  Non-profits are not operated for the benefit of private interests, private shareholders, or an individual, and they are not allowed to influence legislation.  Basically they are here to do good and serve the community.  Since they are operating for the good of the community, they are given benefits by the government.  This is to offset the fact that without an aim for income generation, non-profits have to rely on charitable contributions to keep their doors open.  Benefits non-profit’s receive include being able to incentivize contributions by offering tax deductions, are exempt from some state and federal taxes, and are eligible for lower postal rates.

If I donate to a 501c3 non-profit organization, will I receive a deduction on my taxes?
Maybe.  When doing your taxes, you either itemize or take the standard deduction.  If you are a freelancer who can “write things off,” or are someone who makes a lot of donations throughout the year then most likely you will itemize your taxes and would benefit from your charitable donation.  If you have a regular wage or salary job, most likely you will take the standard deduction where the deduction for a charitable donation will not benefit you tax-wise.  If you plan to itemize, you must obtain a receipt from the organization for your donation to show the IRS if you are audited.

Philanthropy is important, but do your research before allocating those hard-earned resources.  I recommend volunteering for the organization you are thinking about donating to.  Find a personal connection to a few organizations that touch your life.  Be aware that the smaller the organization and the better you know them, the more impactful your donation will be.  Although larger organizations have their merit, they tend to have more bureaucracy and less transparency as to what your money is going toward.

San Antonio B-cycle charges for their services, isn’t this illegal for a non-profit to do?
No.  Some non-profit’s do not charge for their services, and some do.  They always, however, try to make their services as affordable as possible.  San Antonio based their prices on how much income they need to generate to stay open, and keep providing their stellar service to you.  Non-profits have to pay bills just as businesses do: rent, utilities, equipment, staff, etc.

Where does the money come from to operate a non-profit?

Organizations can generate money in many different ways.  They can charge a small fee to those using the services.  The most common revenue streams include grants from foundations, individual contributions made by you or a wealthy community member, and fundraisers.  Give 501c3’s some props because not only do they have to do the job of a business – provide the service, but also fundraise on the side.  Some, but few, organizations qualify for governmental funding, which usually provides more funding stability to organizations than other funding streams.  Most likely organizations have all of the above income streams, not just one.  Every penny counts.

Do non-profit’s give money to anyone in need in their community?
Unfortunately not.  It takes a lot of alignment to receive funding for a 501c3.  The non-profit has a mission statement which outlines the aim of their services, but so do foundations and government grants.  So only if the organization’s own mission statement fits within this mission are they eligible for funds.  If the agency is lucky enough to receive a grant, they essentially enter into a promise to only use the funds as they have specified through their mission and services.

What if after all this, a non-profit does have a profit at the end of the year?
They inject it back into the programs and make them bigger and better, able to serve more people or make their services even more affordable.

What is the difference between a non-profit and a co-op?
A non-profit is not owned by anyone or any group of people.  It is ultimately governed by its board of directors, and run by an Executive Director + staff.  A co-op is owned by its members.  Let’s use the example of a grocery store co-op.  There are essentially two types of co-ops: member-owned (the people that shop there for groceries) and employee-owned.  You buy a share of the co-op to become a part-owner, have voting rights at meetings and general influence how the co-op is run.  Organic and fair trade products are usually the hallmark of co-ops because the people shopping also decide what is available through their ownership, and naturally want the healthiest possible products.

Photo Credit: Lani Hanson, Let’s all do what we can to contribute.

And lastly the most frequently asked question…

Do people get paid to work at a non-profit?  You’re a volunteer right?
Yes, the staff at non-profits are paid.  Non-profits run like a business in this sense.  There is an Executive Director and other support staff, depending on how large the organization is.  Please bear in mind though, usually staff at non-profits are paid 10-20% less than their business counterparts.  The quality of service is not lower, these staff members have consciously taken a pay cut in order to participate in a project they believe in and to ensure these services are available to you.  Ways that you can contribute to make sure your community organization stays open include getting on their mailing list for volunteers, making a donation according to what suits your situation, bringing your talent to a non-profit staff, or just giving a big smile and a word of gratitude to those already staffing the organizations in your community. 

Author and guest blogger, Lani Hanson, worked at 3 social service non-profits in Minnesota, Texas, and California.  She was also a volunteer staff member at the San Francisco Bike Kitchen non-profit co-op.  She now is the Communications Manager for a start-up in Berlin. 
Follow her on twitter @lanihanson.
*This article brought to you by Andrew from bikesnbits





Thursday, November 1, 2012

Where We B After Month 20...

Number of Trips






Calories burned


Carbon Offset


 245,669 lbs
Gallons of Gas Saved

Dollars Saved

B-fit, B-green, B-cycle

Friday, October 26, 2012

Verizon Innovation Awards

San Antonio Bike Share was recently named the winner of the Verizon Wireless Innovation Award for Small Businesses. This was an awesome opportunity and HUGE honor to showcase how we use Verizon Wireless technology to operate our system. Stay tuned for the video they shot of us explaining the partnership.

Happy Friday!

B-fit, B-green, B-cycle

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Busy Week

We have had a busy last couple of days. We have installed 5 stations along the Mission Reach, gained several new annual members, and our resident Community Outreach Guru,  Daniel, made his tv debut discussing B-cycle on Great Day SA.

It is hard to believe that we have only been operating for 18 months and have accomplished so much. Almost 1,500 annual members, 30 stations, and big tv appearances, to name a few. :) We are so appreciative of all of the support. Without our strongest advocates and ambassadors, our members, we would never have come this far!

Check out what we have been up too...


B-fit, B-green, B-cycle

Monday, October 22, 2012

Happy Monday!

Mission Reach Station Installation Begins Today!
B-fit, B-green, B-cycle

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Ongoing Debate...

Below is an article from the New York Times from a week ago. The comments from the original article are not posted, but feel free to post your thoughts on this controversial issue... we want to know what you think!

To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets


Published: September 29, 2012 327 Comments

ONE spectacular Sunday in Paris last month, I decided to skip museums and shopping to partake of something even more captivating for an environment reporter: Vélib, arguably the most successful bike-sharing program in the world. In their short lives, Europe’s bike-sharing systems have delivered myriad benefits, notably reducing traffic and its carbon emissions. A number of American cities — including New York, where a bike-sharing program is to open next year — want to replicate that success.

So I bought a day pass online for about $2, entered my login information at one of the hundreds of docking stations that are scattered every few blocks around the city and selected one of Vélib’s nearly 20,000 stodgy gray bikes, with their basic gears, upright handlebars and practical baskets.

Then I did something extraordinary, something I’ve not done in a quarter-century of regular bike riding in the United States: I rode off without a helmet.

I rode all day at a modest clip, on both sides of the Seine, in the Latin Quarter, past the Louvre and along the Champs-Élysées, feeling exhilarated, not fearful. And I had tons of bareheaded bicycling company amid the Parisian traffic. One common denominator of successful bike programs around the world — from Paris to Barcelona to Guangzhou — is that almost no one wears a helmet, and there is no pressure to do so.

In the United States the notion that bike helmets promote health and safety by preventing head injuries is taken as pretty near God’s truth. Un-helmeted cyclists are regarded as irresponsible, like people who smoke. Cities are aggressive in helmet promotion.

But many European health experts have taken a very different view: Yes, there are studies that show that if you fall off a bicycle at a certain speed and hit your head, a helmet can reduce your risk of serious head injury. But such falls off bikes are rare — exceedingly so in mature urban cycling systems.

On the other hand, many researchers say, if you force or pressure people to wear helmets, you discourage them from riding bicycles. That means more obesity, heart disease and diabetes. And — Catch-22 — a result is fewer ordinary cyclists on the road, which makes it harder to develop a safe bicycling network. The safest biking cities are places like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where middle-aged commuters are mainstay riders and the fraction of adults in helmets is minuscule.

“Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn’t justified — in fact, cycling has many health benefits,” says Piet de Jong, a professor in the department of applied finance and actuarial studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. He studied the issue with mathematical modeling, and concludes that the benefits may outweigh the risks by 20 to 1.

He adds: “Statistically, if we wear helmets for cycling, maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath, because there are lots more injuries during those activities.” The European Cyclists’ Federation says that bicyclists in its domain have the same risk of serious injury as pedestrians per mile traveled.

Yet the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that “all cyclists wear helmets, no matter where they ride,” said Dr. Jeffrey Michael, an agency official.

Recent experience suggests that if a city wants bike-sharing to really take off, it may have to allow and accept helmet-free riding. A two-year-old bike-sharing program in Melbourne, Australia — where helmet use in mandatory — has only about 150 rides a day, despite the fact that Melbourne is flat, with broad roads and a temperate climate. On the other hand, helmet-lax Dublin — cold, cobbled and hilly — has more than 5,000 daily rides in its young bike-sharing scheme. Mexico City recently repealed a mandatory helmet law to get a bike-sharing scheme off the ground. But here in the United States, the politics are tricky.

SHAUN MURPHY, the bicycling coordinator of Minneapolis-St. Paul — which inaugurated its “Nice Ride” bike-sharing program this year — has been pilloried for riding about without a helmet. “I just want it to be seen as something that a normal person can do,” Mr. Murphy explained to the local press this past summer. “You don’t need special gear. You just get on a bike and you just go.”

In New York, where there were 21 cyclist fatalities last year, the transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, is always photographed on a bike and wearing a helmet. The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has nonetheless rejected calls by Comptroller John C. Liu for a mandatory helmet law when New York’s 10,000-cycle bike-share program rolls out next year, for fear it would keep people from riding. Still, the mayor says helmets are a “good idea,” and the city promotes helmet use through education and with giveaway programs.

In the United States, cities are struggling to overcome the significant practical problems of melding helmet use with bike-sharing programs — such as providing sanitized helmet dispensers at bike docking stations, says Susan Shaheen, director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

But bicycling advocates say that the problem with pushing helmets isn’t practicality but that helmets make a basically safe activity seem really dangerous.

“The real benefits of bike-sharing in terms of health, transport and emissions derive from getting ordinary people to use it,” said Ceri Woolsgrove, safety officer at the European Cyclists’ Federation. “And if you say this is wonderful, but you have to wear armor, they won’t. These are normal human beings, not urban warriors.”

In fact, many European researchers say the test of a mature bike-sharing program is when women outnumber men. In the Netherlands, 52 percent of riders are women. Instead of promoting helmet use, European cycling advocates say, cities should be setting up safer bike lanes to slow traffic or divert it entirely from downtown areas. “Riding in New York or Australia is like running with the bulls — it’s all young males,” says Julian Ferguson, a spokesman for the European Cyclists’ Federation. And that’s in part what makes it dangerous. (Many European countries do require helmet use for children.)

In London, where use of a new bike-share program is exceeding all expectations, the number of riders in suits and dresses is growing, Mr. Woolsgrove says. And more Londoners seem to be leaving helmets at home.

We may follow a similar pattern. In her study of nascent bike-sharing programs in North America — including Montreal, Washington and Minneapolis — Dr. Shaheen found that the accident rate was “really low.” A large majority of participants strongly agreed that they got more exercise since the program started. And helmet use in bike programs tended to be far lower than among the general public.

Another study this summer found that only 30 percent of local riders using Washington’s Capital Bikeshare program wore helmets, compared with 70 percent of people on their own bikes, said John Kraemer of Georgetown University, the study’s author, who supports helmet use.

Before you hit the comment button and tell me that you know someone whose life was probably saved by a bike helmet, I know someone, too. I also know someone who believes his life was saved by getting a blood test for prostate specific antigen, detecting prostate cancer. But is that sense of salvation actually justified, for the individual or society? Back in New York I strapped on my helmet for a weekend bike ride in Central Park. But I’m not sure I’ll do the same two years from now if I’m commuting to work on a mature Citi Bike system.

Mr. De Jong, who grew up in the Netherlands, observes of Amsterdam: “Nobody wears helmets, and bicycling is regarded as a completely normal, safe activity. You never hear that ‘helmet saved my life’ thing.”

A reporter and blogger on environmental issues for The New York Times.

B-fit, B-green, B-cycle