Trust-Based Philanthropy with Kelsey Vatsaas

Nonprofit leaders, are you seeing a trend of trust-based philanthropy in your organization? Have you seen an uptick in unrestricted funds? Maybe you’re searching for innovative ideas to use this funding. If so, you’re in the right place! In today’s episode, I chat with Kelsey Vatsaas, a nonprofit industry expert who is the managing principal of the national nonprofit industry at CLA, a top 10 professional services firm.

Kelsey dives into getting unrestricted funds from the employee retention tax credit, how you can qualify for the credit, and strategies for pursuing these tax credits. She also discusses questions to ask your accounting firm and how to spot red flags of predatory firms. 

Plus, we talk about nonprofit trends like the uptick in trust-based philanthropy across organizations and how organizations are using these funds in an innovative and unique way. Kelsey tells us about some challenges she’s seen with unrestricted funds, how to overcome them, and gives recommendations for nonprofits that receive federal grants. 


About Kelsey Vatsaas

Kelsey is the managing principal of the national nonprofit industry at CLA, a top 10 professional services firm. Over her career at CLA, Kelsey has been a nonprofit auditor, strategic consultant, and consulting CFO. In her current role, Kelsey works to bring the firm’s national resources, teams, and experiences to over 10,000 nonprofits for whom CLA provides a variety of services.


Read the podcast transcript here


Episode Summary

In today’s episode, you’ll learn strategies for evaluating your accounting firm, understanding employee retention tax credits and government funding, plus innovative ways to use trust-based philanthropy funds.

Getting unrestricted funds through employee retention tax credits (6:00)

•How to qualify for retention tax credits (10:50)

•Avoiding predatory accounting firms (11:45)

•Red flags to avoid (17:15)

•Steps you can take to pursue employee retention credits (21:00)

•Trends in nonprofit funding (27:00)

•What trust-based philanthropy is (29:30)

•Innovative ways organizations are using unrestricted funds (30:15)

•Challenges with trust-based philanthropy (34:15)

•Recommendations for nonprofits receiving federal funding (38:20)



“I’ve got a client I’m working with right now who’s got seven employees and that organization is eligible for retention tax credits. They are going to get $300,000 worth of credits, which is actual money in the bank.” 

“Let’s make sure an organization’s a good organization, but then let’s trust their leadership to do what they need to with that money. I love that.”

“You’re seeing that organizations when presented with this large, unrestricted gift are choosing to invest it back into the organization, back into their people.”

“If you are thinking about getting into the world of federal grants and there’s a lot of money available and it can be really transformational for your organization. Just make sure you have the right systems in place first so that you’re not having to go back and try and redo work and recreate things, after you already have this money.”


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