Archive for September, 2012

September 28, 2012

How Much Do the Candidates Donate, Pay in Taxes?

This Presidential Election campaign season, the mainstream media has paid a great deal of attention to candidate tax returns. Now, I’d like to join the conversation by looking at the candidates’ 2011 federal tax returns.

In this post, I’m not going to suggest that one candidate is better than the other. I’m certainly not going to endorse a candidate.

While we may disagree on what the numbers mean or whether they mean much of anything at all, I suspect we’ll all agree that the numbers are interesting to look at, at least for a few moments.

From the perspective of public policy, Barack Obama wants to limit tax deductions for charitable giving. For his part, Mitt Romney has hinted that he may also seek to limit the tax deduction for charitable giving but, so far, he has not offered specifics about where he stands on the details of tax policy.

So, I thought it would be worthwhile to review how much money each candidate has contributed to the US Treasury and to the nonprofit sector.

I’ll leave it to you to decide how relevant or important this information is to your voting decision or what you think the potential impact is for the nonprofit sector.

I’ve put together the following chart based on a Fox News report that looked at candidate tax filings for 2011:

 

CATEGORY

OBAMA

BIDEN

ROMNEY

RYAN

ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME

$789,674

$379,035

$13,696,851

$342,416

CHARITABLE DEDUCTION

$172,130

$5,540

$2,250,772

$12,991

CHARITABLE GIVING %

21.8%

1.5%

16.4%

3.8%

FEDERAL TAXES OWED

$162,074

$87,900

$1,935,708

$64,764

EFFECTIVE TAX RATE

20.5%

23.2%

14.1%

18.9%

GIVING + TAX %

42.3%

24.7%

30.5%

22.7%

 

September 21, 2012

There is No Next Best Thing to Being There

I was in the car in downtown Philadelphia with my wife when I noticed an interesting advertisement at a bus shelter while we were stopped at a red light. It really resonated with me. The ad, promoting Citizens Bank, read:

Talk to us, because brochures are terrible listeners. Sit down with us today to find out how good banking can help you.”

The ad provided the address to two bank branches in the downtown area. The ad also provided the bank’s URL.

I thought it was a pretty good ad. It was customer focused and talked about how the bank can “help you” and how the bank is a good listener. It was folksy and friendly, using the phrase “Sit down with us…”

The customer-centered orientation of Citizens Bank is one that all nonprofit organizations should embrace. Being customer and donor centered, actually talking with people, will build stronger, lasting relationships that will result in more funds being made available for mission fulfillment.

So, what are the things that nonprofit organizations can do that are inspired by the Citizens Bank ad? Here are just eight ideas:

1. Brochures can be useful, but… At most organizations, a great deal of time, effort, and money is spent designing, writing, and printing brochures. Just this week, there was even a discussion about brochures on the listserve of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning. Very often, brochures are written and designed by committee which means a great deal of staff resources are invested. Yes, brochures can be somewhat useful. However, actually speaking with a prospect or donor is a far more powerful way to communicate. Brochures can broadcast a message, but they can’t tell you how the reader is reacting.

Just as you invest a great deal of time and money into developing brochures, you should make the same or greater investment in polishing your presentation and listening skills. Read and attend seminars about making effective presentations. Learn about powerful sales tactics. Discover how to be a better, active listener. If you’re already a good communicator, strive to be a great one. And, remember, there’s no substitute for actually being there for your prospect or donor.

2. Invite the public to contact you. Be open to talking to the public. I mean everybody, not just big donors. Let people know your door is open. Encourage calls and visits.

Throughout the course of the year, try to get in front of or on the phone with more folks than you did last year. Take more folks on a tour of your facility. Engage more people. Even if people do not accept your invitation, they’ll still appreciate your openness.

September 20, 2012

Update: My Wife is in Remission!

I’m the happiest I’ve ever been while writing a blog post.

Today, I received the best news of my life. My wife, who has been battling Ovarian Cancer, received confirmation that she is in remission! Her recent CAT Scan is clear. Her most recent CA-125 blood test, her first without chemo, remained in the normal range.

I first began sharing news about my wife’s fight almost a year ago in my post: “Special Report — ‘It was the Best of Times; It was the Worst of Times.’ It was 2011.” Now that I can finally share some good news, I thought I would take a moment to also thank you for your warm thoughts, special prayers, and kind notes of support. Lisa and I greatly appreciate your encouragement.

Ovarian Cancer is a frightening disease. Caught very early, the chance of survival is quite great. Caught just a bit late, the chance of survival plummets. That’s why it essential that every woman knows about the symptoms.

As my wife’s story reveals, it is also important for us all, men as well as women, to take personal responsibility for our own health. The doctor’s she saw all wanted to simply treat her symptoms without identifying the underlying cause. She saw a total of five doctors before she found a sixth, the one who made the diagnosis. Her cancer was caught at Stage 1-C. If she had listened to any of the first five doctors, the cancer would likely have been caught far too late.

September 19, 2012

Special Report: Where Does the Charitable IRA Rollover Stand?

As we head toward the end of the calendar year, I’ve been increasingly asked about the status of the Charitable IRA Rollover. This is the tax law provision that allowed taxpayers who were 70½ or older to transfer as much as $100,000 a year directly from their IRAs to qualified charities without tax penalties. The mechanism, which expired December 2011, gave older Americans, with an over-funded retirement, an additional pool of funds from which to contribute.

Many nonprofit organizations found the IRA Rollover unlocked new and increased giving. Development professionals also found that talking about the IRA Rollover was an easy way to engage prospects in a discussion about planned giving.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress allowed the IRA Rollover provision to lapse. And, it looks like the provision, if it is reinstated, won’t be reinstated until after the November election. Fortunately, there is support for the provision on Capitol Hill. The Senate Finance Committee did vote to include the IRA Rollover, through 2013, in the so-called Tax Extenders legislation.

The Wall Street Journal recently published a brief update regarding the status of the provision: “Will Rule on IRA Donations Return?”

While professional organizations such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals have been at the forefront of the fight for the IRA Rollover, members of Congress need to hear from a diverse group of individuals and organizations.

If you support the IRA Rollover provision, contact your Representative and Senators to let them know they should support it, too.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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September 14, 2012

How Would You Like to Win a Free Cookie?

The job of every nonprofit development professional is to build solid relationships.

That’s what distinguishes fundraising from begging. The more engaged prospective donors are, the far more likely they will be to become supporters. The stronger the relationship with donors, the more likely they will be to give again and give more.

In the performing arts world, effective engagement is also important because, in addition to the performance product, it can lead to ticket sales.

The development and marketing people at A Noise Within Theater Company in Pasadena, California understand the importance of solid engagement and strong relationships. They also understand the power of a tasty cookie.

Let me just make two points perfectly clear:

 

  1. I’m not talking about just any cookie. I’m talking about a delicious cookie from Wildflour Bakery in Sierra Madre.
  2. I’m not the one awarding the free cookie. The creative minds at A Noise Within Theater Company are making the offer.

 

Antony and Cleopatra, 2012

The Company’s “mission is to produce world-class performances of the great works of drama in rotating repertory with a resident company; to educate and inspire the public through programs that foster an understanding and appreciation of history’s great plays and playwrights; and to train the next generation of classical theatre artists.”

You might think that a theater company that performs the classics would be dull and stuffy. But, you’d be wrong if you thought that about this Company. While the Company’s performances are rooted in the classics, its marketing is 21st century. You’ll find the Company on:

The Company’s new website has recently launched. On September 6, the Company made this announcement on its Facebook wall:

The WEBSITE is LIVE! While we are still in ‘Preview Mode’ we encourage you to go exploring! In fact, each [Facebook] fan who finds a new TYPO gets a certificate for a FREE COOKIE the next time they’re at the theater! Email marketing[at]anoisewithin.org to submit your typos and enjoy the new Website!”

This isn’t stuffy at all.

Rather than hiding from potential mistakes, the Company has boldly announced there may indeed be typos on its website. They revealed their interest in hunting down those typos. They engaged the public in a fun, and possibly rewarding, copyediting exercise. They encouraged the public to not just visit the website; they invited folks to spend time there actually reading.

September 11, 2012

Special Report: Lessons from 9/11

Today is the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on 9/11/01. It is the first anniversary of this tragic day that cannot be celebrated by Osama bin Laden. And, it is officially a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

To mark this important day in American history, Susan McDermott, Senior Editor at publisher John Wiley & Sons, shares her memories of the day no one will forget. Her blog post can be found at the Nonprofit Community blog by Wiley.

September 7, 2012

5 Lessons Every Nonprofit Can Learn from a Starbucks Barista

Starbucks has built an international reputation for making a fine cup of coffee. But, did you know that you can learn at least five valuable lessons from a Starbucks barista?

I’m not talking about learning how to make a great espresso or cappuccino. While a Starbucks barista could certainly help you with that, I’m talking about five lessons every nonprofit development professional can learn to be a more effective fundraiser.

The lessons don’t come from just any barista, though. I’m talking about Nicole who fixes beverages at the Starbucks in the Nashville International Airport.

Let me tell you my story, and share with you what I learned from Nicole:

Lesson 1: Never say, “It’s not my job.”

I was just passing through Nashville on my way to a speaking engagement for the Association of Fundraising Professionals St. Louis Regional Chapter. I had to make a connecting flight. I passed a Starbucks on the way to my gate. There was a line, but I had plenty of time. So, I queued up for my trenta-iced-unsweetened-green-tea.

I patiently waited to place my order with the cashier, the normal procedure. But, I was startled by the voice of the barista. She called over to me, before I had even made my way to the cashier, to ask for my order. I was surprised. It actually took me a moment to understand what she was doing. Then, I gave her my order.

By the time I made it up to the cashier and paid for my drink, instead of the usual wait, Nicole had it ready for me. I was stunned with how quickly the line moved and how quickly I was served. Because this experience was so vastly different than any other Starbucks experience I have ever had, and because I had some time to kill before my flight, I stood and just watched the operation. I wanted to understand what was so special about this Starbucks. That’s when I realized that the difference was Nicole.

She could have simply waited until the cashiers gave her drink orders to fill. After all, it was not her job to take orders. But, Nicole saw a line of passengers trying to rush off for their flights. She knew they needed to get in and get out as quickly as possible. And, because she was able to assist, she did even though it wasn’t her job.

In our own organizations, it’s easy to fall back on our job descriptions. It’s easy to think, “It’s not my job. Let someone else take care of it.” But, when everyone in our organizations goes the extra distance for those receiving service or those donating money, we show that we care.

My wife was recently treated at Lankenau Medical Center. It’s a large facility. When walking down the hall, if you even look confused, a member of the staff will stop and offer assistance. Even doctors will do this. This is just one small example of the caring culture at Lankenau.

At most other hospitals I’ve visited, this has not been the case. I guess folks at those other hospitals think it’s not their job to help lost visitors, that’s what the information desk is for. Anyway, can you guess which hospital has a warm place in my heart for this and so many other reasons?

If you and your colleagues refuse to say, “It’s not my job,” you’ll help take a step toward creating or enhancing your own culture of caring. When you do that, you’ll be building relationships that make fundraising much easier.

Lesson 2: Be customer/donor centered.

Nicole was definitely customer focused. She knew we were all concerned about making our flights. So, she did what she could to keep us moving along. And, she anticipated our needs.

One of my pet peeves with Starbucks is that after I get my beverage, I always have to hunt for where they have the straws and napkins. Then, I have to figure out which straw goes with my beverage size. It wastes time, and it makes me feel stupid as I stumble around trying to find these items.

However, Nicole knows this straw-hunt ritual is a time waster. So, understanding my needs, she made sure to have the correct straw right there next to my iced-tea.

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