Posts tagged ‘Jen Shang’

May 20, 2020

Your Charity’s Greatest Opportunity is the Rising Need of Donors to Connect

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has presented fundraising professionals with a large number of significant difficulties. One of those challenges is trying to figure out where to get solid, actionable information to help nonprofit organizations raise much-needed funds.

Now, Prof. Jen Shang, Co-Director of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, comes to our rescue. On Friday, May 22, 2020, she will be presenting a special webinar: “How to Love Your Donors During COVID-19.” I recently received an email from Prof. Shang, along with three tips, that she is kindly allowing me to share with you.

Prof. Shang, the world’s only philanthropic psychologist, has found that the pandemic is causing donors to feel a lack of wellbeing. This is due in large part to a decrease in the sense of connection that people feel during the lockdown. Interestingly, this presents an opportunity for your charity.

When you help your donors feel a sense of real connection, you will help them feel a greater sense of wellbeing. When they associate that greater sense of wellbeing with your nonprofit organization, they will be more likely to renew and increase their support now and well into the future. In other words, by taking care of your donors, you will be taking care of your charity.

One of the things that will make this webinar a valuable experience for you is that it is based on scientific research rather than simply relying on war stories or opinion. In other words, the many bright ideas you’ll learn will be solid and safely actionable. As someone who has taken Prof. Shang’s Philanthropic Psychology course, I can personally assure you that you will get meaningful information that will help you enhance your fundraising efforts.

Here is Prof. Shang’s message:

 

COVID-19 has created such uncertainty in our lives that many are wondering how and when life will ever get back to normal and how we will survive it all in the meantime.

At the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, we have not stopped collecting data since the first country locked down at the beginning of this pandemic. And we have been collecting data on how good people feel every other week since.

This [post] will give you a first sneak peak of the findings, and three tips on what to do NOW that you’ll find at the end.

We will release the full results of these studies in a webinar that we will host twice this Friday, May 22 at 6:00 am UK time and again at 3:00 pm UK time.

We studied over 4,000 adults in the US and other countries.

We measured about 30 feelings that people experienced on a daily basis. We found that people’s feelings significantly worsened during the first six weeks of the pandemic. As the lockdown continued, people felt progressively worse.

Specifically, people felt less connected to others.

Psychologists have known for decades that feeling connected to others is one of the three most fundamental needs we have as humans. Our need to have this fulfilled cannot be changed. It is as certain as our life exists. Our sense of connectedness declines when we are isolated in lockdown, when we cannot physically see anyone or talk to anyone, and when we cannot hug anyone or kiss anyone. We have seen our connectedness score declining for over six weeks now.

There is no uncertainty in any of it. When humans are locked down, their need to connect rises. With data, we also know what they need and in what quantity.

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April 10, 2020

Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

Over the past couple of weeks, social media, the blogosphere, and countless webinars have pondered the question: Is this the best or worst of times for legacy fundraising? Unfortunately, despite the high volume of opinions circulating, a view grounded in science has yet to emerge. So, philanthropy researcher Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP® and I teamed up to prepare a special white paper for you that analyzes the current legacy-giving environment and reveals to you a path forward that we base on fact rather than emotional whim.

This blog post provides you with the full paper, nearly 5,000 words, with all of its insights and tips. In addition, you can download the PDF version for FREE. You may want to share the white paper PDF with your CEO, CFO, and board leadership.

Because of the unusual length of this post, I won’t offer any additional introductory comments other than to say that Russell and I are available for speaking engagements, training sessions, consultation, and interviews to address this and other relevant subjects. For more information, please contact me.

Now, here is the complete white paper:

 

Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP® and Michael J. Rosen

The death media currently inundate us with panic-inducing news. Ubiquitous reports about the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Daily death tolls. Images of people in masks or complete hazmat suits. Talk of overwhelmed hospitals. News of quarantined regions and nations.

What should a legacy fundraiser do in the midst of a societal crisis? Stop communicating altogether? Make a last-minute push to get into a donor’s Will before it’s too late? Something in between? All of the above?

To get some guidance, it helps to start with a bit of social-science theory, a look at recent financial history, and early empirical data.

Social-Science Theory

We start with social-science theory because it’s actually quite useful to first understand what we know about how people react to reminders of death.

An entire field of experimental psychology focuses on this very topic. Scientists call it Terror Management Theory. This field has produced many hundreds of experimental results. Therefore, we know quite a lot about what happens when you remind people that they are going to die.

There are many technical books and papers on the subject. Google Scholar lists 12,500 of them. Here’s a quick summary. Death is a problem. People use two solutions:  1) ignore the problem, or 2) live on after death. Allow us to explain.

The Two Defenses to Death Reminders

People respond to death reminders with two stages of defense. The first stage (proximal) defense is avoidance. Avoidance comes from a desire to suppress the reminder. This suppression can be expressed in many ways. For example, it might involve physically moving away from the reminder (e.g., avoiding strolling past a hospital or cemetery when taking a walk). It might involve denigrating a mortality reminder’s validity or personal applicability (e.g., it can’t happen to me). It might be dismissing the subject with humor (e.g., the film Death at a Funeral).

The second stage (distal) defense is pursuit of symbolic immortality or lasting social impact. When avoidance doesn’t work, then we must somehow deal with our own earthly impermanence. We deal with this by latching on to those things that will remain after we are gone. In other words, I may disappear, but some part of my identity – my family, my values, my in-group, my people, my story, my causes – will remain.

People don’t treat personal death reminders in the same way they treat other pieces of objective information. In legacy fundraising, it has always been important to understand this. These two underlying defensive responses help to explain how people will respond.

Death Just Got Way More Offensive

In experiments, personal death reminders ramp up avoidance responses. The more death reminders, the more avoidance people will exhibit. Right now, COVID-19 news engulfs our audiences in personal death reminders. For many people, this will make any death-related communications aversive.

(Interestingly, people will gladly read the latest news headlines as a means of pursuing avoidance. People hunger for details on how to avoid the death risk. They will support strong action that promises the same. Others may even pursue avoidance by putting unwarranted faith in untested treatments or unproven protocols.)

In addition to people living in an environment that stimulates greater levels of death avoidance, current conditions cause individuals to feel less of an emotional sense of wellbeing.

Dr. Jen Shang, a philanthropic psychologist and co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, among other social scientists, believes that wellbeing involves three essential characteristics:

  • autonomy – a sense of control
  • connectedness – the quantity and quality of relationships
  • competence – effectiveness

The more autonomous, connected, and competent people feel, the greater sense of personal wellbeing they will feel. Conversely, when people feel those qualities eroding, they will feel a decline in wellbeing.

In addition to the physical health risks associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic, people are experiencing psychological stress. Many individuals feel that current events are overwhelming them, knocking them out of their routines, and causing them to lose control of their professional and personal lives. With the uncertainty of the near-term, it’s not surprising that people would feel they have lost a great deal of control over their lives.

As the pandemic leads government officials to suggest or order people to stay at home, practice social distancing, and limit even essential activities such as grocery shopping, people are losing their sense of connection to other people including neighbors, extended family members, friends, colleagues, and more.

During the coronavirus pandemic, people are grappling with their feeling of competency when facing new conditions. Many have set-up a home workspace for the first time. Others are learning new technologies to communicate more effectively with others.

People want to have a sense of wellbeing. The more autonomy, connectedness, and competency they feel, the better they will feel. Generally, people will seek to engage in behaviors that enhance their sense of wellbeing. Furthermore, they will appreciate individuals and organizations that help them obtain greater wellbeing.

So, what does all of this mean for legacy fundraising (i.e., a key type of planned giving)? To begin, it means the following:

  1. Legacy fundraising communications that “lead with death” need to be shelved.

Many fundraising professionals are accustomed to being direct. Being blunt. Making the ask. Making it early and often. That may be fine for some types of fundraising. While this type of approach was often less than ideal for legacy fundraising prior to the pandemic, this is even more true right now. This is not the time to lead with death. In normal times, this will create some pushback. In these times, expect it to create massive pushback.

Yes, you should absolutely communicate with your organization’s supporters. Moreover, those communications should be about delivering value to the donor. Through your outreach, you should strive to enhance each individual donor’s sense of wellbeing.

  1. Now is the time to be “top of mind.”

Most people tend to put off estate planning in normal times. For example, in the U.S., most adults over 50 have no Will or Trust documents. From what we know about avoidance, such delay is no surprise. But, from a massive longitudinal study in the U.S., we also know when those plans are made and changed. The typical triggers for planning fall into one of two camps, family structure changes or “death becomes real.” Family structure changes include marriage, divorce, birth of first child, birth of a first grandchild, and widowhood. “Death becomes real” includes diagnosis of cancer, heart disease, stroke, moving to a nursing home, or actually approaching death (measured retrospectively).

Right now, many people are living the “death becomes real” experience. Consequently, there is a major upsurge in Will document completions – particularly online. Some sites are reporting greater than 100 percent week-over-week increases in completed documents.1 The Remember a Charity website, which promotes legacy giving for the U.K. charity sector, has experienced twice as many people visiting its “Making A Will” page as would do so normally.2

As “death becomes real,” people are also increasingly expressing interest in life insurance.3 One online life insurance agency saw the most ever monthly applications and sales in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic gained traction. Another online life insurance agency saw an increase in applications of more than 50 percent since February.

We know from experimental research that the charitable component of an estate plan is, for many people, highly fluid. In one experiment with British solicitors (lawyers), simply asking the question, “Would you like to leave any money to charity?” more than doubled the share of people including charitable gifts in their Will documents. Even small alterations in the wording used to describe such gifts results in dramatic changes in both charitable intentions and actual document contents.

For a charity, being “top of mind” at the moment in which people are actually planning is absolutely critical. More people are planning right now than in any normal time. Clearly, this is the ideal time for your charity to be communicating about gifts in Wills and even beneficiary designations. However, the language of how you communicate is most critical.

When viewed through the social scientist’s lens of individual wellbeing, the enhanced interest in estate planning is not surprising. Drafting a Will or purchasing a life insurance policy is a way for someone to feel a sense of autonomy or control over the current situation. Through these actions, they can enhance the feeling of attachment from relationships with those they love as they make plans to take care of these people. When successfully achieving their estate planning objectives, including supporting values and causes that have been important in their lives, individuals will feel an elevated sense of competency. In other words, a major reason we now see a spike in interest in Wills and life insurance is that it gives people an enhanced sense of wellbeing.

If communications from charities also enhance a donor’s sense of wellbeing, organizations may find that their donors will have greater interest in supporting them with a commitment in a Will or through a life insurance beneficiary designation. In other words, helping a donor feel better may ultimately benefit the charity.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Is this the best time or the worst time to be communicating about legacy gifts? Actually, it is both.

People are planning like never before because they seek to take care of their families, usually the first priority of those doing estate planning even in the best of times. The challenge for charities is that we need to be at the top of their minds when people are ready to make their plans. It’s definitely the best time for legacy fundraising. Furthermore, by engaging people, fundraisers have an opportunity, like never before, to perform a real service by helping donors enhance their feeling of wellbeing.

On the other hand, talking about legacy planning can be offensive like never before. People are emotionally-poised to lash out strongly against such death reminders. Take one step in that direction and the risk-averse herd animal known as your executive director will be ready to end your career. It can very-well seem like the worst time for legacy fundraising, particularly when done the wrong way.

We’re not talking about opposing camps. Instead, individual donors are experiencing both of these paradoxical orientations to one degree or another.

The Direct Route is Closed. Now What?

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February 10, 2017

What is the Most Important Thing a Donor Can Give You? … It’s Not What You Think It is.

What is the most important thing a donor can give you?

If I were to ask that question at an Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, I suspect most members of the audience would respond by saying, “A big check!” If I were to pose the same question at a National Association of Charitable Gift Planners convention, participants might shout out, “A Charitable Remainder Trust!”

In other words, we tend to think that the most important or valuable thing a prospect or donor can give a charitable organization is money, and preferably lots of it.

However, do we have the wrong goal in mind?

Maybe.

Amy Cuddy, a psychology professor and researcher at the Harvard Business School, says that successful professionals must first earn an individual’s trust and respect. “Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence, respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both,” according to a report in the Business Insider. The article continues:

Interestingly, Cuddy says that most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business.”

However, Cuddy’s research demonstrates that earning trust is more important than proving competence. She shares her findings in her book, trust-by-dobi-via-flickrPresence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. She also provides plenty of proven tips for engendering trust.

So, we see that the most important, valuable thing a prospect or donor can give you is their trust. Still not a believer? Keep reading. Cuddy’s research findings are in alignment with the studies completed by professors Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang, of Plymouth University, who have stated:

There would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate…. There is [also] some indication here that a relationship does exist between trust and amount donated, comparatively little increases in the former having a marked impact on the latter.”

In other words, the research demonstrates that the level of trust one has in a charity and its representatives, affects both willingness to give and the amount of giving.

Cuddy says:

If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative. A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

If you’re like most fundraising professionals, you instinctively understand the importance of establishing a trusting relationship. However, what are you doing to build and maintain them?

Here are just five helpful tips for earning and building trust with prospects and donors:

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November 30, 2016

Want More Donors and More Money?

Would you like to find more donors?

Would you like to have more donors renew and upgrade their support?

Would you like to raise more money for your nonprofit organization?

If so, avoid de-motivating people by making them think their support is insignificant, unnecessary, and unwanted.

Donors want to feel their contributions are making a difference. If they do not feel that is the case, they’ll take their support elsewhere. Consider the following representative comment voiced in a focus group hosted by researchers Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Dr. Jen Shang:

[W]e feel this strong sense of wanting to make a difference.”

Yet, despite this simple truth, many charities regularly alienate prospects and donors. Although the alienation is almost always unintentional, it remains a very real problem. Reflect on the following representative comment heard in a focus group study conducted by The George Washington University:

When you see bequests given to universities they are substantial. You really feel embarrassed that you don’t have that money.”

So, what are nonprofit organizations doing that is embarrassing and alienating donors? Well, many things. For now, I’ll focus on just one action that underscores the point raised by the GW alumnus.

money-in-hands-by-401k-2012-via-flickrMany organizations celebrate the support of mega-philanthropists. They profile these individuals in institutional publications; they recognize them on donor walls; they thank them at public events. While all of this is perfectly appropriate, a problem arises when an organization recognizes mega-donors to the exclusion of all other supporters.

When people see that only mega-donors are celebrated, they can begin to think that their support is unnecessary and not genuinely appreciated. This is true for annual giving, planned giving, capital campaign giving, and other types of campaigns.

If you want a diverse group of supporters, be sure to celebrate a diverse group of supporters. When people see people like themselves supporting your organization, research shows they’ll be more likely to support as well. When I speak of cultivating a diverse group of supporters, I mean in every sense of the term: gender, race, religion, age, philanthropic means, etc.

That’s an idea that the folks at the Arizona State University School of Nursing and Health Innovation understand. As I shared in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

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August 5, 2016

The #Fundraising Secret for Success You Need to Know

What’s the secret to fundraising success?

Ice cream!

That’s right. Ice cream can help you achieve greater fundraising results. Really. I’m not just saying that because it’s August, and we’re setting new records for summer heat in Philadelphia. I know ice cream can help you because I saw first-hand what it has achieved for Smith College.

Let me explain.

This past Spring, my wife and I attended her class reunion at Smith. I enjoyed being with Lisa, and exploring the beautiful campus and the fun town of Northampton, Massachusetts. One of the highlights for me was seeing the College’s Gift Planning staff in action. Yes, I’m a bon-a-fide fundraising nerd, but you probably knew that already.

Sam Samuels, Christine Carr Hill, and Jeanette Wintjen staff the Smith College ice-cream stand during Reunion Weekend.

Sam Samuels, Christine Carr Hill, and Jeanette Wintjen staff the Smith College ice-cream stand during Reunion Weekend.

I’m not talking about seeing the staff in action at the mildly stuffy, but well presented, Grécourt Society reception for legacy donors. Instead, I’m referring to the ice-cream stand that the Gift Planning staff operated in the Smith College Campus Center one warm mid-day. As the staff served up the free tasty treats, they had a chance to interact with alumnae. When appropriate, the staff, wearing aprons and serving up the ice cream themselves, was able to casually explain what The Grécourt Society is, why legacy giving is important to Smith, and how alumnae can support the College with a planned gift. At the ice-cream stand, there was also a table of gift planning promotional material.

This was a great way to showcase gift planning in a friendly, pressure-free, guilt-free, fun environment. Sam Samuels, Director of Gift Planning, told me that the ice-cream stand not only allowed the staff to educate, cultivate, and thank people, it actually led to a number of planned-gift commitments during the reunion weekend.

Now, I’m not suggesting you go out and set up an ice-cream stand. However, if we examine why the ice-cream stand worked, there are some things you can learn that will help you reach your fundraising goals.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. KISS. In 1960, the US Navy noted the design principle “Keep it simple, Stupid!” That’s what we see with the ice-cream stand. The Smith staff did not over think it; however, they certainly did the planning necessary to make it work. But, the concept itself was simple. It wasn’t a fancy dinner or a posh reception to educate and cultivate prospects, though such events have their place. And Smith did some of those as well. However, this simple activity allowed the staff to reach a broader audience in a low-key fashion.

2. Lifestyle Enabling. The Smith staff put themselves in the shoes of their prospects and donors. In other words, they were donor centered when thinking about how to attract the attention of potential planned gift donors. Instead of trying to get donors to attend an estate-planning seminar (yawn), the staff thought about how to meet the needs and desires of the alumnae. Most folks like ice cream. So, the staff chose to do something that would meet alumnae where they were (in or near the Campus Center), and give them something they would likely want (a cool lunchtime treat on a warm day). The ice cream stand also harkened back to the days when, as students, they would meet up with friends for ice cream at the student center. In short, Smith helped the alumnae live the life they want. That’s what drew in the alumnae.

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March 22, 2016

There’s Something Important You Need to Do Before You Can Raise More Money

Do you want to acquire more new donors?

Do you want to retain more existing donors?

Do you want to upgrade the support from more of your donors?

Do you want to get more planned gift commitments?

To achieve any of those goals, there’s something essential you must first do. You need to build trust. Trust is the cornerstone of all fundraising success.

Consider what noted philanthropy researchers Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Dr. Jen Shang have written on the subject:

There would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate…. There is [also] some indication here that a relationship does exist between trust and amount donated, comparatively little increases in the former having a marked impact on the latter.”

In other words, the research demonstrates that the level of trust one has in a charity affects both willingness to give and the amount of giving.

TrustIf you’re like most fundraising professionals, you instinctively understand the importance of establishing trust. However, what are you actually doing to build and maintain it?

Sadly, many nonprofit professionals think that trust is automatic. If your organization has existed for a reasonable period of time and if it has had some demonstrable success at fulfilling its mission, fundraisers may be lulled into the belief that trust already exists. Therefore, organizations spend little effort building trust and, instead, focus their energies and resources on making funding appeals. Unfortunately, the result is usually underperformance and occasionally disaster.

As I mentioned in a recent post, a cancer charity in Scotland was involved in a major scandal several years ago. Unfortunately, the fallout from that scandal negatively affected many unrelated charities throughout Scotland as public trust in the charity sector suffered greatly. As a result, some charities reported a 30 percent downturn in contributions in the months following the controversy. To restore the public trust, Scotland’s charities and the Institute of Fundraising joined forces to get people meaningful information and provide them with assurance about the trustworthiness of the charity sector. It took several months to rebuild trust. As trust was restored, giving began to return to normal.

By investing in efforts to establish and grow trust, nonprofit organizations will yield far greater fundraising results and protect themselves from an unforeseen public relations challenge.

So, recognizing that building and growing trust is essential for success, and fragile once established, what can charities do to develop trust?

Fortunately, building trust does not have to be complicated or expensive. Sales guru Tom Hopkins identifies three simple steps:

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April 5, 2013

If You Don’t Care About Them, Why Will They Care About You?

A reader of Michael Rosen Says… recently contacted me with her/his own unfortunate experience with a nonprofit organization. S/he provided me with a copy of an email exchange s/he had with a theater company. I’m going to share this person’s story with you because it contains a worthwhile lesson about the importance of reciprocity.

Photo by Shira Golding via FlickrBefore I get to the story, however, I want you to know that I am editing the emails for brevity and any identifying information. I’m protecting the name of the theater company, the name of the Managing Director of the theater company, and the reader who contacted me because neither party knew, at the time, their one-on-one communications would find their way into the press.

From time to time, I write about the blunders that some nonprofit organizations make. I’ve done this, not to shame them, but so others can learn from someone else’s mistakes. It is much less painful if we learn from someone else’s missteps rather than our own.

The story begins when my reader — let’s call her/him “Sam” — received an email from a theater company. Sam, who had purchased two season subscriptions, immediately opened the email. The message promoted an interesting lecture by a well-regarded nonprofit leader in the community. The lecture dealt with leadership and tied-in with the company’s current play.

The event appealed to Sam. Just before clicking through to the organization’s website to accept the invitation and purchase tickets, Sam noticed the date of the lecture: Monday, March 25. Unfortunately, this meant that Sam would not be able to attend because that date was the first night of Passover, an important Jewish holiday.

Annoyed that the theater company would schedule a special one-time program on Passover, Sam wrote to the theater company:

Disappointing scheduling of an otherwise appealing, academic lecture.

So, add this to your discussion: Does a good (nonprofit) leader ‘dis’ a large portion of the region’s top arts patrons through thoughtless event scheduling?

We’ll be celebrating first Seder.

We really would have enjoyed hearing the address on this topic. The speaker is a dynamo.

Sam”

The theater’s Managing Director responded the next business day. This was very good. The Managing Director did the smart thing by responding soon after receiving the complaint:

Dear Sam,

Thanks very much for writing. I’m very sorry for the scheduling inconvenience. We truly do our best, but we present special events all season long and it is not possible to avoid all holidays on the calendar. For example, this event takes place on the first night of Passover, we have a performance of XXXXXXX on Easter, etc.

If you’re interested in history, I hope you’ll consider joining us for the talk on Monday, April 1 with ZZZZZZZZ. He’s truly fantastic.

All best,

Fran”

The response was good in three ways:

1. A high-level person sent an immediate, personal response.

2. The message contained an apology.

3. The author suggested another program that the individual might enjoy.

Unfortunately, the goodwill these positive points might have earned was largely negated by the defensive and dismissive tone of the email. Sam responded:

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January 4, 2013

Fiscal Cliff Disaster Averted, but Trouble Looms

We ended 2012 by surviving the so-called Mayan Doomsday. We began 2013 by driving off the so-called Fiscal Cliff before averting possible economic disaster. Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 which put the nation back on safe ground, for the moment.

Previously, I looked at the Act and provided information about what key elements mean for the nonprofit sector. Now, let’s look at:

What’s next?Road Sign by Madjag via Flickr

The Charitable Giving Coalition, chaired by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, as well as the AFP Political Action Committee, won a great victory when Congress preserved the charitable giving tax deduction and reinstated the IRA Charitable Rollover for 2012 and 2013. Everyone who was involved in visiting members of Congress, writing them, or calling them to advocate for the nonprofit sector certainly has a right to take pride in what the sector has accomplished.

However, before we get too carried away congratulating ourselves, let’s remember that the nonprofit sector continues to face danger.

The return of Pease Amendment provisions will make charitable giving a bit more expensive for wealthy donors. Higher taxes will also mean that donors will have less money with which to give. As a result, organizations may face some challenges. But, these are challenges that we have faced before. We’ll just have to work a bit more creatively.

Unfortunately, there are other looming dangers.

Thelma & LouiseThe Fiscal Cliff legislation, which was originally supposed to decrease the deficit, will actually increase the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In other words, we’re still headed full-speed ahead to economic collapse which would be a disaster for the nonprofit sector and society in general.

Charitable giving has historically correlated to about two percent of Gross Domestic Product. If GDP growth continues at a slow pace, philanthropy is also likely to grow only modestly. If runaway deficit spending leads to another recession, we can expect a likely decline in overall philanthropy.

All Congress has done is buy a bit of time.

Republicans have signaled that they will address the issue of spending cuts within the next two months. In two months, Congress will have to vote on whether to increase the nation’s debt ceiling. President Obama has already said that any spending cuts will require an increase in tax revenue in order to garner Democrat support.

Having achieved a tax rate increase, The White House now seeks to raise additional revenue in other ways. For example, the Administration may want to apply the top tax rates to those earning less than the current threshold of $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for married couples. Also, the Administration is likely to seek limitations on deductions, particularly for the “wealthy.” The Administration has previously expressed support for both revenue generating options. Now, it’s likely those proposals will resurface during spending-cut negotiations.

So, while the charitable deduction appears to be safe for the moment, that safety may only last for two months.

Think I’m being alarmist? Let me provide some perspective from the US Debt Clock:

In 2000 the deficit was $5.8 trillion, which was $56,150 per taxpayer.

In 2008 the deficit was $9.2 trillion, which was $85,893 per taxpayer.

In 2012 the deficit was $16.4 trillion, which was $145,620 for every taxpayer.

Now, the Fiscal Cliff deal will add another $4 trillion to the deficit over 10 years!

At some point, the American economy will either collapse, going the way of Greece, or the government will get its act together and control spending. I’ve heard a lot of talk during the debate over the Fiscal Cliff about the need to return to Clinton Era tax rates. Sadly, there was little talk of returning to Clinton Era spending levels, even as a percentage of GDP which would still allow for spending increases.

The situation must be dealt with for the good of the nation. Unfortunately, this may require some pain for the nonprofit sector in the form of a reduced charitable giving tax deduction and reduced direct grants to and contracts with nonprofit organizations.

On the floor of the House of Representatives, during debate over the Fiscal Cliff legislation, Democrats have already begun to argue for additional revenues, echoing statements this week from The White House. In other words, the nonprofit sector has made it out of the first round of debates. But, the second round is quickly approaching.

Challenging times remain immediately ahead.

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