Gratitude and Misgivings . . . editor notes issue #75

Gratitude can be what gets us through a bad day. Or now, as the year comes to an end, gratitude can help us see the good in the past year and look at the coming year with hope. We at Blue Avocado are so grateful to all of you who read Blue Avocado, comment on articles, criticize us and praise us, reprint articles, and send us notes.

Let me take a moment, too, especially to thank our advertisers (see right and at bottom of page), our founding sponsors -- the Nonprofits' Insurance Alliance Group and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services -- and the 200+ individuals who have donated to Blue Avocado (we're like public TV: free to read but there are pledge breaks).

But this season comes with misgivings as well. The recent flurry of activity over the proposed cap on charitable deductions made many of us feel drowned in urgent calls to action pressing us to write to our Congressional representatives to make sure that the most affluent among us don't pay any more taxes as a result of making donations. (Some of the email and OpEd campaigns implied that all charitable deductions would be reduced, not just those in the very top tax bracket.)

Is there something off when the nonprofit's sector biggest campaign of the year is about defending the top 1% because otherwise they won't donate as much?

In fact, the whole exercise felt something like a Kabuki play about Chicken Little . . . mannered, rehearsed movements predicting doom when just about no one really thought the deduction reduction would ever take place.

We support the charitable deduction at its current level, but we couldn't help but have misgivings about the cry-wolf hyperbole and the characterization of nonprofits as charities that rely on donations from the wealthy rather than as economically robust drivers of social change, innovation, and prosperity. Just saying.

So with a mix of gratitude and misgivings, a very merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone, and a peaceful and prosperous new year.

* This issue is a fun mix: a harrowing update on the Vanguard Foundation story, a hair-raising story of how one nonprofit got through an IRS audit, a helpful (if slightly boring) article on interviewing candidates for the board, and a hilarious "Nonprofit Salary Calculator" just before you get your W-2 for the year. Plus a wonderful, unique gift you can give one of your co-workers . . . for free.

* See you in 2012 . . . Jan Masaoka

Comments (13)

  • At this time of year, we are constantly reminded to give thanks for things that matter to us. I have never written to you before and I'm not sure why.

    Receiving the Blue Avacado is a "perk" from ANI-RRG, but I have to tell you how much I personally enjoy receiving the newsletter. Each time it arrives in my inbox, I instantly drop what I'm working on (Don't tell my boss :-)) and read it cover to cover. I have worked in non profits for many years and since I have been receiving this newsletter, I have learned so much.

    I want to thank you for it and wish you the best of luck in your new position. On a purely selfish note, I am so very glad that you will remain the editor of Blue Avacado.

    Best regards,

    Leslie Modesitt
    Director of Operations
    Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence

    Dec 05, 2011
  • It's true. It's the only non profit online publication that's worth a damn. So many I receive are non profit online publications in cheap commercial peddling suits. Keith Deisner

    Dec 05, 2011
  • As I retire from almost 39 years in the non-profit sector, I wanted to send my best to you and for you to know how it has helped me. Thank you, Jan and everyone who makes the Blue Avocado happen. This has been the best resource for me and our non-profit since BA began. It's very down-to-earth about real issues we're dealing with and not just raising money (which believe me is really important but not the only issue). It is irreverent and therefore appeals to my critical (hopefully not too cynical) self! And it's well-written, short, and accessible. Onward.... Arlyce Currie Executive Director BANANAS Child Care Resource & Referral Agency Oakland, CA

    Dec 06, 2011
  • Thanks so much for calling out the tax deduction issue. It is alarming that we in the sector can mobilize over a possible drop in donations from the 1%, and not in any cohesive way around the massive federal and state cuts happening around the country. Much appreciated editorial! Amie >> Amie Latterman, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, San Francisco

    Dec 06, 2011
  • Anonymous

    "Is there something off when the nonprofit's sector biggest campaign of the year is about defending the top 1% because otherwise they won't donate as much?" Yes. I am so happy to read an article that shares my take on this issue. Throughout this whole thing I have wondered about organizations' relationships with their major donors. I know that our major donors value their relationship to our programs and our leadership over tax incentives and have not felt threatened at all by this issue.

    Dec 07, 2011
  • Anonymous

    Oooh you nailed it Jan! Let's all shift our energy toward refuting the "characterization of nonprofits as charities that rely on donations from the wealthy rather than as economically robust drivers of social change, innovation, and prosperity."

    Dec 07, 2011
  • Anonymous

    how about a Rick Cohen investigation piece on Independent Sector???

    Dec 08, 2011
  • As I recall from prior studies by the Institute for Philanthropy at University of Indiana/Purdue University, home of The Fundraising School, fewer than 20% of major donors reported that tax deductibility is their chief consideration for current contributions. Changes in estate tax could potentially have an impact on planned gifts, particularly those that generate current income such as gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts. However, since the decline in world wide financial markets, those types gifts are not as attractive as they once were. While everyone likes tax deductions, more people like roads, schools, healthcare, the environment and the services that a functioning, solvent public sector can provide. That requires taxation at a greater level than the current tax code provides. The Social Sector as Peter Drucker wisely termed the ngo or not for profit sector will always have an important role. It will generate sufficient support provided we meet needs that change lives in ways that those with the capacity to give can, see, feel and touch. It is our job to make it easy for people to understand what we do and how they can become part of our important missions. Maria Gitin, CFRE (former Drucker Foundation national training team member) Maria Gitin & Associates

    Dec 08, 2011
  • I believe that a lowering of the charitable deduction cap would actually hurt a great many nonprofits significantly.

    My key point is that it's embarrassing and damaging that the nonprofit sector's industry leaders can't get galvanized about supporting health care reform, raises in the minimum wage, or the stimulus package . . . all things that would have helped the 99% of Americans that nonprofits claim to serve. Instead, what galvanized the nonprofit sector more than anything in ten years was defending tax breaks for the top 1% and helping their own budgets!

    That's the point (which obviously I didn't make clearly enough in the original article)! Jan

    Dec 08, 2011
  • Pastor Dan Lozer (seriously) First continued thanks for Blue Avocado. What is otherwise offered for Church Administration is fairly weak (one of my seminary classmates took a course in same--the syllabus arrived seven weeks into the semester). I recall one tax year (about 1985?) in which the simple IRS form had a line for the little taxpayer to take up to $200 off for donations in that amount. I don't know the cost-benefit but I think a lot of positive things could happen in that way.

    Dec 09, 2011
  • Thanks so much for what you wrote about the 1% and potential change in charitable donation exemptions. Our [state association] has been rallying a call to nonprofits about this issue and I've been left feeling cold and also guilty for not being able to support the "sector."

    During the legislative session a similar situation arose regarding the ethics of lawmakers accepting free tickets to fundraising events. Groups that find the presence of elected officials raising their profile wanted to be able to gift them tickets of $250 (or more) value. The [statew nonprofit association] rallied. I wrote a testimony saying it was embarrasisng and legislators could pay like everyone else. There are other ways for an agency to familiarize an official with their work! I'm sure this one will come back in 2012.

    Thanks for being a hero and leading by example. I vow to speak out, even if it also ices me out! Happy holidays.

    Dec 09, 2011
  • Anonymous

    I think getting the board involved is crucial. After all, social media should be something the whole organisation get involved in, it's not something just for the marketing or IT department.

    Feb 18, 2012
  • Anonymous

    Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads need to keep their money out of local and statewide eelitcons. They have no good reasons to be nosing in. The senators and house representatives should be chosen strictly for what they will do for their state and how they will represent the people of their state NOT for the lobbist and money people.They need to be shut down immediately and fined for their interference and lies they are spreading.

    Jan 19, 2013

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