Donor Boner

Saturday 12/8:  See Update, below!!

Last Monday I posted my take on a commentary about charitable giving, taking exception on the writer’s disparagement as “shameful” those donors whose philanthropic efforts depend heavily on the tax deduction they earn.   Sounds pretty dull and unexciting, innit?  It pulled over 1,000 hits and has drawn 38 comments (so far), some extraordinary mature, well-reasoned, and artfully crafted.  (No, Neil, not including yours).

And there’s lots more to say, because we’re talking about $300 Billion Americans donate to nonprofits annually, which costs the Federal government $50 billion in tax revenue.  Budget cutters in Congress are eyeing up that plump little turkey, knives drawn.

“If nonprofit leaders don’t want changes to the charitable deduction, it is imperative that we get behind the president’s call for higher tax rates on the wealthy,” said Aaron Dorfman of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in a statement.

“The majority of nonprofits know this is true,” Mr. Dorfman said, “and I urge the hundreds of nonprofit leaders who have traveled to our nation’s capital for visits with members of Congress today to clearly advocate for higher tax rates on the wealthy in addition to their advocacy in opposition to any changes to the charitable deduction.”  —NYTimes

With this little statement, Mr. Dorfman achieves opposing outcomes.  First, he speaks the truth.  Second, he says something extraordinarily stupid and impolitic, and smart non-profit executives hearing his call to action will duck and cower in their flight forstfu-MAIN the hills.

Not all, of course.  But those whose charitable institutions rely on major gifts — hundreds of thousands, multiple millions of dollars — from wealthy donors who will be impacted by the proposed tax hike want nothing to do with vocally advocating that their most precious and generous donors pay additional taxes.  That’s not how you ingratiate yourself with active and prospective underwriters, and as any competent nonprofit executive knows, the key to sustained giving is sucking up.  Except it’s called, “donor management.”

This is true of the nation’s finest museums, universities, hospitals, and performing arts centers.  It applies to national organizations devoted to defeating deadly and disabling diseases and conditions.  Ditto the nation’s largest religious denominations.  I don’t have to name names and point fingers, do I?

Dumb dumb dumb, Mr. Dorfman.

The right way for non-profits to rally support is to keep hammering home (1) the good work these charities do, (2) the economic impact these charities have and the Return on Investment (ROI) they provide to society generally, and (3) the damage that eliminating that deduction would inflict while negligibly impacting the overall Federal budget.  Keep on message, and stay in your lane.

It’s an axiom of the non-profit world: Successful philanthropic institutions have boards of directors composed of people of influence and affluence who support their missions by giving generously, and encouraging others to do likewise.   Most of these people think of taxes the way you and I think about cold sores and dengue fever.  Don’t ever utter the “T” word.  Not where major donors can hear you.

Influence and affluence, Dorfman.  Not flatulence.  Shut up and go away.

12/8 Update!

Evidently my words of wisdom have been heeded:

A coalition of philanthropies refused publicly on Friday to join White House-organized efforts to raise the heat on Republicans in a show of moxie that portends poorly for any effort next year to tackle one of the largest tax benefits for the rich, the charitable deduction.

The coalition, the Alliance for Charitable Reform, said in a statement that it “refuses to go along with the White House’s request for charities to insert themselves into the debate over tax rates.”

“Our priority is to preserve and protect the charitable deduction,” it said. “Throughout his first term, President Obama has proposed reducing itemized deductions, including the charitable deduction, in multiple budgets and other spending proposals, and never voiced concern over the impact of his plan on the charitable sector.” NYTimes

Good call.  Right call.  Keep dem donors smilin’ and diggin’ deep.

 

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Donor Boner

  1. Elemenno P says:

    Do I have this right? You portray ithe non-profit world as politically opposed to its own best supporters, and your counsel consists of avoiding mention of that uncomfortable fact. Not a pretty picture.

  2. Lois Terms says:

    That’s pretty cynical. Sounds right.

  3. Living Will says:

    Non-profit business isn’t much different than for-profit business. If you’re a middle-class tradesman with upper-class customers, you want them to have enough to continue purchasing your services, but you’re nuts if you back a policy that keeps their income robust while decimating your own. Ditto the charities.

  4. Merkin Way says:

    I support organizations that present classical music, a dwindling bunch although there are still giants out there in major cities and they need help. I attend numerous fund raising events and receptions where I meet musicians as well as executives from orchestras and symphonies and performing arts centers, etc. There are some very wealthy people at these events — I’m not one of them — and they know exactly why they’re there and why they’re being talked to. I promise you that in 30 years not once did I ever hear the topic of taxes arise, and for two damn good reasons. The first is, these people know all about it, and usually have their accountants worry about it, and it’s not their primary concern anyway. The second is exactly what you say here: stay in your own lane and talk about your own business — presenting music — not theirs. You’ll turn them off so fast their dollars will evaporate like liquid oxygen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s