Where Your Heart Is: Choosing a Nonprofit to Support

by guest blogger, Katherine Ramirez Massey nonprofit_board

Walking through the doors of the tiny back office at the headquarters for In Need Of Diagnosis several years ago, I found myself not only working in the trenches of this valuable organization, but in the unfamiliar position of having to tell someone why they should support INOD’s work. In the process, I learned that many people have trouble choosing organizations to support.

This may be one reason why. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the total number of nonprofit organizations in the U.S. as of 2013 hovers around the 1.5 million mark. One-and-a-half milion organizations…

I don’t know about you, but that statistic kind of made my head spin.

In a landscape with so many worthy organizations and important causes to be a part of, how do you choose which one to support? Here are some tips to help you choose a nonprofit, whether you’re donating your time, skill, or money to a cause.

Find a personal connection. When my father passed away, my mom and little brother had a particularly difficult time grieving his loss. Someone they came across referred them to New Hope for Kids, and it really made a difference. Many years later, finding myself involved in a fundraising project that selects three local nonprofits to benefit, I suggested New Hope for Kids, and they were selected as one of the nonprofits. Having that personal connection with New Hope’s mission made it easy for me to find opportunities to support their cause.

Ask friends and family about their giving experiences. You may have many friends and family members who actively donate their time or money to a number of causes, from animal rescue to feeding the homeless. Listening to their firsthand experiences in supporting a mission they love could be the deciding factor that helps you choose a nonprofit to support.

Research online. Sites like Charity Navigator, Great Nonprofits, and Guidestar can help you make informed decisions on nonprofits that may be a good fit for you. Locally, the Rollins Philanthropy Center and the Central Florida Foundation provide good starting points for researching nonprofits in Central Florida.

Join volunteer groups. If you don’t already, there are many ways to volunteer time and skill to a variety of organizations. You can regularly volunteer for nonprofits through religious or civic organizations, or you can join an online Meetup group like Step Up For Love, where you can come together with others to volunteer for different nonprofits in the area on a regular basis. You may find that regularly volunteering your time to a mission helps you learn more about it and, in turn, may inspire you to become a lifetime supporter.

These tips and an open mind will hopefully help you pinpoint those special causes that appeal to you, so you may find out where your heart is in the vast nonprofit landscape.

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2014 End of Year Tax Donation Information

Updated December 18, 2014

IRA Rollover Approved by Congress, Heads to White House For Signing
With the White House threatening a veto of a bill to make the IRA Charitable Rollover and other provisions permanent, Congress turns to a one-year extenders package. Read more.

Related Resource: IRS Webinar: Help for Charities (Thursday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m. Eastern)

Reminders: Year-End Tax Topics
IRS Guidance:
· Tax Topic 506, Charitable Contributions
· Publication 526, Charitable Contributions
· Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property
· Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions
· Form 1098-C, Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes


Important information to keep in mind with end of the year donations…

2014 End of Year Donations

The IRS’s basic rule is that a gift must be “delivered” to the charity by 12/31. Cash and checks must be handed over to the organization by 12/31 if delivered in person or if sent using a private service like FedEx or UPS. If the donation is mailed through the US Post Office, it must have a postmark of 12/31. The organization will receive it after 12/31, but that is ok because the donor relinquished control (the IRS’s baseline threshold for determining a gift date) on the date s/he put the donation in the mail on or before 12/31. Credit card gifts must be “fully processed,” i.e., approved by the credit card merchant, for the gift to be considered “delivered” by the due date.

Donation Thank You Letters
During November and December, nonprofit organizations receive the majority of their philanthropic donations. It is important that they thank their donors and acknowledge the donation in a way that allows the donor the benefit of a tax deduction. In order to comply with the IRS, nonprofits need to include in their thank you letter the name of the organization, the date of the contribution, the amount of the contribution and a statement regarding whether or not goods or services were received for making the donation.

Here is a link to an IRS article titled Eight Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions (updated in March 2014).

Here is a link to an IRS article titled IRS Offers Tips for Year-End Giving (updated in March 2014).

Here is a link to IRS Publication 1771 (PDF),Charitable Contributions–Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements.

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#GivingTuesday in Orlando and Throughout Central Florida

On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give. It’s a simple idea.

  Is your organization planning an activity for #GivingTuesday?

We want to help your nonprofit promote its event or activity!

We would like to help you promote your activities and what you are doing. Here’s what you can do to take full advantage of all the promotional opportunities of #GivingTuesday:

  1. Register with the national #GivingTuesday website as a partner organization. This way the worldwide organization will list you on their website and you will receive information directly from them. Visit http://www.givingtuesday.org/join/
  2. Register with the Rollins College Philanthropy Center. This may seem redundant but this way we can help you promote your activities right here in Central Florida. Your activity will also be listed on our website of Central Florida specific activities happening that day. Visit http://pnlc.rollins.edu/?page=GivingTues_activity
  3. Follow #GivingTuesdayCFL on social media:

When promoting your #GivingTuesday activities on social media, include hashtags for both the worldwide event, #GivingTuesday and the Central Florida activities, #GivingTuesdayCFL.

 You can also join the #GivingTuesdayCFL e-mail list at http://bit.ly/1uiZMoQ for additional information and resources.

If you are located anywhere in the Central Florida region; Orlando, Winter Park, Sanford, Kissimmee, Celebration, Apopka, Altamonte Springs, Maitland, anywhere in Central Florida, sign up and let us know about your plans for #GivingTuesday!

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Taking Planned Giving to the Next Level

With today’s financial demands squeezing charitable organizations’ budgets, many organizations are exploring opportunities to expand their methods and maximize prospects. Planned gift campaigns are frequently mentioned as a likely resource. However, staff professionals are challenged with limited resources to invest and sustain a long term commitment into a program where benefits may not be immediately realized, and Board members and others may not understand the process of securing these types of gifts. As a result, many some development directors have failed to incorporate planned giving into their annual development plans.

So, where to start?

Commit to a program. Begin with a simple plan with quarterly increments. Start with educating others about what planned giving is (and is not!). Planned giving is a service that, when properly done, can have a lasting effect on your organization. Planned giving is transformational for all parties!

Does it really begin with the Board?

Board members can be active in the process of identifying prospects, and perhaps even approaching the organization’s founders. Board members have roles as do staff professionals! While more sophisticated, traditional planned giving programs are staff driven, in small to medium-sized charities, CEO’s, development officers, and even other on staff have developed close relationships with prospective planned giving donors. E.g., a Board member may be the first to know that a certain individual is selling a business for a profit that will realize capital gains. If that individual is an established donor to your charity, with proper planning and communication, the donor can save taxes while making a transformative gift to your charity!

What do we need first?

Begin with creating the RIGHT plan designed specifically for your organization. Next, incorporate these activities into the multi-year fund development plan with measurable goals. Empower the organization and others through successful implementation.

Learn the strategies, techniques, resources and best practices at the upcoming session: Taking Your Planned Giving to the Next Level by Peggy Calhoun, ACFRE. Held on October 15th, participants will begin to understand and adopt the steps needed for success.

For more information or to learn more about Peggy Calhoun, please visit www.MillerCalhoun.com

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The Ice Bucket Challenge for Boards of Directors

The Ice Bucket Challenge for Boards of Directors

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 2.56.46 PMUnless you have absolutely no access to social media, you have probably seen more than you wished to see of friends, family, celebrities and folks you don’t even know dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. Though its origins are disputed, the great financial beneficiary of this summer’s icy trend is the ALS Association. So far the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $100.9 million dollars for ALS compared to the $2.8 million raised during the same period last year.

But, now what? How will they handle this windfall? Will they be like so many lottery winners who turn a bonanza into a tragedy by not using the money wisely? The key to success for ALS is whether or not their board of directors is up for the true ice bucket challenge.

We have all imagined what we would do if we won the lottery. At your next board meeting ask members to take a few minutes to imagine what they would do if your organization was the next big winner of a social media challenge.

How will we spend the money? – What goals are in our strategic plan? The University of Michigan study When Promoting a Charity May Hurt Charitable Giving by Robert W. Smith and Norbert Schwarz (2012) found that if the goal of a campaign is raising awareness, contrary to popular wisdom, the charity raises less money than if the stated goal is to change a problem. What will the long-term effects of the ice bucket campaign be on the organization’s ability to raise money?

Should we create an endowment? According to their January 2013 financial statement the ALS Association had just less than a million dollars in restricted assets. They spent 47% of their money on research and patient and community service, an additional 32% on public and professional education and a 21% on fundraising and administration. What should be their spending priorities going forward?

How do we thank all the people who have donated? The ice bucket challenge had over 3 million donors. How will they be able to thank all those who gave? Will they be able to build a relationship with these donors so that they give again or will they move on to a different cause?

How many people know more about our mission and the problems we are trying to address? Do you know more about ALS than you did when the campaign began? Are they now closer to rallying people to support their efforts to find a cure or assist those who have this terrible disease? Can you even say what the letters ALS stand for?

As a board of directors, having a large amount of money suddenly donated to your organization is a wonderful problem to have. If they have discussed how to manage, invest, and spend donations, your board won’t be all wet when the donations stop.

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