What Does the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 Mean for Donors and Charities?


What Does the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 Mean for Donors and Charities?

As the year-end approaches, donors and charities alike are worried about the implications of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). We’ve all heard some gloom-and-doom predictions of what the changes will mean both for donors and for charitable beneficiaries, mostly because many taxpayers are more likely to simply accept the standard deduction. But don’t fear — with some research and thoughtful planning, you can offer strategies to your donors to help them minimize their taxes while having significant charitable impact.

First, let’s examine the key changes for individuals in the new law:

* Income tax rates for most are now lower

* The personal exemption has been eliminated

* The TCJA nearly doubled the standard deduction

* Most itemized deductions were either limited or eliminated

* Owners of pass-through businesses including sole proprietorships now can deduct up to 20% of their net business income from their personal income taxes.

What do these changes really mean? Simply put, many donors will no longer be able to enjoy a charitable deduction along with other itemized deductions. The giant increase in the standard deduction means it’ll be much harder for individuals to realize the same tax benefit of charitable giving as in prior years.

As a development officer, you can help your donors be “in-the-know” by sharing the following strategies with them. Used separately or together, donors can maximize their personal benefit and their charitable impact:

* Accelerate charitable giving into the current year. Some of your most significant donors may find that accelerating their giving into this calendar year will enable them to itemize deductions and thereby reduce their tax liability.

* Give through a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). Anyone can open a DAF with an initial contribution of $5,000 or more, after which the fund can be professionally managed and invested for future growth. Contributions to DAFs are immediately tax deductible, so front-loading your contributions to the fund can help you itemize deductions in year one, while enjoying the standard deduction in subsequent years, all the while maintaining a significant level of annual giving.

* Make gifts of appreciated assets. Since donors avoid capital gains taxes on gifts of appreciated assets, they are often more advantageous than gifts of cash. Further, gifts of appreciated assets to a DAF can help realize a double tax benefit.

* Make an IRA Charitable Rollover Gift. Taxpayers age 70 1/2 or older with IRAs are required annually to take a minimum distribution (RMD) from their IRAs which is included in taxable income. By making a charitable gift of up to $100,000 directly from their IRA, these taxpayers can avoid including some or all of their RMD in their taxable income.

Every donor is unique, both with regard to their giving interests as well as their financial situations. As professional fundraisers, it’s our duty to help educate our donors, including by encouraging them to talk to their own tax advisors. Just as we strive to engage donors in their individual passions, so too should we help individuals give through vehicles most advantageous for them

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions


An Attitude of Gratitude


An Attitude of Gratitude

The Season of Thanksgiving is a perfect time to rethink your “attitude of gratitude.” Of course by now you have already planned your annual messages of thanks to your donors, your strategies for Giving Tuesday, your holiday mailings, and your year-end appeal. But this is also an ideal time to reflect on whom you thank, how you thank them, and how to structure your strategies for saying thank you.

I always have trouble convincing people that there is real joy in fundraising. The majority of people I know say things like “I could never ask people for money” or “you must have a strong tolerance for rejection in order to ask people to part with their money.” But of course the joy comes from seeing the generosity of people on a daily and weekly basis, and most importantly, from seeing the impact of that generosity on the programs and people that are served by your non-profit organization.

Here are a few suggestions for cultivating your attitude of gratitude and for practicing the discipline of thanksgiving.

First, structure some time each week to reflect on your donor stories. Consider calendaring an hour each Friday afternoon for reflecting and acting on your gratitude to donors. Fridays provide a natural interval for looking back on the week that was, and for planning next week’s strategies. Look back at what happened this past week. Take special note of the largest gifts that were received this week. But also look for the first time gifts you received. Look for a gift or two that came with a story of how your mission impacted the life of the donor. Look for gifts that come every year from loyal donors. Be sure to look for gifts that came by mail and gifts that came online. Look for corporate sponsor gifts, foundation gifts, and estate or legacy gifts. In other words, look at a sample of all the gifts that came in that week and imagine how the donor reached the decision to give

Next, pick out a dozen or two of those donor stories and make a plan to do something a little different as a thank you. It goes without saying that you’ve already immediately acknowledged each gift in the usual manner, with a thank you letter from you or your CEO already on its way. But go one step further. For instance, write a handwritten note to a couple of the week’s largest donors. Send an email to a few of your first time donors letting them know that your noticed their contribution and that you are grateful for their support. Call those donors that shared personal stories and let them know how grateful you are that they expressed how your mission impacted their lives. Ask for the opportunity to visit with a corporate sponsor of a foundation executive. Invite your legacy donors to visit in order to witness the impact of their gift first-hand.

Adding the discipline of thanksgiving to your weekly routine will help you experience the joy of fundraising on a regular basis. Your creative approaches to saying thank you will make your donors feel special, and will increase your fundraising over time. Happy Thanksgiving!

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Are You Experiencing Post-Event Letdown?


Are You Experiencing Post-Event Letdown?

Fall is a busy season for events.  Since September, I have attended two breakfast events, three lunch events and more evening events than I can remember.  It’s exhausting, isn’t it?  Whether or not you enjoy them, events are an important part of the donor cultivation process.  Events serve as an introductory point for prospective/new donors and often provide an opportunity to recognize your most loyal supporters.  The event committee, the development team and the Executive Director spend hours ensuring that every element of the event is just right, from the food to the program and everything in between.

Once the event is over, the team experiences a bit of euphoria, typically followed by a crash.  I call this “post-event letdown”.  Others refer to it as “event hangover”.  Either way, once the day has come and gone, it is often difficult to focus and find a sense of urgency about anything.  BUT THERE IS STILL IMPORTANT, TIME-SENSITIVE WORK TO BE DONE.  It is imperative that your fight off the urge to curl up under your desk and take a nap.  Here’s why.

People to see (or call)
Within a day or two of your event, pick up the phone and call every sponsor and significant event donors.  This includes individuals who raised a paddle at a top level, those who placed top bid for a live auction item, and any others who made the event a success.  The message is simple: Thank you for making our event a success.  We couldn’t have done it without you.

Places to go
If your committee chairs went “above and beyond”, consider dropping off a small token of thanks to their home or office.  Let them know you value their time and effort.  Also, did all of your auction items make it home?  If not, take time to deliver items to those who made purchases.  This may sound time-consuming (and it may be) but this can be a relatively mindless task that gets a lot of mileage.

Things to do
Tally up your revenue and expenses as soon as possible!  Whether or not you have all of your final costs, you should be able to share some “unofficial” revenue numbers with donors within a few days after the event.  Prepare and send a follow-up email to all guests, thanking them for attending the event and announcing the preliminary results.  Follow this with the individual donor/tax letters to those who need one.  Last but not least, send a handwritten thank you note to key supporters within a week of the event.

Once the event has passed, it is natural to want to take a breath and relax for a while.  However, there is still important work to do!  Make a date to take an afternoon off or treat yourself to a nice lunch – AFTER the follow-up is complete.  Good luck!

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions


Karma – What Comes Around Goes Around


Karma – What Comes Around Goes Around

I’ve heard that we should celebrate staff members with as much gratitude and fanfare when they resign as we do the day they’re hired. But why? What do you think? After all, they’ve decided to leave your organization, (or as my high school friend used to say about her sour ex-boyfriends, “they quit me!”)

We all know that news travels fast throughout industries and we can anticipate that people will talk, and opinions will be formed about your organization. If the reports of working there are unsavory, people will talk, but could the opposite also be true?

Let me tell you how this recently applied to development…

At my current client, an ex-employee called. He used to work there as a social worker years ago, and had gone on to get his law degree and open up a successful family law practice. One day as he was preparing a will for a wealthy client, she asked, “Do you know of a good charity I could leave my money to?” She wanted it to go locally. Without hesitation he recommended my client — the same nonprofit he had been employed by, and left years before.

Fast forward to 2018. This fall, the woman unfortunately passed away and he was taking care of her affairs. He called me with this heart-warming story, and to advise us that the nonprofit will receive a six figure gift sometime in the next few months.

I was thrilled of course. And then it occurred to me. Who were the staff members 20 some odd years ago who treated him so well, both on his way into this organization and on his way out? This group helped him feel confident we were worthy. I don’t know but I sure wish I could thank them now!

With so many ugly things around us in today’s media, I thought it might be time for a positive karma kickback story. What a good example of what comes around goes around huh?

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Changing and Adapting

Chameleon Close-up_JenStLouis - 1000 pxAre you a Chameleon or a Development Officer…or both?

This is the time of year where there are a host of transitions in our lives. Kids are back in school – some have moved up a grade, others have graduated on to junior high, high school or have gone off to college. While the school year is is in full swing now and kids and young adults are embracing new challenges and experiences, we also notice that summer has turned to fall and the “next season” is just around the corner. Our days are growing cooler and shorter, our evenings and nights are sometimes downright cold, and we find ourselves waking up in the dark now with many of us returning home in the evening without the long summer light.

All of these changes must make us adapt. At home, we are putting away our shorts and pulling out sweaters. Some of us are busy packing lunches for little ones or preparing care packages for a new college student. Our kids are transitioning to learning new things, meeting new friends and perhaps acclimating to a new school. Some are away at college for the first time and learning the ropes of what it means to be more independent.

In our development worlds, the end of summer and the transition into the fall and early winter also means gearing up for event season and our year end mailings. It’s heavy into implementation time as we now are a few months into our new fiscal year. And, that’s my point. We are just a few months into our new plans and it’s a good time to not only transition into some of the action items in our plans, but, to look at what needs to be tweaked and fine-tuned. Do we need to change things up? What are we doing to encourage new friends to support the agency? Are we connecting with our donors in the right way or do we need to adapt and change and try something different?

As we all know, technology has become an integral part of our every-day lives. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are a big part of our world. And, it’s ever-changing. For some of us who began our careers in the late 80’s (I know, I’m dating myself), the fax machine was revolutionary! It was the quickest way to get a message out. Today, we need to continually ask ourselves…what can we do to adapt and change to better communicate with our donors? Are we best utilizing all of the social media platforms that can help us engage with old and new friends? Is our staff well-trained to use all of these tools in our social media tool kit, so at the same time, we can balance the “touch” side of our work? Technology is not meant to replace good development work but rather, augment or add other channels in which we stay in touch. So, my fellow development friends, I encourage you to be chameleons in your work. Stick with the fundamental development work of building and maintaining relationships with your donors…but, adapt, change and be open to learning and thinking of new ways in which we can enhance our work.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Memorial Gifts


Do you work with your donors to memorialize their loved ones through charitable giving? You should! But don’t begin to do so without giving careful thought how to approach the subject and how to structure the investment opportunities.

It goes without saying that people are in a most vulnerable state after the passing of a loved one. It is not the time for fundraisers to suggest memorial gifts. However, when initiated by the donor or a family member, memorial gifts present an opportunity that should not be ignored.

I once received a call from a gentleman I did not know whose wife (a donor of ours) had passed away earlier that year. He told me how much our organization meant to his late wife, and he asked if we could meet to discuss memorial opportunities. We agreed to meet over lunch. At that lunch I listened as he described their long marriage and her lifelong career as a nurse. It was through her career that she was connected to our organization. Our next meeting was on site at our charity. There were more lunch meetings, and the man and I became friends. After several months, we agreed to structure a memorial to his late wife through the naming of a nursing laboratory, for which the man made a major gift to purchased new equipment for the lab. There was a heartfelt dedication of the lab, now named for his wife, that meant everything to man. The lab was a testament to his wife, her career, and their loving and lasting relationship with each other and with our organization.

That was a very unusual gift, because the whole idea was initiated by the donor. And of course, fundraisers should not wait for the phone to ring! Here are a few ideas about how to create opportunities for memorial gifts, and how to structure a program of memorial giving.

* Think ahead. People make charitable gifts, and people do not live forever. Cultivate lifelong relationships with your donors, and make sure you recognize those who have made your charity a priority in their lifetime. Let them know how much you value their longtime support, and how special they are to your mission.

* Structure your legacy program. Make sure that you have opportunities to name places, scholarships, events and mission activity. Create a legacy society that has established criteria for membership such as level of gift or kind of gift. Tell the stories of your memorial gifts and let them be known through your website and written materials.

* Make a variety of vehicles for giving available. Ask your donors during their lifetime to name your charity as beneficiary of a life insurance policy or of an asset. Show them the benefits of a Charitable Gift Annuity or a Charitable Remainder Trust. Show your older donors the tax benefits to them of an IRA Charitable Rollover. And help your donors understand the benefits of a Donor Advised Fund. These are just a few ways to memorialize a loved one while providing benefits to both the donor and to your charity.

Most people make the largest gift of their lifetime during what they believe to be the last years of their life. Make sure you have a clear and compelling message about the importance of memorial gifts to your charity. Some of your donors will welcome the opportunity to think with you about how a memorial to a loved one can enable your organization to help others.

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D. Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Business as Usual


Business as Usual

During a recent college football game, a commentator remarked on one team’s play calling strategy.  “I’m not sure why they expect different results if they keep running the same plays.”

A few years back I had, what I believed to be, a good workout routine going. The problem was I had definitely plateaued and was no longer seeing the “progress” I’d made in the first several months.  I asked one of the trainers what they thought my problem might be and he didn’t hesitate… my workout lacked variety. He said I needed to keep things fresh, switch things around and regularly introduce new exercises. That was, he said, the only way to challenge my muscles and to get them to continue to adapt and strengthen.

So… you might be wondering what any of this has to do with fundraising and/or best practices for nonprofits, right? (At least, that was my wife’s “head-tilt” when I suggested this as a post.)

Think about your year-end appeal letter, or the sponsorship solicitation you send out. Think about the strategies you employ for engaging your Board members.

If your tendency is to employ the “Business as Usual” approach or if the volume of work on your plate necessitates, in your opinion, a simple refresh of your communications from one year to the next, my guess is you too might be experiencing lackluster results. Take a moment and ask yourself, how often have you succumbed to the, “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mindset.

Even if you knocked it out of the park with your appeal last year, how long do you think you can get away with a “rinse & repeat” approach before your donors stop responding? When it comes to inspiring our Board members to action, have we honestly tried employing a variety of exercises, offering them new opportunities to assist and helping to strengthen their engagement?

If we want to build on past successes, or if we need to improve our numbers, the simple truth is we shouldn’t expect better results if we keep running the same plays.

  • Maybe this is the year to make time to segment your next appeal so that you can effectively increase the relevance of your ask to your donors and prospects.
  • Maybe it’s time to work with a few key Board members to develop a new list of opportunities for volunteer engagement. (Who knows, you may have a great writer on your Board who would like to contribute to your newsletter or even help with crafting a donor-centered appeal.)
  • Maybe it’s time to ask a couple of your sponsors to offer testimonials about why they support your organization and how supporting your mission makes a difference for their company/culture.

Whatever you do, the more you can enhance and evolve your strategy from one year or one appeal to the next, the more likely it is that you’ll bring about positive results. Will everything you try automatically work wonders? Nope, not a chance.

What is certain however is that you WILL learn what changes prove effective and, along the way, you’ll rediscover that truly investing in the people you are hoping will invest in you will get you closer to your goals.

If there’s a game-changing adjustment you’ve made in the past, please share your story. We’d love to hear what’s worked for you and let everyone learn from your success.

In the meantime, thank you for doing the hard and amazing work you do day in and day out to help to make our communities and our world a better place!

David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

The Importance of Feedback

Feedback with Colourful Comments Symbol

The reality for most nonprofits is – even in a good year – salary increases for staff members often reflects a cost of living adjustment (COLA) only.  Because the amount is small, this increase is typically distributed evenly among all staff members.  In addition, many organizations are lax about providing formal performance reviews.  In my opinion, these both represent “missed opportunities” for leaders to provide important feedback to employees.

Provide feedback

Although performance reviews vary in type and frequency, it is important to have processes in place to provide feedback to all employees.  The trend these days is less formal – and more frequent – conversations.  For some organizations, it is an annual, written review done at the same time for all employees.  No matter the method, providing employees with tangible feedback is essential.  Keep notes on employees and be sure to share observations – both positive and constructive – in the moment whenever possible.  Performance reviews should never contain an element of surprise; in other words, when you share comments in a performance review, it should not be the first time the person is hearing the message.

In addition, keeping notes helps to eliminate the “recent factor” of remembering and acknowledging performance from the most recent weeks or months and not reflecting the full year.  While performance reviews are time consuming, they are important to the overall health and well-being of the organization.  No matter how you decide as an organization to conduct performance reviews, provide leaders with training and set expectations regarding ratings.  Often times, one manager will be a “strict rater” and the next will be a “rating inflater”.  Employees do compare notes, even if they are asked to keep conversations confidential.  Rating consistency also helps when it is time to determine pay increases.

Do your best to differentiate

Even if the percentage increase across the organization is small – say 3% – it is still beneficial to recognize your strongest employees.  Take the time to work as a management team to identify your best performers, average performers and weakest performers.  Then make adjustments accordingly.  Perhaps your highest performers will get a 4% increase, your average performers will receive a 2.5% increase and your weakest performers won’t get an increase.  You could also determine how many dollars you have to allocate (vs. the percentage) and make the decisions accordingly.

If your organization is on a budget freeze and you don’t have any funds for increases, it is even more imperative to provide feedback to your employees.  In particular, recognize your top performers by acknowledging a job well done and thanking them for their dedication and hard work.

While many view reviews as a “necessary evil”, it is an important way to stay connected with employees and demonstrates that you care about their development and well-being.  It’s worth the investment!

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

We’re in a Campaign…Help! What’s my Elevator Pitch?


We’re in a Campaign…Help! What’s my Elevator Pitch?

I have been working with a not for profit organization that is about to launch its first capital campaign. It’s been a very exciting and busy time for the leaders of this organization as preparation for the campaign has been full steam ahead! In just a short few months, interviews and vision sessions have been held to gain buy-in and advice from supporters, staff and other key friends of the organization. A fundraising goal has been carefully determined. The campaign has been named. Leadership has been recruited to be the “eyes and ears” of the effort. Plans for an inaugural event to announce the campaign and engaging support from top donors is in the works. A campaign logo has been designed and campaign materials are being prepared. And…the list continues.

As you know, a campaign has a lot of moving parts and takes the time and energy of many of the staff and volunteer leaders such as the board and members of a steering committee. In particular, the leaders of an organization must add campaign work to their already full schedules. The bottom line is…it takes a lot of extra time, work and effort to successfully launch and fund a campaign.

Beyond the gifts that will be celebrated as they are secured for this effort, a particularly poignant statement was made by a client that shared why this campaign is so important. Simply put, she said…”This organization saved my life.” As we get so caught up in the details…and we must…so that the effort is a success, we must remember why we work to move the needle forward with a campaign.

Quite often, we hear from board members and volunteer leaders of a campaign from many organization that they get “stuck” on how to talk about the important work of the agency. They feel that they need to have all the stats and facts to “sell” a potential donor on a project. And, the stats and facts are important…but often can be shared by a staff leader and not necessarily the board member. This client reminded me of just that…sometimes a simple message from someone directly impacted by the agency is the best way to convey the important work of the not for profit. It’s the story we can share of this client and thousands of others who, without the care and safety net of this agency, would not be able to live their best lives. So, my message today is simple to volunteer leaders…go for a simple elevator pitch…one that you are comfortable with and that is easy to share. Tag team with your staff leaders so that they can share the nitty gritty details. And, when the work gets cumbersome and intense during a campaign, remember who will benefit from all the hard work and how it will help impact or sometimes even save a life.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Everyone Wants to Feel Appreciated

The Development Process

Have you begun started work on your holiday appeal yet? No???

Me either! That’s OK. Some say it’s still summer until September 22.

But one thing I am doing NOW is getting plans into place to make sure my donors feel appreciated before the Fall appeal is mailed.

It can be a struggle to find creative ways to nurture our donors.  So I want to share a fun and easy way to make hundreds of calls to your donors so they know you are thinking about them, and appreciate them.

We are planning a fall Thank-a-Thon to do just that. If you haven’t done this already, there’s still time and it’s fun and easy.

First, Get the right volunteers – We are inviting parents whose children benefit from our program this year. Nobody can speak to the value of our services more than these devoted men and women. Hearing their voices will lend instant credibility for our organization.

Second, Select a good date – Mid-November is an optimal time. Donors should be thanked before receiving the holiday appeal.

Don’t Forget the Snacks – This is just a nice thing to do for your volunteers and improves their energy and enthusiasm.

Share a story of Impact – After volunteers arrive and sign in, provide a brief overview of how the night will go, and share two heart-warming stories of impact. I ask the volunteers to choose one and share it with people they reach on their calls.

Suggest a script –Calls work best when they start by saying, “Hello, this is Jane.  I’m a volunteer  from ABC nonprofit. I’m not calling to ask you for money today, but rather, I just wanted to say thank you for your kindness to [ABC] and let you know what great work we have been able to do this year thanks to you. Do you have a minute for me to tell you about [insert program recipient name here] who has benefitted from our program]?  When we assure the donor that they are not being asked for a gift, they will be more eager to hear what we have to say.

Provide good “intel” – Each volunteer should get a packet of 20-40 Call Sheets that contain donor names, phone numbers and, if possible, some brief “intel” on the donors they will be calling.   This might include how long they have been giving or if they’ve served on a past committee, etc. This will take the conversation more personal. I do not share the value of the donors’ gifts.

Gather feedback – Volunteers should write notes about their calls on the Call Sheets, and return those notes the office when the calls are complete. Any notes or updates are then captured in the organization’s database.

The Thank-a-Thon is a fun activity that our volunteers and families love to get involved with each year. This is a fun and instant way for your donors to experience high-quality interactions that foster long- term engagement and their investments. Since Stewardship is such an important part of the development process, make sure you set aside time for it among your activities this year.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions