Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Philanthropy by Pay Stub

Our non-profit community is in trouble.  They may not be saying anything, and the pink ribbons, blue bumper stickers, yellow bracelets, and rainbow puzzle pieces may be just as apparent today as they were five years ago, but their budgets are crumbling.

First went the corporate donations.  Beginning in approximately 2008, corporate giving began retreating from philanthropic giving at a pace of -2.5% per year.  This sector of community support began to return in 2009, but levels of giving are still far below 2007 numbers, both in actual and inflation-adjusted dollars. 

Individual giving then stagnated.  While it was able to supplement the loss of corporate giving in the early stages, it was not prone to increase with the recovery, pinning philanthropic organizations to yesterday's operating budget.  Meanwhile, the demand for their services increased with additional jobless and under-employed seeking the services of organizations they one time sponsored.

Now, it appears, the final leg of the chair is poised for kicking - public funding.  This is a controversial, but critically necessary, component to non-profit funding.  Those in favor of public funding note that these non-profits supplement, or augment, government services and that money spent to assist the future operations of such organizations would otherwise be necessary to perform the underlying tasks if the organization no longer existed.  Critics will say that governments should not be mega-philanthropists and shouldn't "do good with other people's money."  An incontestable fact is that but for government support of the non-profit community, a significant majority of these organizations would wind-up operations, and close their doors.

You may have heard of something call the "fiscal cliff".  Our non-profit community has a lot at stake over the next three months.  Will funds that had otherwise been designated for public support be withdrawn?  Will charitable deductions be one of the "loopholes" closed in the name of "tax reform"?  Will tax increases wipe out the steady contributions they've seen from individual donors?

You may not know it, but this is National Philanthropy Week.  Tomorrow is National Philanthropy Day.  We have a hard time talking about philanthropy.  "I've already given a lot this year."  "Tapped out."  "Come back to me next year." I'm not asking you for money, but I am asking you to re-think the way you give. 

All success comes from habit.  We call it "hard work" or "dedication", but it is really just a well-engrained habit that we set in our brains at some point in time that led us to success (or failure, for those habits that work in the opposite direction).  Successful philanthropy needs to be a habit.  It can't be sporadic giving (unless a very nice, charming blogger asked you politely to help fund a sober house for homeless in Howard County).  Joking aside, we're doing it wrong.  For the non-profit community to succeed, we need to make that support a habit, not a happenstance. 

For 2013, I will be selecting three non-profits to "Put on my pay-stub."  I will contact them directly, obtain bank account and routing numbers, set an annual giving amount, and forget about it.  In increments of $30 - $40 a pay-stub, I will provide dependable, predictable stream of income for the next year.  In 2014, I will add one more.

I will no longer have to budget for philanthropic giving (making arrangements beforehand to work in any gala/annual fundraiser into my annual giving).  No more having to remember my checkbook.  Set it and forget it.

I'm not saying this to brag or flaunt good deeds.  I'm saying this because we need more people to do this.  Starting next year.  If we want our animals sheltered, our poor fed, our children protected, and our arts to thrive, this is what is necessary.

There's no better time to start thinking about this than National Philanthropy Week.  I'll forgive you if you want to wait until National Philanthropy Day.  If you want some ideas for a great place to start (or augment) your philanthropic habit, or who to contact for those pesky routing numbers, please e-mail me directly.

No Links today, but I did want to promote "The Nutcraker on Ice", which will be presented by the Columbia Figure Skating Club on December 15 & 16.  You can find out more about this event at this website.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!