Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Public Policy and the New U.S. Fundraising Environment

(This is a bit of a longer blog than usual, but there's a lot to share with you! To our Canadian and other members, please know I’ll be focusing on other countries and public policy later in the year). 

It’s a bit of a new world for fundraisers in the U.S. after the passage of the tax reform bill.

The bill, and its doubling of the standard deduction, could bring about major changes in giving patterns by mid-level donors and an overall drop in giving—tens of billions of dollars. It may also mean new opportunities in major and corporate giving.

We know that many of you are concerned about the implications. AFP has already provided some guidance here and here, and I promise we’ll be here to help you throughout the year, offering tips and lessons learned as we explore this new giving environment.

Of course, the final bill wasn’t what we wanted, even with the Johnson Amendment ultimately being retained (which keeps the prohibition on charities from getting directly involved in partisan politics). We believe a universal charitable deduction is needed to offset the anticipated drop in giving we’ll see in 2018 as a result of the tax bill. We’ll continue to fight for that provision over the next 12 months and beyond, just as we’ve fought during the past year.

AFP was incredibly active on the tax reform front, both individually and as chair of the Charitable Giving Coalition (CGC). The CGC is composed of over 200 nonprofit organizations, associations and related groups, including Independent Sector, CASE, AHP, Council on Foundations, the National Council of Nonprofits, United Way, YMCA, etc. You can check out the CGC website to see what the coalition did over the past year—it’s a good source of public policy information along with AFP. 

Along with all the groups in the CGC, we met with nearly every Member of Congress in 2017. We also met with academics and tax policy experts to discuss legislative proposals to encourage giving. During the last couple of weeks, we had hundreds of calls and meetings and emails with Congressional staff to create a universal charitable deduction amendment.

We were contacted by numerous media outlets (and were quoted in The Washington Post, Fast Company and The Nonprofit Times). We distributed several legislative alerts to members, like this one here, asking you to contact your Members of Congress, and your response was tremendous—thank you! We partnered with new champions, like Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and came close to getting the amendment inserted into the final bill.

But it didn’t happen. We did seem some positive change—an increase in the adjusted gross income (AGI) limitation for cash gifts to 60 percent and the elimination of the Pease Amendment that limited certain gifts—but the bottom line is, we, collectively, have a lot of work to do in 2018.

As a profession and as a sector, we need to catalogue what happens with giving this year. Congress needs to understand the ramifications of its legislative decisions. We’ll be working with you and your fellow members to gauge if and how giving changes over the next 12 months. We will also be developing communications so Congress can understand how the tax changes are affecting charities and the services we provide.

Throughout the year, we’ll continue to push the universal charitable deduction. We anticipate some legislative vehicles related to tax issues that should provide some openings for us. But we’ll be open to other ideas and incentives that may work to encourage giving as well.

People do not give because of tax policy. That is clear. But we know from research and history that tax incentives influence how much and how often donors give. Removing the incentive to give from approximately 30 million taxpayers by expanding the standard deduction likely will result in a significant drop in giving.

On the other hand, we need to realize that although tax policy has changed, the desire to give hasn’t. People still want to help each other and change the world. Major donors will still be able to take advantage of the charitable deduction, and small-gift supporters were likely giving without using the deduction. Our goal—to build relationships, create connections and inspire people to get involved—has not changed in the slightest.

Public policy can have an extraordinary impact—both good and bad—on the work we do and the impact of our organizations. AFP remains committed to advancing public policy that supports your fundraising, such as the universal charitable deduction and other giving incentives. We will keep you posted as we push important legislation forward and, with your action and assistance, we can persuade Congress to help our organizations better serve our communities.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Thank You

I know it’s your busiest time of the year. I know you’re probably stressed about reaching your goal. I know your mind is probably buzzing with the thousands of things you need to do before the end of the year, whether it’s touching base with that major donor or editing the thank-you letters ONE MORE TIME!

But I hope you’ll take a moment and let me say this to you.

Thank you.

What you are doing is fundamental to our society. What you are doing is making a huge difference—not only in your geographical, local community, but in countless other communities that are affected, directly or indirectly, by your work. What you are doing is changing the world—one gift, one person, one moment at a time.

Thank you.

Because, not everyone can do what you do. Not everyone can get rejected (a lot!) and still be positive about your mission. Not everyone can deal with a board, volunteers, major donors, your colleagues, staff and your boss, all at the same time, while trying to make goal. Not everyone can inspire others and give off such confidence while inside you’re bubbling with stress and concern over a thousand little details.

We know, so thank you!

You adhere to the highest ethical standards: AFP’s valued and respected Code of Ethics.

You work hard to be a better fundraiser every day, taking advantage of continuing education and training.

You give back to the profession, whether through teaching, mentoring, or giving of your time and treasure.

You are dedicated to your cause, and to the cause of ethical and effective fundraising.

Thank you for hearing the call and being a servant of philanthropy. Thank you for being part of the AFP community and helping us advance the profession.

All of us at AFP wish you the best of luck in your year-end fundraising and a very merry holiday season and happy New Year. We look forward to serving you in 2018.

And since we can’t say it enough—Thank You!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Chapter Visits: Understanding the Fabric of our Community

In previous organizations, I’ve visited local chapters or affiliates before. I believe it’s critical for leadership to be in constant touch with local members and understand first-hand the challenges and opportunities they are facing. For me, it’s about understanding the fabric of an organization and why it really matters to members. Plus, it’s fun to meet new faces and get to know members one-on-one.

But I have to tell you, nothing prepared for me for my first chapter visit to Toronto for the AFP Toronto Congress. Wow! It was an amazing conference, superbly put on and filled with so many interesting and insightful presentations. Thank you to Krishan Mehta and all the chapter leadership for inviting me.

But it was the people who really shined. I met so many fundraisers with so many fascinating and inspiring stories of why they got involved in the profession, or challenges their organizations has overcome, or donors and constituents who’ve made such a difference in their communities. Hearing each person’s story, and the impact their cause is creating, was so moving—I’m excited to be a part of this incredible community.

I have to believe, with all due respect to the Toronto Chapter, that it’s like this in every chapter we have. The excitement of being together, the pride you take in your jobs, the inspiration you provide to each other—I’m looking forward to visiting all of you, getting to know you better, and hearing how AFP can best serve you and the profession.

Chapters and their members are the heart of our association—the true fabric of our community. I’m committed to ensuring that you have the tools and resources to be successful. When our chapters are successful, AFP is successful, and that leads to the continued success of our profession, our ultimate goal.

I won’t get to every chapter in my first year, but I hope that I’ll see a lot of you at events like our International Fundraising Conference (ICON 2018) in New Orleans, April 15 – 17, and Leadership Academy in Toronto in October. And please know that I’m always happy to meet you via email or social media. Feel free to email me or follow me (and say hi!) on Twitter at @AFPMikeGeiger.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

National Philanthropy Day: Advancing the Greater Good

Our lives are defined by community. After all, our successes, achievements, challenges and opportunities are often determined by others in our lives. As the saying goes, no person is an island, and very few of us can claim that we are "self-made" or found success all on our own. Almost always there has been someone—or many "someone’s"—who have contributed to our accomplishments.

That’s why it’s so hard to look away when someone is in need. That’s why we see problems and want to step up. Being in a community demands that we help because not only is it the right thing to do, but also because it’s an intrinsic part of us. We need to help, however we can.

Like all of you, I’ve always wanted to help others and contribute to the greater good.  I feel I have been blessed in my life and want to provide opportunities for others.  I decided the best way for me to do this was by taking my management and financial skills and experience and supporting those that are on the front lines. That’s why I’m excited to be leading AFP—doing my part in the most effective way possible.

To me, that’s what we’re celebrating on National Philanthropy Day: each of us, doing our part for the greater good and supporting the communities that are so integral to our lives. And we’re not doing our work in a vacuum either. Philanthropy brings us together and unites us, so our collective impact is greater than anything we could do on our own.

Whatever issue you’re dedicated to—among the millions of causes that our nonprofit sectors represent around the world—and whatever role you play—fundraiser, donor, volunteer, corporate or foundation funder, nonprofit employee—let me simply say: Thank you!

Thank you for everything you do to support the greater good. Thank you for not turning away from people in need. Thank you for coming together through philanthropy and charities, and dedicating yourself to improving communities around the world.

There will be always be issues to address and causes to support, but we have already made an indelible impact on our world through philanthropy. On National Philanthropy Day, let’s remember and celebrate what we’ve accomplished—together—and recommit ourselves to doing our part to advance the greater good.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Leading into the Future

Special Guest Post 
Ann Hale, CFRE, Chair, AFP

Ann Hale
MA, CFRE
Chair, AFP
By now, you’ve hopefully heard the announcement that Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA, will serve as AFP’s new president and CEO starting today, Nov. 1.

Helping to select a new leader is one of the most important things any volunteer board can do, and it’s certainly the most critical thing that I have done during my time as chair of AFP.

It’s also a rare moment, as AFP has been blessed with stable leadership, starting with Patricia (Pat) Lewis serving from 1991 – 1998, Paulette Maehara through 2012, then Andrew Watt leading us until last year, and most recently Jason Lee serving as interim president and CEO for the past 17 months.

While I knew our search process would be long and comprehensive, I don’t think I realized how challenging, intense and emotional it would be. All of us on the search committee felt that way, because AFP is so important to us. We have all had moments where our membership in AFP, and our connections with AFP colleagues, made a huge difference in our career.

So, we wanted to get the selection right. With the help of a team from Campbell and Company, a leading association executive search firm, we determined the key qualifications, factors and criteria we would use to evaluate the candidates.  We evaluated 100 initial candidates, narrowed it down to 10 and then focused on a finalist group of six qualified candidates.

It was an all-encompassing discussion, and often we were challenged with different perspectives. But we were dedicated to having an inclusive search that would identify a final candidate that had the best set of assets and qualifications. We had a diverse search committee and a diverse pool of applicants. And in the end, the lengthy process and occasional struggles were well worth it, as we ended up with an extremely qualified individual who can lead us into the future.

Mike is a seasoned association executive and has a great array of skills and experiences that can lift the AFP community to the next level. He is not a fundraiser by training, but he understands, appreciates, and “gets” fundraising, having overseen fundraising in other programs and participated on development teams. He has strong financial expertise and deep experience in running a membership association, providing education opportunities, putting on conferences, advocating on public policy and ensuring members have the resources and knowledge they need to be successful. That’s the sort of leadership we need in our changing fundraising and association environments, and we’re very confident that he’ll do a great job.

You’ll learn more about Mike in the coming weeks as he introduces himself through articles and blogs. And hopefully you’ll get to meet him in person as he attends different chapter meetings and our International Fundraising Conference next year in New Orleans, April 15 – 17.

Finally, I’d like to thank Jason Lee for all his work leading AFP over the last year and a half. Jason stepped in at a very challenging time and helped to stabilize the organization on many levels—solidifying our financial base, refocusing our efforts on member value, building important partnerships, and re-energizing staff and volunteers. He’s done so much, and I can’t express my appreciation and gratitude enough for his leadership, support and dedication.

We’re excited about the future of AFP with Mike leading us, and I hope you are too. If you have any questions about the search process, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Time to Act is NOW!

I’ve been talking a lot about public policy throughout 2017, pointing to later in the year when a couple of key moments in the U.S. and Canada were going to occur.

Those moments are now. And your action is needed!

In the U.S., a tax reform bill has finally been introduced, something we’ve been waiting for all year. The plan, called the GOP Tax Reform Framework, isn’t great news for charities. While the charitable deduction remains intact (one of the few deductions that does), the plan would likely lead to a reduction in giving because the standard deduction would be doubled. That change would cut the number of taxpayers who itemize (itemizers account for 82 percent of all giving) from 33 percent to just 5 percent—or in real numbers, a loss of 30 million itemizers!

Just how bad would the impact be? Research by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Independent Sector found that doubling the standard deduction would reduce giving by $13 billion annually. That figure represents a significant decrease—more than 6 percent of all individual giving—that would dramatically affect charitable program and services across the country.

Fortunately, there’s a solution: the universal charitable deduction. That same research shows that adding in a universal charitable deduction to the increased standard deduction results in increased giving of almost $5 billion. The powerful effect of the universal charitable deduction is enough to overcome any loss in giving when the standard deduction is doubled.

What can you do? Right now, Republican House leaders have set up a public survey to get basic feedback about the Framework. I urge every AFP member to go to the survey and submit your comments about concerns about the impact. Consider using a few of the talking points here.

It’s critical that our voice is heard while changes to the plan are still being considered. Please submit your comments today!

Meanwhile, in Canada, we are approaching our Day in the Ridings Event, where chapters across the country are going to meet with their Members of Parliament (MPs) in November. While we’ve been very active in Canada on specific federal and provincial issues, this is the first time we’ve ever held such a massive grassroots event.

I’ve been very excited to see the enthusiasm with which our chapters have been volunteering for this initiative. Toolkits and other materials are being prepared for each meeting, and chapters will be discussing a variety of issues with their MPs, as well as introducing themselves and offering to be a resource for legislation and policies related to fundraising and philanthropy.

If you are interested in participating, contact your chapter president and see how you can get involved. Many thanks go to the Canadian Government Relations Committee, and especially the chair Dan Brunette, for their work in putting the event together.

Fall is always an important time for fundraising, and this year it’s turning out to be doubly so with these important public policy moments. Whether you’re in the U.S. or Canada, I encourage you to participate so we can ensure that our laws and regulations support our work and the countless missions that our organizations represent.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Expanding our Diversity and Inclusion Resources

As the largest community of professional fundraisers in the world, our role is to bring people together and reflect the communities that we represent and serve every day.

It is, therefore, critical that AFP takes a leadership role in championing diversity, equity, and inclusion. One of the five key pillars of our new strategic plan for 2017 – 2019 affirms that we will promote inclusion. Two key strategic objectives within that pillar state that we will “engage diverse nonprofits and chapter leaders in creating an AFP vision and core principles for diversity and inclusion” and “create a welcoming environment for diverse fundraising professionals.”

A guiding principle in the strategic plan expounds that AFP will “work to address the needs of a diverse society [and] welcome and support a diversity of individuals and offer pathways for them to succeed.”

AFP’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee is working on three important projects that are going to the Board in October that will help strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion and expand the diversity resources and efforts of our chapters. These include:

  • Evaluating the current definition of diversity and inclusion at the national level and providing tools for chapters to define it in their communities.
  • Developing a chapter-to-chapter mentoring program focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Developing a survey designed to identify effective support services to chapters as they work on their diversity and inclusion initiatives. The results of this survey will be tabulated and presented, with recommendations of resources in accordance with member and chapter needs, to chapter and association leaders.

Giving our chapters—and then ultimately our members—tools to use in working on diversity is critical, especially when issues, approaches and programs may differ from region to region.

AFP also can exponentially enhance our diversity and inclusion work by collaborating with and learning from others. I’m proud to announce that we are now an official partner with Lean In, giving us access to programs and resources that help women develop critical skills and organizations to counteract gender bias.

AFP is also the first organization to take the ASAE’s (American Society of Association Executives) newly revised Association Inclusion Index to measure our diversity and inclusion efforts. We’ll be receiving an assessment from ASAE later this year and we will share the results with you through various avenues.

There’s much more to come as we move forward, as diversity and inclusion are an ever-evolving element of our work. AFP is committed, long-term, to ensuring that our profession is representative of the communities we serve and is welcoming and responsive to fundraisers of all backgrounds.