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Legislative + Advocacy

Creating Philanthropic Impact through Strong Nonprofits

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Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc. was delighted to host Kim Meredith (left), Executive Director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, as our first speaker in the 2017 501(c) Success National Speaker Series. Kim joined us on Thursday, February 23, to share her insights on social innovation and the power of philanthropy to ignite ideas and solutions for the world’s most complex problems.

In her keynote address, Kim touched on current trends in philanthropy, the benefits of bridging nonprofits and corporations and the keys to good nonprofit governance. The overarching message in Kim’s keynote address is the importance of strategic planning, thinking and innovation in effective nonprofit governance. Nonprofits have enormous potential to be catalysts for social change, but impact depends on a willingness from leadership and Boards to focus on outcome-oriented philanthropy.

Kim touched on a number of trends that are shaping the way philanthropy implements social change. Some of these trends include:

  • Place-based philanthropy – an emerging focus on community and community foundations, investing funds within a strategic area and tracking growth.
  • Ethical/responsible data use – all nonprofits should be collecting and storing data on donors and funders, but many are asking what the parameters are for the ethical and safe use of this sensitive information. There are no regulations for accountability, transparency, privacy and security surrounding data collection and it’s something more nonprofits should be considering.
  • Generational Behavior – seasoned nonprofit professionals could learn something from the next generation. A common attribute among young people is their willingness to fail and learn from their mistakes. The end result is almost always growth, development and eventually, success. Is this something that we support in the nonprofit sector? Perhaps we should.
  • Collective Impact Initiatives – an intentional way of working together and sharing information for the purpose of solving a complex problem. Participants from nonprofits, grantmaking organizations, the business community and government share a vision of change and a commitment to solve a problem by coordinating their work and agreeing on shared goals.
  • Randomized Control Trials –  bring in a scientific lens on philanthropy and show that there is evidence and research behind these big ideas fueling social change.

Nonprofit Governance Falls Short

Kim also investigated the importance of strategic planning in good nonprofit governance. Prefacing her remarks with a side-by-side comparison on nonprofit and corporate differences, Kim drove home the value of running a nonprofit in the same way a CEO would a business – with a focus on growth and development. Growth will look different for every nonprofit, but the underlying theme is the same. If you want to make an impact, set goals and make a plan to achieve those goals.

Times are Changing for Nonprofit Leaders

Following Kim’s keynote presentation, she addressed a select group of nonprofit and community leaders on how to plan for the future of their organizations. We can assume that changes in government safety net appropriations are on the horizon and nonprofits should be prepared for those cutbacks when and if they come to pass. Now is the time to prepare a contingency plan that can anticipate and address these challenges. Kim urged senior leaders to consider the following when planning for the future:

  • Composition of your Board – consider diversifying your board with multiple women, people of color and millennials. This will help your Board think differently and usher the organization into the future.
  • Mergers and partnerships – are worth considering when the right organization presents itself at the right time.
  • Engaging Board members in strategic planning – take advantage of your Board’s expertise. You should have a handful of business leaders serving on your Board. Use their knowledge to your advantage. That’s what they are there for!
  • Diversified Funding – do not rely too heavily on one source of funding. Diversified sources of funding can help you weather the storm should another economic disaster or other external factor take a toll on your funding.
  • Next Generation – In 2012-2014, 70% of millennials donated to a nonprofit and 60% volunteered their time. Millennials want to share their skills with nonprofits, but organizations need to make it easy for them to get involved. Make a plan to attract millennials to your cause.

Kim’s insight showed the immense potential of nonprofits to implement change. All it takes is commitment from us, the nonprofit professionals, to change our perspective on what good governance means and how it is implemented.

What’s Next for the 501(c) Success Series?  

Our next 501(c) Success National Speaker Series program will feature  Dr. Patrick Rooney, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research. Dr. Rooney will present the always-anticipated Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy on Friday, June 16. Watch for more details from JB+A and Nonprofit Connect in the coming months.

Advocacy in the Philanthropic Sector: We Can. We Should.

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Jeffery ByrneJeffrey D. Byrne
President + CEO

Over a two-year (2015-2016) presidential fundraising cycle, candidates and political committees will raise an estimated $12-$15 billion. During that same time period, Americans will give an estimated $770 Billion to philanthropy!

With the 2016 election process heading into full swing, it reminds me how fortunate we are, as a nation, to enjoy the liberties we do — particularly in selecting and interacting with those who represent us in our government.

It also reminds me how vigilant we need to be about making sure our voices are heard. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian and political writer, is credited with saying “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.” I often say “You’re either at the table or on the menu.” Not as eloquent, perhaps, but it makes the point nonetheless.

With privilege comes responsibility. This holds particularly true for our philanthropic sector. Nonprofit organizations provide critical services to people across the entire socioeconomic spectrum. Yet over the last several years, our sector has come under increasing scrutiny with vocal and vehement calls for reform: ranging from added bureaucracy and oversight to threats to the charitable giving tax deduction.

So What to Do? Advocate.

Advocacy means speaking up. Making sure our government representatives understand the impact nonprofits have on people and communities is crucial. Advocacy also means awareness. Our philanthropic sector should always be in tune with how government – at every level – might affect it.

A surefire way to educate our elected officials is through grassroots activity: local citizens meeting with their local government officials on issues that impact their charitable organizations. Citizens are voting constituents – voices that are heard loud and clear.

It is important that nonprofit Boards of Directors and Staff have the knowledge necessary to take a proactive stance in educating their elected officials about their sector and their organization, and protect the interests of donors, fundraisers and charities related to laws and regulations about giving, volunteering and nonprofit operations. Elected officials need to know what matters to their constituents. If federal, state and local elected officials are not hearing from us on these important issues, then we risk them assuming their constituents are neutral on key issues impacting the nonprofit sector.

Parameters for Advocacy.

Nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations can, and often should, lobby at all levels of government. The 1976 lobbying tax law passed by Congress was followed by the IRS implementing regulations. Taken together, the law and regulations provide wide latitude for 501(c)(3) nonprofits to lobby.

Organizations can advocate in support of a particular issue (such as preserving the charitable deduction)

  • Includes supporting or opposing a specific bill
  • Includes asking colleagues and the general public to support a position
  • Includes meeting with elected officials to share information about your organization and those it serves

But advocacy CANNOT be a substantial part of the organization’s activities.

  • Use the IRS test: a variety of factors such as time devoted (by both compensated and volunteer workers) and the expenditures devoted by the organization to the activity
  • Organizations can spend 20% of the first $500,000 of annual expenditures on lobbying ($100,000), 15% of the next $500,000, and so on, up to $1 million dollars.

Nor can organizations participate in or fiscally support political campaigns for candidates in any public office.

  • Organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
  • Organizations cannot give contributions to political campaign funds or make public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.

Advocacy Is a Lot Like Fundraising
I think fundraisers were born to advocate. Simply act like it’s a donor meeting and do all of the preparation and follow through you would when cultivating and soliciting a donor.

  • Prepare thoroughly and do your homework. Familiarize yourself with your elected officials: their bios, backgrounds, roles on committees and voting records
  • Schedule a meeting with the appropriate elected official to introduce yourself, your nonprofit and the services you provide to your community (aka the elected official’s district). You can find your legislators’ names and contact information here.
  • If legislation is being developed or pending, make a clear request. Carefully frame the need for supporting or opposing the proposed legislation and how it could positively or negatively impact your nonprofit and people who rely on its services.
  • Establish a relationship with the elected official that allows you to serve as a resource on issues related to your mission and the philanthropic sector. Cultivate the relationship. This means making more than one contact. Consider inviting him/her to tour your organization and meet some of your staff, donors, volunteers and those you serve (aka the legislator’s constituents who vote). This also means having the facts and data you will need to support your case at your fingertips.

There are numerous advocacy resources available to help nonprofit Boards, staff and volunteers improve their organizations and better serve their communities. Here are just a few:

  • Independent Sector. Its mission is to advance the common good by leading, strengthening and mobilizing the nonprofit and philanthropic community. A leadership network for nonprofits, foundations and corporations committed to advancing the common good, its nonpartisan coalition’s networks collectively represent tens of thousands of organizations and individuals locally, nationally and globally.
  • Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). AFP represents more than 30,000 members in more than 230 chapters around the world, working to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs. AFP fosters development and growth of fundraising professionals and promotes high ethical standards in the fundraising profession.
  • National Council of Nonprofits. A network of State Associations and 25,000-plus members, this is the nation’s largest network of nonprofits, serving as a central coordinator and mobilizer to help nonprofits achieve greater collective impact in local communities across the country.
  • GovTrack.US. Tracks the United States Congress and helps Americans understand what is going on in their national legislature. GovTrack publishes the status of federal legislation and information about representatives and senators in Congress and can be used to track bills for updates or to get alerts.

Voices in the philanthropic sector – Board members, volunteers, staff and other professionals – have brought about some recent and very important advocacy victories – the permanency of three charitable giving incentives including the IRA charitable rollover and IRS withdrawal of its proposed rule on charitable gift substantiation. Advocacy works. But it’s up to all of us in the philanthropic sector to make it work.

Missouri Governor Appoints and Senate Unanimously Confirms Jeffrey Byrne to State Authority

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JDB MO Senate Chambers a

Jeffrey Byrne in the Missouri Senate Chambers

Jeffrey Byrne Continues Service to Nonprofit Health and Educational Institutions

Kansas City, MO (February 4, 2016) — Jeffrey D. Byrne, President + CEO of Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc., has been appointed by Governor Jay Nixon to the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority (MoHEFA). Byrne will be joining the seven-member appointed Authority to assist health and educational facilities across Missouri in their financing efforts.

The Authority provides access to capital markets in an effort to lower the cost of health and educational services in Missouri by providing high-quality, readily available, low-cost financing alternatives for Missouri public and private, nonprofit health and educational institutions.

Comprised of experts in the fields of healthcare, higher education, investment banking and finance, the Authority advises and assists borrowing institutions in qualifying for, structuring and completing quality transactions, overseeing the financing process. In this role, this bipartisan Authority has succeeded in obtaining more than $23,600,000,000 in financing for 500 projects across the state since 1979.

In his role as a Member of the Authority, Byrne brings his expertise as a liaison between nonprofits, donors and the financial business sector. For more than 25 years, Byrne has worked with healthcare and educational institutions across the country on capital and development efforts.

Byrne also serves as Chair of The Giving Institute, whose member firms provide ethical delivery of counsel and related services to nonprofits through research, advocacy and best practices education. The Institute’s annual publication, Giving USA, is the most influential publication reporting on the sources and uses of longitudinal giving data in the United States.  Byrne is a graduate of the University of Missouri, Columbia, and serves on the political science alumni board.

The Governor has appointed Byrne for a term on the Authority ending July 30, 2019.

“This appointment is not only a great honor, but a great responsibility,” says Byrne. “It reaffirms my commitment to being a steward of nonprofit missions. My role with MoHEFA will help ensure nonprofits have access to a valuable financing resource to help them achieve their strategic goals and better serve individuals, families and communities while continuing to improve the health and educational landscape of our great state.”

For more information about The Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority visit http://www.mohefa.org.

Advocacy Victories – IRS Withdrawal of Controversial Donor-Data Proposal

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In September of 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had released a highly controversial proposed rule on charitable gift substantiation. Charities choosing to participate in filing a new information return (in addition to the 990) would have filed an additional form with the IRS that included taxpayer identification numbers or social security numbers for donors who contribute $250 or more. Charities also would have been required to provide each donor a copy of their individual information that was included on the form.  Hundreds of nonprofits and organizations joined together in expressing opposition to the proposed regulation and urging the Internal Revenue Service to withdraw the proposal.

While the regulation was designed to help the IRS verify the amount of charitable deductions claimed by taxpayers, nonprofits and other leaders in the philanthropic sector argued it would expose the public to increased risk from identity theft, impose significant costs and burdens on nonprofit organizations and create public confusion and disincentives for donors to support the work of nonprofits. After pushback from the charitable sector and a number of lawmakers who introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress to block the regulation, the Internal Revenue Service withdrew the proposed rule on January 8, 2016.

Advocacy Victories – Permanency of Charitable Giving Incentives

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In late 2015, Capitol Hill made permanent three important tax incentives for charitable giving, including the IRA charitable rollover and enhanced deductions for the donation of food inventory and land conservation easements. After years of renewal and expiration, including the most recent expiration on January 1, 2015, this permanency ends the uncertainty caused by the repeated expiration and subsequent reinstatement of these charitable giving incentives.

The tax extenders package, known as the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, included 22 permanent tax breaks. Notably, it extends the special IRA rollover incentive for gifts completed in 2015 and future years, allowing people who are 70½ or older to donate up to $100,000 to a charity directly from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) without treating the distribution as taxable income.

These giving incentives make a difference. During the first two years the IRA charitable rollover was available, it spurred more than $140 million in gifts to nonprofit organizations. For years, a strong and vocal contingency from the charitable community urged lawmakers to permanently extend the IRA Rollover, stressing it makes a powerful impact in communities across the country and also benefits older Americans. Their voices were heard. Bottom line: the permanent enactment of these giving incentives will give charities improved access to much-needed resources.

President Signs Legislation Making Charitable Tax Provisions Permanent – Notably IRA Rollover

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Three tax incentives for charitable giving are now permanent. The tax extenders package, known as the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, includes a number of provisions, including the IRA charitable rollover and enhanced deductions for the donation of food inventory and land conservation easements.

The law extends the special IRA rollover incentive for gifts completed in 2015 and future years, allowing people who are 70½ or older to donate up to $100,000 to a charity directly from their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) without treating the distribution as taxable income.

JB+A encourages nonprofits to reach out to donors who were waiting on the IRA Rollover provision and let them know the President has signed the bill into law.

Prepare a message to update all donors about the opportunity to make charitable gifts through IRA rollovers. Educate them about how the rollover provision is a powerful and unique way they can support charitable causes they care about.

We’ve provided sample language for messaging below:

Tax-free IRA Gifts

For those 70½ or older, it is once again possible to make tax-favored charitable gifts from IRA accounts.

The President recently signed into law legislation that retroactively extends the charitable IRA rollover for 2015 and makes this provision permanent for future years. A total of up to $100,000 can be transferred directly from IRAs to one or more qualified charities such as <Organization Name>, free from federal income tax each year. There may also be state income tax savings.

Amounts given in this way count toward required IRA minimum withdrawal amounts for the year of the gift. Check with your IRA administrator or your tax advisor for more information on how to make such gifts.

These incentives strengthen the charitable community’s ability to improve American lives and our communities, and nonprofit advocacy groups have pushed for years to make these incentives a permanent part of the tax code. This is a victory for fundraising and philanthropy.

JB+A will continue to monitor and alert you on other public policy issues affecting philanthropy going into 2016.

Happy Holidays!

Nonprofits Should Flex their Advocacy Muscle… but Clear Definitions are Needed from the IRS

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Judy Keller
Executive Vice Presidentjudy Keller for proposals 2012

 

A United State Senate Judiciary Committee recently addressed IRS oversight of partisan political activity by tax-exempt organizations.

The move is recognition that the current definitions and rules governing partisan political activity are unclear.

Advocacy is permissible for any 501(c)(3) and political activity is permissible for certain tax-exempt organizations, but many do not engage in the activities because they are either afraid of running afoul of the rules or simply do not have the capacity to investigate and implement successful advocacy functions. By avoiding advocacy, nonprofits miss huge opportunities to further their missions and engage in meaningful educational programs with community leaders.

There should be no confusion regarding the difference between permissible nonpartisan activities undertaken by charitable organizations to encourage civic participation, and partisan political activities aimed at influencing the outcome of elections. The IRS should issue clear definitions of political activity that applies across all tax-exempt categories and protects the vital voice of tax-exempt organizations in civic engagement efforts that benefit and sustain communities and strengthen our democratic society.

An organization is free to educate its members about candidates’ statements regarding their issues (with valid citations, of course) but it cannot issue a call to action suggesting for whom those members should vote.

Unambiguous standards are needed so nonprofit organizations can confidently educate the public and advocate for their missions and clients served. Civic organizations should give full voice to their issues and preserve their important advocacy role. Their full engagement within the

It is promising to see both the IRS and the Senate Judiciary subcommittee address the topic. But nonprofits need to do their part as well. It is our responsibility as leaders in philanthropy to participate and actively engage with our elected officials regarding these critical issues. Our elected officials need our active involvement and expertise in helping them maneuver through the maze of policy options.