The mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm is to maximize charitable giving in Iowa. To that end we work with nonprofits on legal compliance and training for accepting gifts (especially complex ones) as well was the donors who want to give to their favorite organizations and causes. Small Business Saturday is great for the community and Cyber Monday is fun, but the post-Thanksgiving “day” we look forward to the most is #GivingTuesday.
Created by the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y in New York, along with the United Nations Foundation, in 2012, #GivingTuesday is a celebration for support of philanthropy and giving. Social media has helped grow the event into a global occasion, connecting countries, organizations, and donors around the world.
#GivingTuesday marks the middle of the seasonal giving system—33% of charitable donations consumers occurs year-round. Whether you’re prepping your nonprofit’s activities, messaging, and events for #GivingTuesday or are a donor preparing to give (and encourage others to do the same) let’s take a look at some stats from last year (2017) that show the enormous impact #GivingTuesday has.
- The 2017 #GivingTuesday Data Project reported $274 million raised from more than 2.5 million contributions. This was an increase of $97 million (55% overall) from 2016.
- Among the largest processing platforms for donations were PayPal ($64 million); Blackbaud ($47.7 million); and Facebook ($45 million).
- 2017 saw a 14% increase in contributions made via mobile devices.
- The average gift amount was $120.
- There were 1,010,045 social media mentions about #GivingTuesday!
- People in more than 150 different countries participated
- The largest source of charitable giving in 2017 was individuals at $281.86 billion (72% of total giving); followed by foundations ($58.28 billion/15%), bequests ($30.36 billion/8%), and corporations ($18.55 billion/5%).
- 31% of all donations ($127.37 billion) went to religious organizations (such as people giving in their house/place of worship)
All year, not just on #GivingTuesday, GFLF is thrilled to work with nonprofit organizations on elements of operations including, but certainly not limited to;
- Training of nonprofit boards and staff and educating on charitable giving tools and techniques;
- Employment law guidance for nonprofits including advice about hiring and firing, and drafting of policies and procedures;
- Handling compliance issues, like forming a 501(c)3 and Form 990 reporting; and
- Working with nonprofit and donors on complex gifts.
#GivingTuesday is a reminder that, against the backdrop of the “busy” of the holiday season, the spirit of giving is thriving. Want to talk charitable giving? Reach out anytime by email or phone (515-371-6077)
After the onslaught of Black Friday advertising and Cyber Monday announcements filling up your inbox, Giving Tuesday (November 27 this year) feels like a breath of fresh (wintery) air from the shopping rush. The “holiday,” often known by its social media tag of #GivingTuesday, is all about celebrating generosity and philanthropy. Giving charitably to your favorite organizations feels great and allows you to make a difference in your community, state, and the world. But, you also want to make sure your gift is legally compliant and beneficial, particularly for those who are “bunching” their donations to claim the charitable deduction on federal income taxes.
Before you donate on #GivingTuesday (or any other day) consider these legal tips:
Make Sure the Charity is Qualified
A charitable deduction can result in significant tax savings, but for that to occur, the donation must be made to a qualified 501(c)(3). While that may sound basic, some initiatives may look like nonprofits but actually operate as a business, not a tax-exempt organization. A little bit of research can go a long way here. First, read up about the organization in question online and don’t hesitate to call to speak to a representative. You can also use the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Select Check; limit the search to organizations eligible for tax-deductible charitable contributions.
(If your favorite organization is in need of assistance for obtaining tax-deductible status, don’t hesitate to reach out.)
Proper documentation is required in order to take the charitable contribution deduction for contributions of $250 or more. This means you need written acknowledgement that expresses the required info of the donee (charity), date of donation, and monetary amount. It’s your legal obligation as the donor to ask for the written acknowledgement, not the charity’s obligation to offer it.
Here’s a simple breakdown of what’s needed for specific types of giving-
- Gifts of less than $250 per donee — you need a cancelled check or receipt
- $250 or more per donee — you need a timely written acknowledgement from the donee
- Total deductions for all property exceeds $500 — you need to file IRS Form 8283
- Deductions exceeding $5,000 per item — you need a qualified appraisal completed by a qualified appraiser
Need more info? I go into detail about appraisers in this blog post.
Restrict in Writing
If you feel strongly about a specific program, region of operation, or use within the nonprofit, you’ll want to restrict the charitable donation. The restriction must be made in writing, at the same time as the donation is made.
#GivingTuesday has expanded greatly since its founding in NYC to become a global event. You may hold a foreign-based charitable organization near and dear to you heart and, of course, you may give to that organization, however your donation won’t qualify for a charitable tax deduction.
I work with my estate planning clients on defining their goals for their future and assets. The same baseline advice applies to charitable giving—what are your goals? Do the organizations you are donating to support your giving goals? Look at materials published by One way to gauge this is by reviewing the nonprofit’s annual information on its Form 990, “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax.” This form is intended for the public and includes important financial info. The IRS publishes Form 990 and it’s easy to check out the details on Guidestar, a nonprofit database.
If you have any questions on how to give charitably and do so wisely, don’t hesitate to reach out. Maximizing charitable giving in Iowa is the mission of Gordon Fischer Law Firm and we want to help as many Iowans give confidently as we can!
Giving Tuesday is held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (November 27 this year) and is an important day for nonprofits to reach out to current and potential donors. Scroll through your social media feeds with the hashtag #givingtuesday and it seems like every organization, from big to small, is running digital marketing campaigns related to the day. Unlike Black Friday’s lines outside of stores in the middle of the night, #GivingTuesday’s activity is largely social media based. For nonprofits all of this online activity is typically directed to online giving portals.
These online giving pages facilitate easy charitable giving, but before you send inspired donors to your giving portal, it’s wise to ensure your organization is compliant with associated legal issues. Whether you have created your own donation platform or are using a third-party platform embedded on your site, make sure to follow these legal tips:
It’s important to offer a donation receipt to your donors, so they make take the charitable contribution deduction on 2018 taxes if they choose so. A proper receipt—whether in a generated pdf, email, mailed letter, or other printed/printable form—should state the donor’s name, date of contribution, and amount given.
If the donation is greater than $250 a written statement should be obtained stating that the organization did not give any services or goods. If the charity does in fact give goods or services to the donor in return for a donation, the acknowledgment should describe what was given and provide an estimate of value of the goods or services.
If those goods and services provided are valued greater than $75, the written statement must also specify the the amount of the donation that is tax deductible. (This figure is the amount of money that exceeded the value of the goods or services exchanged by the charity.)
You want to make certain your communications (such as written acknowledgements and receipts) with donors meet all legal requirements, as just discussed. But that doesn’t mean you can’t also have some fun with these communications, or use them as an opportunity to stick out above the noise with creativity. Here are a couple solid articles, from The Balance and CauseVox featuring ideas for upgrading your thank you’s to donors.
Online Charitable Solicitations
Fundraising activities fall under state law, and many states require charities (as well as individuals hired to assist the nonprofit with fundraising) to register with that state BEFORE any donations are solicited from residents of said state.
A charitable solicitation can be considered anything from a YouTube video with a call to action to donate, an e-newsletter sent to a subscriber list, to a simple Facebook post (and everything in between). Obviously, online giving has made figuring out which states your organization needs to register with complicated. Case in point, your organization may operate and be registered in Iowa, but if you have a “donate” button on your website, donations could come from residents of any state (or any country for that matter). Even the presence of a donation button could subject an organization to registration requirement in some states, but won’t in other states. (Charitable solicitation registration is not currently required in Iowa.)
The main policy guidance for state regulators on this matter was published in 2001 by the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO), called the Charleston Principles. But, these provisions aren’t law, merely suggestive, so how should your charity deal with online donations? It’s far better for the organization to be safe rather than found noncompliant which can involve costly penalties.
Nonprofits accepting online donations have a two main approaches, according to the white paper, “Guidance for Compliance with State Charitable Solicitation Registration Requirements,” published by Harbor Compliance and the National Council for Nonprofits.
- Your charity could register (or file for an exemption) in all 41 states that require such registration, but that can be costly. The total fees to register your charity in all those states can range up to $5,000, (and that doesn’t even include professional fees you may need to incur, like paying lawyers or CPAs).
- A second option is to register only with states that require registration and from which you would reasonably expect donations. For instance, if your nonprofit operates in Iowa, depending on your fundraising activities, it could be reasonable to expect donations from residents of neighboring states such as Minnesota. Or, if a significant percentage of subscribers to your e-newsletter are from Illinois, it’s smart to register there. With this option it’s important to note that if you do receive a contribution from residents of another state that requires registration that triggers the need to register with that state.
Either way, it’s a good idea to look into the Unified Registration Statement (URS), a consolidated multi-state registration form. It’s also important to remember not only the initial registration, but also registration renewals (complete with deadlines and late fees).
Crowdfunding is anticipated to be a $90-96 billion dollar industry by 2025, and there are more and more nonprofits utilizing it as a tool within the fundraising mix. If your charity is using a crowdfunding site (Kickstarter and Indiegogo are both popular platforms) the charitable solicitation registration requirements covered above apply. But, this is also a good subject to broach the topic of fraud and misrepresentation because crowdfunding has opened the door to more people being involved. Charitable organizations are prohibited from engaging in fraud, using deceptive practices that are likely to create confusion, and misrepresenting the nature, purpose, or beneficiary of the charitable solicitation. This one’s a biggie because committing fraud or misrepresentation could mean a lengthy and expensive litigation process.
To avoid this risk it’s wise to have a vetted gift acceptance policy with clear guidelines regarding crowdfunding. Organizations should keep an eagle eye on fraudulent crowdfunding campaigns that may use the nonprofit as a beneficiary, but fail to ever actually donate funds. Yet, if dedicated volunteers and donors do want to crowdfund for you, that’s fantastic. The organization just needs to keep close watch on the campaign’s operation and offer crystal clear guidance on what campaigning on behalf of the charity is acceptable and what is not.
#GivingTuesday is coming up quick (where did the year go?!), so now’s the time to double check any potential issues for noncompliance that could occur. If you have any questions with regard to your online donation compliance I would love to offer a free one-hour consultation. Contact me via email or on my cell phone (515-371-6077). Best of luck with your #GivingTuesday campaigns!