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man questioning computer
Applying for tax-exempt status from the IRS is both exciting and an anticipatory waiting game. Even if you answer every question on Form 1023 and pay the correct filing fee it can take about 180 days to get a determination letter—the official notification that the organization meets the federal tax exemption as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
One of the key reasons entities choose to apply for that coveted tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status in the first place is so that they can offer donors the option to claim a tax deduction on donations. So, what are you supposed to say to donors in that bureaucratic purgatory between incorporation and submitting Form 1023 and waiting for the actual green light go-ahead to say you’re a tax-exempt organization?
The good news is that while your application is pending, the entity can treat itself as exempt from federal income tax back to the date of organization. This would be when the articles of incorporation were filed with the Secretary of State’s office.
That said, there is a big however when it comes to donors. Contributions do not have assured deductibility during this in-between period.
If the applicant entity is eventually granted tax-exempt status, then any donations made during this time period would be tax-deductible for the respective donors. But, if the entity is ultimately not granted federal tax-exemption, then any contributions made during the in-between period will not be tax deductible for the donor.
In the spirit of transparency, the uncertain status of donations (whether they are tax-exempt or not) should be something leaders of organizations should share with donors during this period. If appropriate, organization leaders can indicate that they have every reason to believe the donations in the interim period will be tax-deductible after 501(c)(3) status is achieved, but cannot be guaranteed in the present. Nonprofit pros will also want to indicate they will notify current donors about any status change following the determination letter. It’s also a good idea to implement a gift acceptance policy from the start.
I’m happy to help guide interested nonprofit leaders through the application process and then assist with all of those legal uncertainties and compliance requirements on the way to successful change-making. Don’t hesitate to contact me via email (gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com) or phone (515-371-6077), no matter what step along the way you are.
two people at board meeting

Typically when you think of a nonprofit you generally think of a public charity. However, private foundations (and private operating foundations) are also 501(c)(3) organizations under the IRS’ classification system. Understanding the difference between the different tax-exempt organization is key because, while public charities and private foundations have much in common, there are also major differences. The most important of these differences to understand is that private foundations are subject to much stricter regulations and oversight than public charities.

Because this can get complicated in this post let’s just cover private foundations and the rules related to “self-dealing.”

Look to the Code

Section 4941 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and related regulations prohibit any direct or even indirect financial transaction between a private foundation and virtually every person closely associated with it, who are known as “disqualified persons.”

Disqualified Persons

The IRS code is quite specific as to who “disqualified persons” are—and they can be individuals, as well as legal entities, trusts, and even other foundations; it’s a very wide net.

Disqualified persons include:

  • Any substantial financial contributors to the foundation
  • Officers, directors, trustees, or persons who can act on behalf of the organization
  • All family members, including spouses, children, grandchildren, and spouses of children of individuals described above
  • Controlled entities (e.g., a corporation of which disqualified persons own more than 35% of the combined voting power)
  • Certain government officials

Simply put, if a person has influence over the decisions of the private foundation or a particular relationship with it, it’s extremely likely that they are a “disqualified person.”

Specifically Prohibited Self-Dealing Acts

Self-dealing occurs when a disqualified person acts in his or her own financial interest, rather than in the best interest of the private foundation he or she serves.

The IRS code lists these six (6) specific acts of prohibited self-dealing:

  • The sale, exchange, or leasing of property
  • The lending of money or other extensions of credit
  • The furnishing of goods, services, or facilities
  • Payment, compensation, or reimbursement of expenses
  • Transfer to, or use by, or for the benefit of, a disqualified person of any income or assets of the foundation
  • An agreement to pay a government official

As you can see, rules against self-dealing are quite expansive when it comes to financial transactions.

Exceptions to Self-Dealing Rules

Like most areas of the law, there are exceptions to the self-dealing rules for private foundations. But great care must be taken because they are relatively narrow and require both skill and care to use.

Exceptions to self-dealing rules include:

  • A disqualified person can make a loan to a private foundation with no interest or charge if the funds are used exclusively for purposes related to the foundation’s charitable goals;
  • A disqualified person can enter into a no-rent lease with a foundation or otherwise make its facilities available free of charge;
  • Compensation and reimbursement of expenses for services provided by disqualified persons are permissible if the amount is both reasonable and necessary to carry out the foundation’s charitable goals;
  • Certain scholarship, travel, and pension payments to government officials are allowed.

Common Problem areas

There are several self-dealing hazards for private foundations. The most common include: 

Pledges
  • Allowing the foundation to satisfy a personal pledge of a disqualified person with foundation dollars is considered self-dealing.
Event tickets
  • The foundation’s purchase of event tickets for a disqualified person unless the disqualified person attends a grantee’s event in order to evaluate the charity’s activities.
Family member expenses
  • Family members of disqualified persons are considered disqualified persons, so allowing a foundation to pay their expenses is considered self-dealing if they don’t have foundation duties to justify payment of their expenses.
Shared resources
  • If a company devotes office space, staff, or other resources to a private foundation it establishes, the private foundation must keep meticulous records to avoid self-dealing.

Protect Your Private Foundation with a Team of Advisors

If you’re thinking about forming a private foundation, I highly recommend you see the advice of an attorney well-versed in the nuances of nonprofit law. The info in the blog is, at best, a mere outline of the complex and stringent laws governing private foundations.  That said, forming and growing a private foundation can be immensely rewarding to the communities and causes you want to serve. To best execute, it’s wise to build up a team of knowledgable professional advisors that can safely guide the way through the legal hoops.

If you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact me as I offer a free consultation. You can also download my free, no-obligation nonprofit formation guide.

working on paper on desk

It can be difficult upon first glance to understand the differences between the various sets of letters and numbers used to identify nonprofit organizations. You hear a lot about 501(c)(3) organizations, but what if you come across a 501(c)(4) entity when making donations? What if you want to form a 501(c)4)? What does this type of IRS identification mean?

What is a 501(c)4?

Both 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations are tax-exempt from federal income taxes on income earned and raised related to their exempt purposes.

501(c)4s are best categorized as civic organizations and local associations of employees. The Code of Federal Regulations, §1.501(c)(4), says: “A civic league or organization may be exempt as an organization described in section 501(c)(4) if:

  • It is not organized or operated for profit; and
  • It is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”

The most common organizations with a 501(c)(4) designations are those active in politics, lobbying, and advocacy work. Some classic examples include volunteer fire departments, Miss America Organization, and community service clubs like Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions Clubs.

By comparison, 501(c)3 organizations are recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt because they are organized and operated for: “religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.”

These organizations tend toward advocacy work, political actions, lobbying, environmental purposes, homeowners’ associations, and various community associations.  Interestingly, it is not uncommon to find some organizations occupying the ranks of 501(c)(4) that would normally be considered 501(c)(3) if it were not for particular activities such as substantial lobbying or political candidate endorsements…things prohibited under 501(c)(3).

Exempt Purpose: Social Welfare

To be granted 501(c)4 status, the exempt purpose of the organization is the promotion of social welfare. What does social welfare mean exactly? The Code reads (with italics added for emphasis):

An organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare if it is primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people of the community. An organization embraced within this section is one which is operated primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterments and social improvements.

To achieve and retain 501(c)4 status, the organization’s must primarily engage in activities that further its exempt purpose (promotion of social welfare). However, the organization could engage in activities (like lobbying and political campaign intervention mentioned below), so long as they don’t exceed the primary actions related to social welfare. So, technically, “other activities” should not exceed 49% of the organization’s operations.

In comparison, a 501(c)(3) organization is expressly prohibited from engaging in more than an insubstantial amount of activities that do not further its exempt purpose.

Lobbying

501(c)(4) organizations may engage in unlimited lobbying so long as it is in furtherance of their social welfare purposes.

man reading paper

Political Activities

So long as political campaign activities are not the primary actions (meaning more than 49%) of the organization, the 501(c)(4) may engage in political campaign intervention.

By distinction, 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from engaging in any political campaign intervention activities.

Contribution Deductibility

Generally, donor contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations are not deductible. There are limited exceptions for certain contributions to war veterans organizations and volunteer fire companies. In fundraising solicitations, 501(c)(4) organizations must disclose to prospective donors–in an obvious and easily recognizable format–that donations to the organization are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. Note well that some payments to 501(c)(4)s will be deductible as business expenses in certain situations.

How do you form a 501(c)(4)

If an organization is looking for 501(c)(4) status they may go about it one of two ways. The organization may:

  1. Apply for formal IRS recognition of exemption by filing Form 1024; or
  2. Declare itself as exempt under 501(c)(4).

In both cases, the entity must notify the IRS by electronically filing Form 8976 within 60 days of establishing intent to operate as a 501(c)(4) organization. (Organizations operating under any other 501(c) section should not file this notice!)

Want to learn more? Have questions which organization designation may be best for your entity? Maybe your 501(c)(3) would benefit from establishing a 501(c)(4) arm? Don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss your situation!

puzzle pieces

 What is a Grantor-Grantee Policy?

A grantor-grantee policy outlines how the organization expects the relationship with grantees (other organizations applying for funding or grants) to be structured. (Sometimes you’ll see this type of policy called a funder-grantee policy.) A grantor-grantee policy will address details related to the beginning of the grant application process through evaluation and multiple points in between. The intended audience is both your internal board of directors and staff as well as current/prospective grantees.

This type of policy often sets forth details regarding the complicated details that should allow for a better, more transparent relationship from the get-go with grantees. The policy can be as general or as specific as needed for maximized effectiveness to the organization’s specific situation. I’ll explain some of the “common” points often included in successful grantor-grantee policies below.

Benefits of a Grantor-Grantee Policy

By outlining the process and details of grants, your organization benefits from having an approved, agreed-upon plan of action. This is a proactive step toward avoiding wasting time. A grantor-grantee policy also makes it simpler to navigate unexpected situations or complexities as an organization.

Grantees will certainly benefit from a clear-cut, candid grantor-grantee policy as well because it invites them to set realistic expectations about what a relationship with your organization will look like.

Common Points to Include in a Grantor-Grantee Policy

When drafting grantor-grantee policies, it’s important that provisions included are directly related to your actual current and/or intended operations. (This is why it is important to have an attorney draft your policies as opposed to using something found off the internet—it probably won’t apply!) The following are some points you’ll want to consider as a part of a useful policy.

What basics should be included in the guidelines?

Consider details regarding:

  • How you want prospective grantees to approach your organization to submit an application or express interest. Is it by online application, email, letter, visit, etc.?
  • How quickly can prospective grantees expect a response to an initial inquiry or a submitted grant application? How will that contact be made?
  • What does the decision-making process look like? How often does the board meet, and when are decisions made?
  • You can also include here what you do NOT permit in terms of contact, meeting, or presentations by prospective grantees to avoid undue influence or even the appearance of unethical decision-making.
  • Are grants generally restricted, unrestricted, or on a case-by-case basis?

What is the timeline for funding?

  • Can applicants expect grants to be made on a rolling basis or are there specific deadlines?
  • What about the chance for grant renewals? When do those take place?

What are the types of proposals and information are you looking for?

Potential grantees will appreciate upfront information to decide whether to invest scarce resources and considerable time in an application for your organization. This invites a healthy amount of self-screening which enables you to evaluate the most appropriate applications. Consider these essential points:

  • Who is your ideal grantee? Do they need to operate in a certain location or within a specific realm of charitable purpose (such as, through work with animals, human services, or education)?
  • What are your preferred areas of funding? Some preferred funding areas can include: equipment; operating support; special programs/projects; financial stabilization; board/staff development; and capital projects. Will you accept proposals from outside your preferred areas or not at all?
  • What types of funding requests will you NEVER accept?
  • What qualifications and information will you consider in applications?
  • Do you want to give examples of previous grant applications you have funded? Do you want to list all grants made in the previous funding cycle in the policy or perhaps elsewhere (like on your website) or not at all?

What are the specifics of the grant application?

The grantor-grantee policy is not where your grant application should live, but important details about the application should be included. For instance:

  • What will you do to keep the application process reasonable? For instance, asking an applicant to make 10 copies for each individual board member may be unreasonable.
  • Where will the application be made available (online, in-person at the office, etc.) and in what formats (Word document; fillable PDF; etc.)?
  • How often will the grant application process and instructions be reviewed for inconsistencies and clarity? Once a year? Before any given application cycle?

What are the granting process logistics?

  • What is expected of grantees to confirm acceptance?
  • How will funds be distributed—at a specific check presentation event, through electronic transfer, or some other means?

hands in teamwork

How will the organization invite feedback?

Most grantees will not offer invaluable feedback unsolicited. Your organization may want to highlight how and when it will seek productive criticisms for continued growth.

You may not know an adjustment needs to be made until another organization tells you! How will you invite constructive feedback from current and prospective grantees regarding your funding application process? How will make certain it is seen as welcome and important?

What about an exit strategy?

Organizations evolve and priorities change. What does the process look like for informing grantees of a transition away from funding? Certainly, grantees should not expect support for forever, but they should expect respect and clarity when it comes to a grantor planning to pull support. Ample time and notification should be given, as well as the option for support in other ways (if applicable).

How about opportunities for collaboration?

In addition to or apart from funding, what are other ways you invite collaboration with past/current/future grantees? Beyond money, additional chances for working together can further strengthen community connections and enhance mutually beneficial partnerships.

Drafting Your Policies

I would be happy to discuss the particulars of your organization’s needs and goals to ensure your grantor-grantee policy is tailormade to best set your organization up for granting success. Contact me at any time via email (gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com) or by phone (515-371-6077).

man typing on macbook

I’ve written a lot about IRS Form 990 on this blog, but all nonprofits organized in Iowa or authorized to business in the state also need to file a Biennial Report with the office of the Iowa Secretary of State. The report is required under Iowa Code §504.1613.

The report is pretty basic and is essentially entity information updates of which the Iowa Secretary of State’s office records. Report requirements vary by state, so I’ve laid out all the basics below!

When is my nonprofit’s Biennial Report due?

Biennial Reports should be submitted between January 1 and April 1 in odd-numbered years (like this one, 2019!). An organization’s first Biennial Report is due on the first odd-numbered year following the calendar year of formation. So, if your nonprofit was formed (meaning you submitted articles of incorporation) in October 2019, the first Biennial Report would be due by April 1, 2021.

Does someone have to sign it? Does it need to be notarized?

Yes; someone with authority in the organization should sign it (such as the president of the board of directors), however, original signatures are not required. Notarization is also not required.

person at conference table

What information is included in the biennial report?

The statute requires the following information be reported. (Note that a nonprofit is still a “corporate” entity, even though we don’t typically refer to nonprofit organizations like corporations.):

  • Name of the corporation
  • State or country under whose law the nonprofit incorporated
  • Address of the corporation’s registered office
  • Name of the corporation’s registered agent at that office in Iowa
  • Consent of any new registered agent, if applicable
  • Address of the corporation’s principal office
  • Names and addresses of the president, secretary, treasurer, and one member of the board of directors
  • Whether or not the corporation has members

The information on the Biennial Report should be related to the two-year period immediately preceding the calendar year in which the report is filed.

Is there a form?

Yes, there is a form you can file online or by mail. You will need both the corporation number and a temporary code to begin the filing process. Each corporation’s registered agent will receive a Biennial Report notice in early January.

Does it cost money?

Unlike the costs for LLCs or for-profit corporations, for nonprofit corporations, the filing fee is $0.

Other Considerations

While you’re thinking about reporting, once you have the Biennial Report submitted turn your attention to Form 990. Do you know which version you can submit? Do you need to adopt any beneficial policies and procedures to boost your filing (and amplify good governance and successful operations in your organization)?

Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions about any forms and reporting. It can seem like a pain at first, but the more prepared you are and the more knowledge you have, the faster you can get back to work, forwarding your mission.

people brainstorming at table

If your nonprofit has an endowment, I recommend adopting and implementing an endowment policy handbook. The benefits of this handbook are numerous. For one, it can best prepare the nonprofit’s leaders to manage and put to use bequests of all sizes. Furthermore, a pre-established set of policies can help your organization avoid legal missteps and other conflicts.

Answer the Important Questions

Endowed funds bring special responsibilities: legal, financial, and ethical. There are many important questions which can only be resolved by:

  1. a full discussion and informed decisions by board members;
  2. the members adopting written and specific policies in clear, plain language; and
  3. putting those policies in a coherent, consistent, and accessible handbook.

In this way, all the many and varied responsibilities of endowed funds will be met. Once legal, financial, and ethical duties are met, the nonprofit can use the endowed fund to effectively grow the organization’s programs, support the mission, and aid the organization’s longitudinal viability.

Recommended Content for the Endowment Policy Handbook

Just like your employee handbook, the set of policies related to the organization’s endowment should be specific to your operations, intentions, and goals. There is no one-size-fits-all document, as what may make sense for a large nonprofit would not apply at all to a small one. (This is a good reason to not steal a template from the internet as it likely won’t serve its purpose and could potentially make things even more confusing.) In general, however, there are some recommended provisions that should be in all handbooks, like the following:

Definition of Terms

Basic terms, like the word “endowment” itself, need to be defined. The same goes for restricted versus unrestricted funds, donor intent (to contribute to the endowment rather than other funds), and others.

Types of Gifts

What types of gifts will be accepted for endowment contributions, and under what circumstances?

Donor Recognition for Endowments

Will there be a different or special procedure for donor recognition when a donor gives to the endowment?

Confidentiality

Confidentiality of private information of donors and potential donors to endowment must be maintained. What’s the specific process for doing so?

 Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act

Rules which ensure the requirements of the law UPMIFA are fully meet, if not exceeded.

Accounting of Endowment Funds

How will financial standards be applied to endowment funds? Who specifically will ensure the appropriate and proper accounting of endowment funds?

Management of Endowment Funds

The management of endowment funds is to provide consistent sources of income for which programs or activities?

Investment of Endowment Funds

Is the investment of the endowment directed toward maximizing the return of principal while maintaining prudent fiscal guidelines? A basic question for both the management and investment of endowed funds is: what institution shall hold the funds?

Restrictions of/on Endowment Funds

Endowment funds can NOT be spent on certain categories or items. What are they?

Revision or Amendment

In the future, how can the endowment policies handbook be revised or amended, under what circumstances, and for what reasons?

It’s also a smart idea to include a copy of the Endowed Fund Gift Agreement you have donors sign when making a gift to the endowment.

Drafting Your Endowment Policy Handbook

I would be happy to discuss the particulars of your organization to ensure your endowment policy handbook is tailor-made to set the organization and its fundraising efforts up for success. Contact me with your questions and thoughts! One thing is for certain–you shouldn’t be managing an endowment fund without having a clear blueprint for how it should run.

sign here on phone

From online donations to individually-tailored policies and procedures there’s a lot for nonprofit professionals to stay on top of. One of the ways I like to serve my mission of promoting and maximizing charitable giving in Iowa is to help nonprofits leaders in the state understand the ever-changing regulatory landscape to be the most successful they can.

In December 2019 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that tax-exempt organizations are now required to electronically file certain documents. This comes after the passage of the Taxpayer First Act in July 2019, which affected tax-exempt organizations in tax years beginning after July 1, 2019. This is a change from the previous option where organizations had the option to mail in paper forms. Organizations that have previously filed paper forms should receive a notice from the IRS telling them of the change.

The following IRS forms should now be filed electronically:

Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax
• Form 990-PF, Return of Private Foundation (or Section 4947(a)(1) Trust Treated as Private Foundation)
• Form 8872, Political Organization Report of Contributions and Expenditures
• Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income (if filed by a Section 501(d) apostolic organization)

I’ve written about Form 990 in-depth before. While nonprofits don’t generally file annual tax returns (hence the tax-exempt status) most nonprofits need to file an important annual information return (a version of Form 990). If you want to learn more, I recommend giving these posts a read:

Interested in other aspects of successful nonprofit operations and great governance? Confused about any other regulatory changes? Don’t hesitate to contact me for a consult at gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com and 515-371-6077.

man with fireworks - charitable giving

With ringing in the new year comes the inevitable resolutions to be happier, healthier, more productive…all good intentions. But, what if this year you make a different kind of resolution—an actionable goal that could make a difference in the causes you care about? How about a goal that goes beyond yourself and could also have a positive impact on your community? This year I implore you to make at least one charitable giving goal. A giving goal can be a “resolution” you actually keep after the snow melts. How? With the right plan in place!

woman looking at fireworks

Similarly, I encourage my clients to determine their estate planning goals. These goals help guide me in drafting a personalized estate plan and determining which documents and provisions are needed. After all, every Iowan, family, and business is unique. Charitable giving goals can work the same way as a guiding blueprint for the who, what, when, and why of giving.

Use the following information to set your charitable giving goals for the new year!  

tips for setting charitable giving goals

Set a budget.

Of course, to begin, you’ll need to examine your entire budget including income, committed expenses (such as rent/mortgage payments, all bills, healthcare costs, etc.), to determine your discretionary income—this is the money you have left over after your committed expenses.

Along with your budget you should also consider whether larger one-time donations or recurring (perhaps monthly) donations work better for your budget, personality, and spending habits. A one-time donation may help prevent money from being spent on other discretionary choices. On the other hand, a repeated, monthly donation may help divide the total amount up into manageable sums. And, monthly donations can often be configured to automatically be made from your account which makes it easy to set the figure at the beginning of the year and make it a regular expenditure. Nonprofit organizations are grateful for all charitable contributions, but recurring, monthly gifts make their budgeting easier.

Look at the big picture.

big picture giving

Step back from the accounting weeds for a moment and sit down with a plain piece of paper. Write down the causes and organizations you care about. If you feel passionate about a certain issue, but don’t know of a specific charity off the top of your head that is addressing the issue, make a note of it. Your list doesn’t have to be long, just true to you.

Then, commit to research to determine which organizations are going to invest your money toward a mission that aligns with your own ethos. Some things to consider about a charity:

  • Financial health. Tax-exempt organizations have to file Form 990 (officially, the “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax”)  with the IRS. This form details the organization’s financial information and is available to the public. Do a search on a database such as the Foundation Center, for a charity you’re considering donating to, and review the financial data.
  • What’s the charity’s commitment to transparency? How about accountability?
  • What’s the organization’s Charity Navigator rating, if any? Charity Navigator’s rating system examines a charity’s performance in the areas of financial health and accountability/transparency, and presents it in an easily discernible way.
  • Is the organization a public charity or private foundation? This will have an impact on your federal income tax charitable deductions.
  • Is the organization based in the U.S. or is it a foreign charity? (Generally, if the donee is a foreign charitable organization, an income tax deduction is unavailable.)

Of course, if you’re personally involved with an organization through volunteering, fundraising, or the like, that’s a good way to “know” the charities as well. Research will empower and embolden your charitable goals if you know your donation is going to an upstanding, trustworthy operation.

Seek advice.

If you made a goal to increase muscle mass, you would likely seek the services of a personal trainer. If your goal is to eat healthier? Maybe a nutritionist. When the goal is to be committed to smart charitable donations, you’ll want to enlist the likes of your lawyer, accountant, and/or financial advisor. Seek out a professional who has experience working with nonprofits, the tax code, and strategies for intelligent giving. This pro can and should be able to help you put your plan into action.

(This tip also applies to practicing charitable giving through your estate plan—something you should definitely hire an estate planning lawyer to make sure the estate plan is properly, legally executed.)

Focus efforts / limit charitable targets.

Smart charitable giving means a vested commitment toward a cause or organization’s advancement, as well as financially beneficial tax deductions for you. Unlike investments where the general advice is to diversify to reduce risk, in the realm of charitable giving the opposite may well be true. You may well receive the greatest “return” by concentrating your giving on a fewer, rather than more, organizations. Consider giving to two or three nonprofits to magnify your impact.

If you’re ready to commit to charitable giving goals you can actually keep I’m happy to offer advice and strategy. Don’t hesitate to reach out via email (gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com) or by phone (515-371-6077).

For better or worse, for most nonprofits in the U.S., end-of-year giving comprises a significant portion of the charitable donation pie. In fact, between October and December nonprofits receive half of all annual donations! Yes, you read that right.

The last quarter of the year accounts for donations equal to those raised the other nine months out of the year. Even more intriguing? 33 percent of donations made in December occur on the 31st of the month and 12 percent of all giving happens in the last three days of the year….talk about last-minute donors!

snow-globe-christmas

Why is this the case? There are multiple reasons. First, time is of the essence for donors to make a tax-deductible charitable gift before January 1 of the new year. Nonprofits are also racing to meet annual fundraising goals and typically spend a significant portion of resources in order to exceed fundraising levels of the previous year. Additionally, the holiday season is synonymous with the actions of gifting, love, peace, joy, and a time to be generous. This means donors can be extra receptive to a charity’s marketing campaign that extolls these feelings that now is the best time for giving.

This is all to say, last-minute fundraising efforts can and should be used to target prospective last-minute donors. It’s a busy time of year for all, but the return for a strong end of year fundraising push can be well worth the time and energy. Consider these quick tips:

What are you Doing New Year’s Eve?

new year sparkler

Because New Year’s Eve day is such an important day for charitable donations, do not hesitate to keep fundraising through the very end of the year. Make those calls and get out the digital media campaigns. Reinforce to donors that December 31 is not too late and they’ll qualify for the charitable deduction federal income tax benefits on 2017 taxes.

Make Your Homepage Your Home Base

Your website should be the home base for year end giving. If you don’t have one yet, publish a dedicated page (or site) specifically for end-of-year giving information and brand it with your associated year end campaign. It doesn’t have to be complex, just consolidate the basics of who you are, what your mission is, and how donations help solve an issue or advance a cause on one campaign page.

homepage Mac fundraising

To that point, also take a review of your online donation page. If you can, brand it to fit with your end-of-year campaign…branded donation forms can mean up to seven times more than a non-branded, generic donation portal. Also, make sure the online donation portal is easily accessible no matter “where” the donor is coming from. Also, ensure all giving and donations portals are optimized for mobile access. (18 percent of all digital-made donations come from mobile devices.)

Ready, Set, Action

If you haven’t already, make a 60-second (or shorter) video explaining how donations to your charity can make an impact. A video can be an incredibly powerful tool for cutting through the end-of-year giving noise; videos can leave a lasting impact of imagery and tell an emotional story often better than just words or photographs can. According to a Google survey on online donation patterns, 57 percent of online donors make a charitable donations after watching a fundraising video that tells an inspiring story. This is exemplified through the ever-growing crowdfunding platforms; crowdfunding pages that have a video promo component raise four times as many donations as those that don’t. Just like your website and online donation pages need to be optimized for mobile, more than half of all videos happen on mobile.

video on iphone

Video content creation can sound scary at first if you don’t have a marketing team in place to facilitate, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider these tips, bust out your iPhone, acquire a tripod if possible, and use your laptop’s basic editing software. If you don’t have enough “last minute” time for that, shoot a video like you would for your own personal Instagram story or Facebook page.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Remind your prospective donors what you stand for and what benefits they stand to gain with at least one weekly email each week before the end of year. Also, send out a special dedicated email early on both December 30 and December 31. As most year-end donors know they will in fact donate, they’re just undecided about how much they will actually give. Make it ridiculously easy for donors to “see” what their donation could do.

In terms of timing, for example, on December 31  send out follow-up emails to only those donors who didn’t open the first iteration of the communication. Stay on message with all social media postings and branded links back to your donation page.  

Celebrate!

After the year-end fundraising push, don’t forget to reward your nonprofit’s hardworking staff and volunteers! Refresh, refocus, and get ready to tackle your next year’s fundraising goals.

Happy new year headband

What year-end fundraising tactics have worked well for your charity? If you’d like to discuss any aspect of nonprofit fundraising, don’t hesitate to reach out via email (gordon@gordonfischerlawfirm.com) or phone (515-371-6077).

christmas words giving

Thanks for the reading the 25 Days of Giving series…almost as good as this whiskey advent calendar, am I right? Each day through Christmas, I’m covering different aspects of charitable giving for both donors and nonprofit leaders. Have a topic you want covered or question you want answered  regarding charitable giving? Contact me.

Sure, info on tax incentives is important and details on donating stock are interesting, but sometimes just a good quote has the power to spark giving. According to this study, 31% of ALL online charitable giving in the U.S. happens in the month of December! If you’re a nonprofit looking to increase end-of-year donations or even a donor seeking to inspire your friends and family to give charitably, these quotes could come in handy.

The true meaning of Christmas? Giving.

giving snowflake quote

Giving makes you happy.

Happiest giving quote

Not giving is not an option for the causes you care about.

Doing nothing giving quote

Giving while you’re living means making a difference in the future.

Real generosity

Giving can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be. Enlist an expert to help you meet your giving goals.

Aristotle giving quoteGiving is a privilege

Rockfeller giving quote

Giving “costs nothing.”

giving quote free

What you give is what you get.

get out of this world giving

Giving means a lasting legacy.giving immortal quote

If you want to share one of these quotes, don’t hesitate to tag Gordon Fischer Law Firm on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.