Dec 3, 2009

A Value Menu for Your Non-Profit




More and more restaurants are preparing a value menu for their customers. In the non-profit world we should be offering a value menu for key donors. With the Charitable IRA Rollover set to expire at the end of 2009, the last 30 days of December are a perfect time to bring the value menu to donors. In the commercial McDonalds adds value and tells about a product on their value menu. Use the IRA Charitable Rollover as a newsworthy reason to contact donors, build a relationship and share your value menu.

A Value Menu for Your Non-Profit
Connecting with donors to improve their bottom line… and yours.


I love watching folks order from the value menu at fast food restaurants. Fast food chains are competing for business in a difficult economy. They are promoting the value of their food and calling hungry customers to action. I believe they are on to something; it seems like more and more folks are piecing together meals that can be paid for with spare change.

How are you adding value for your key donors? How are you calling them to action? Most key donors are already passionate about your organization. They are already giving and they don’t need a sales pitch. Instead, you may be able to sweeten the deal and build a relationship by presenting them with a menu of options that will add value.

You can do this by understanding how your donors are taxed and working with them to give more effectively. If you save them money by allowing them to give more to your organization, you have succeeded. Their finances are better because they did something they were passionate about.

Understand charitable donations. Folks give in different ways and from different sources. Here are a few basics on charitable giving:

Checkbook Philanthropy. When a donor writes a check, they are using after tax income to support your organization. If you are a tax-deductible organization they will receive a deduction at the end of the year which will reduce taxable income… maybe! In order for this to help, your donors must itemize on their tax return. According to the IRS, only about 36% of tax returns for individuals and families are itemized.

Appreciating appreciated assets. In this economy, it is difficult to discuss assets that have gained in value. This sort of conversation with donors at the end of 2008 may have gotten you laughed out of the room. Despite how things feel in this economy, many Americans still have securities and real estate that has appreciated. If they were to sell these assets they would owe capital gains on the appreciation. If your donor bought stock at $1 per share and sells at $10 per share, she owes capital gains tax on the $9 of taxable gains. However, if she were to gift that $10 stock to your organization, she gets a deduction for the entire $10. Remember, she only paid $1. As icing on the cake for your donor, she no longer owes the capital gains tax because she made the charitable contribution. Your donor supported your organization, got a full deduction, and did not have to pay the tax on capital gains. She has saved money.

Let them leave a legacy. What would happen if your largest, most consistent donor passed away tomorrow? How would it affect your budget? If your donors are passionate enough to offer support during life, perhaps they would be equally passionate about supporting your organization after they are gone.

There are many ways to go about this. It can be as simple as adding your organization as a beneficiary on an investment account. Some donors opt to create charitable trusts, donor advised funds, or participate in charitable foundations. These options offer flexibility and can allow donors to receive a deduction now, remove assets from their estate, and support your mission long term.

Don’t get overwhelmed, get help. You are probably a bit concerned at this point, feeling like your role in the organization just got bigger. There is good news: you don’t need to know everything about taxes, deductions and charitable giving to be effective. Instead, consider partnering with folks who are passionate about your organization, and who know their stuff when it comes to taxes. Seek out financial advisors, accountants, and attorneys, partnering with them to educate donors. You may find a few of these professionals are already a part of your donor base.

Tax laws are constantly changing but professionals in your community can keep you ‘in the know’. Ask these folks to look for tax changes that may benefit your organization and act as a call to action for donors. Use each opportunity to present a newsworthy new addition to a robust value menu.
You are beginning to look like a super-hero. You are connecting with folks that are passionate about your organization and you are adding value by saving them money. Congratulations!
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