Nonprofits held their own during the first nine months of 2005, according to GuideStar's fourth annual nonprofit economic survey, but they are concerned.
The survey asked charitable organizations to compare contribution levels from January to September 2005 with those from the same period last year. Despite widespread giving to disaster relief, this year's responses were remarkably similar to those for 2004:
The Senate Finance Committee estimates that 74 percent of U.S. taxpayers do not itemize on their federal income tax and therefore cannot take charitable deductions.
Because legislation to rectify this situation was introduced in both chambers of Congress this fall, the November Question of the Month asked, "Do you support allowing taxpayers who do not itemize on their federal income tax to take charitable deductions?" Newsletter readers responded overwhelmingly: "Yes." (For an update on Senate action on this proposal, see "Senate Approves Charitable Giving Legislation
"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
-- Benjamin Franklin
Add "e-mail scams" to Franklin's list. Fraudulent e-mails pop up with alarming regularity. Many claim to be from charities and target unsuspecting donors. Others purport to come from individuals charged with turning over a bequest or other large sum to charity. The first kind defrauds donors and damages the public trust's in the nonprofit sector; the second type bilks charitable organizations and can endanger their financial stability.
A user recently wrote to us about a variation on the Cashier Check Scam (described below) that is currently circulating through cyberspace and specifically targeting nonprofits. Our correspondent suggested that we alert Newsletter readers about the scam, noting, "Given the razor-thin margins that most non-profits operate in, a loss of only a small sum through this fraud—or even just a slackening of fundraising efforts because of 'all that money in the bank'—could cause bankruptcy."
A solid volunteer program can contribute greatly to a nonprofit organization's success and effectiveness. As Scott Winter of the Walker Art Center commented, "Volunteers can be a valuable asset to your work load and your bottom line." So what should a nonprofit organization consider when establishing a volunteer program?
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many individuals and organizations focused their energy on helping the survivors of the devastating storm. To learn more about this response, the September Question of the Month asked Newsletter readers, "Have you personally taken or do you plan to take any action in response to Hurricane Katrina?"
An impressive majority of respondents—90 percent—answered that they had done or were planning to do something. Some 60 percent of those readers were associated with a nonprofit that had taken, was taking, or would be taking action in response to Hurricane Katrina.