Tax Reform = Focus on Donors + Mission

Tax ReformCongress approved a major overhaul of our tax code yesterday, and many analysts have predicted that the doubling of the standard deduction will harm charitable giving. We’ll know a year from now, but today we don’t know precisely how tax reform will play out. What can we do today?

Today, more than ever, focus on donor engagement. Donors who are truly engaged in our organizations and our missions won’t abandon us because of changes in the tax code. Those givers whose hearts are tied to what we do are not (and never were) writing checks with one hand while calculating a tax benefit with the other.

I’ll use my own giving as an example. Each year, my spouse and I talk about our priorities for charitable gifts. In the past we focused on education. With two children in school, we wanted to recognize the institutions that were making a difference to our family on a day-to-day basis. We wanted to thank them for what they were doing, and support them and their missions into the future.

This meant saying a lot of “no’s” to maintain our focus, but it felt right to prioritize our limited resources rather than spread them thinly across many (albeit deserving) organizations.

More recently, a couple of very special nonprofits have become close to our hearts. One advocates for legal rights of marginalized people. (One of our sons falls into that margin.) So yes, we give to that organization.

A tax deduction was never part of our giving equation

The other is a unique summer camp for marginalized children that our youngest attended for two years. He had a joyful experience at that camp that had an lasting positive affect on his life. We will support that wonderful camp as long as we are able because we want more children to have that experience.

A tax deduction was never part of our giving equation. Granted, my husband and I fall into nobody’s definition of major donors. And perhaps major donors think differently than we about the connection between gifts and tax benefits. There is research suggesting that.

Feed the passion connection

But regardless of how your donors complete their tax returns (itemizing deductions or taking a standard deduction), this truth remains unchanged: is your donor engaged with your organization and its mission?

Mission and donor passion will forever outweigh the tax code. If your donors love your organization, leadership, priorities and focus, they will continue to support you. They will want to see you grow and thrive. Your goals and dreams become theirs. They will give their time and treasure to help you succeed.

So today–more than ever–focus squarely on your donors. Engage them. Draw them even tighter into your fold. Make sure they understand what you are doing and why. Feed that passion connection and they will continue to support you.

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