Proposed “Johnson Amendment” repeal would harm 501(c)(3)s
by Linda M. Czipo
Since 1954, tax law has contained a provision prohibiting 501(c)(3) organizations from directly or indirectly attempting to influence the election or defeat of any candidate for public office. This ban, also known as the Johnson Amendment for its sponsor, then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, applies not only to churches, but to all 501(c)(3) organizations.
In the wake of last week’s 2016 presidential election, there is clearly a high degree of uncertainty, speculation and concern across the country. It would be foolish and presumptuous of me to pretend to have any great wisdom to offer as we embark on this new chapter. But like most everyone else, I’ve certainly given it a lot of deliberation. So I humbly offer a few thoughts, some professional and some personal, as we move forward – with advance apologies that this might be a little disjointed.
On the professional:
The work that non-profits do remains more important than ever.
Non-profits are often the backbone of communities, providing programs and services that make communities good places to visit, live and work; employing members of the community; and providing training and education that helps people find and keep jobs. Non-profits are also often the first, last or only source of help for people in distress.
We’ll know more in the coming weeks as appointments and proposed policies take shape, but one thing is certain: the people that rely on us need our voices, our advocacy, our programs and our protection. This was the case before November 8, and it’s just as true now.
Every year around this time, a question hangs in the air for non-profits and businesses like storm clouds in the sky: Will a hurricane affect our area and our ability to serve our communities?
Now at the midpoint of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, activity has been relatively muted so far and the few storms named have not resulted in significant damage to the New Jersey area. But with the most active period of the violent weather approaching, many meteorologists believe the quiet trend could make a 180-degree shift, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Superstorm Sandy came ashore in 2012, according to a newly released forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
According to NOAA, there’s a 70 percent chance that between two and four major hurricanes will develop between now and November 30, the last official day of the hurricane season.
Because of the frightening steps taken by some to exclude certain groups of Americans — minorities and the poor — from voting this election, it’s never been more essential for the leaders of the nation’s nonprofits to urge all Americans to go to the polls.
On November 8 voters across the country get to decide who fills 5,920 state legislative seats along with 93 statewide offices such as governor (12 to be elected), attorney general (10), and secretary of state (eight). Each officeholder can make a significant difference to nonprofits, as can the thousands of local city, county, judicial, school district, and special district officials up for election in November.
Those races are especially important to nonprofits, given the dysfunctional gridlock in Congress. The main policy action affecting the work of nonprofits and foundations will continue to be at the state and local levels. Nonetheless, the mainstream news media will continue to focus on the presidential election and races for 34 U.S. Senate slots and 435 Congressional seats.
What’s at stake for the future of our communities?
It’s no secret that the slow economic recovery continues to take its toll on the ability of New Jersey’s non-profits to provide essential services for our communities in the face of a stagnant funding environment.
One important way to address the problem is to make it easier for people to give to charity by providing a state-level tax deduction for charitable donations. Several bills now pending in the New Jersey Legislature would allow taxpayers to deduct their charitable gifts from their state income taxes.
A New Jersey charitable deduction would be good for our state’s charities and everyone that relies on them. Here’s why:
Is your organization growing out of a home office or considering moving your established set-up to a new facility? Before getting into the details of searching, your board should discuss the big picture issues such as:
Will a new location help our mission and the community we serve?
Even though change can be exciting, for some moving your office from one location to another can be a daunting task. Many of the things you, your staff and volunteers are accustomed to may now turn into expenses for your organization. To make the process a bit easier, below are ten key questions to ask when searching for your new location.
The full report lays out in detail the ups and downs experienced by non-profits during the previous year, and their outlook for 2016. Here are the major highlights, based on the 311 New Jersey non-profit respondents from late January/early February 2016:
Nearly three-quarters of responding organizations reported that demand for services had increased during the past year.
Nearly four-fifths expected demand to continue rising in 2016.
Only two-fifths reported receiving more total funding in 2015 than in 2014, but nearly two-thirds reported that their expenses had increased during the same period.
Over one-third (35%) reported that expenses exceeded support and revenue during their most recently completed fiscal year; the proportion was even higher (44%) among larger organizations, those with annual budgets of $1.5 million or more.
Seventy percent expected their total expenses to increase in 2016, but fewer than half (47%) expected total 2016 funding to increase.
If you’ve seen our previous surveys or if you work regularly with non-profits, these findings may sound like variations of a familiar theme. You may even think that they’re better than during the worst of the recession – and that’s true. But if you care about the well-being of the non-profit community and non-profits’ ability to provide vital programs and services, these numbers should generate deep concern.
More and more nonprofit donations take place in today’s digital landscape, but how can causes of all sizes ensure their online storefront is not only open for business, but optimized?
As I explored this critical issue in my new book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101, I interviewed Roderick Campbell, the CEO of nonprofit fundraising platform CommitChange. He shared a few takeaways from their efforts to maximize digital donations for Mercy House, a $3.8M nonprofit that has provided housing and support to California’s homeless since 1989. We also talked about a range of resources to help smaller, grassroots organizations in the early stages of embracing online fundraising, including Network for Good, NTEN, and Beth Kanter’s blog.
This simple formula helped Mercy House double online giving in just six months, and I believe it can do the same for your nonprofit, too.
The recent announcement by a Hollywood, California, hospital that it paid $17,000 to computer hackers for the return of its computer data is yet another reminder that cybersecurity is everyone’s problem.
What do you get when you put four savvy grantmakers in front of a room of willing and passionate non-profits? No, not something resembling ABC’s reality TV show Shark Tank, but a friendly and supportive exchange of useful and honest insight.
Last month, staff and volunteers from New Jersey non-profits attended Grant Giving from the Grantor’s Perspective, a breakout session at the Princeton Community Works conference. The impressive panel was a balance of corporate and community foundation funders: