A lot of nonprofit organizations I know of, including some I love, dodged a bullet this week when Republican Senator Jim DeMint's amendment to the new "Serve America Act" was defeated. DeMint wanted to "prohibit 'advocacy' groups or groups co-located with advocacy groups from receiving any assistance" under the new federal program. The Alliance for Justice sounded the alarm. At a minimum, this rule would have forced some larger nonprofits to choose between providing services to people in need and "advocating" for them.
In addition to groups directly affected, DeMint's distinction between "advocacy" nonprofits and others could have harmed lots of much smaller entities if this had gotten into law. Just about everyone who is developing a progressive community program runs at least some their work through nonprofit (501c3) channels. This is legal; nine times out of ten, they really do have to do "education" (a legitimate charitable activity) in order to develop their concepts and create a constituency for them. Singling out a special category of suspect nonprofits that do "advocacy" would be a recipe for trouble.
Since donors, as individuals and through foundations, want the tax benefits to themselves of their recipients' nonprofit status, DeMint was aiming to delegitimize a lot of projects he doesn't approve of. The donors would almost certainly have done his dirty work for him if they feared for their "charitable" bennies.
Gotta like that President Obama thinks there should be a little more charity in charitable giving. From the Washington Post's account of last Tuesday's press conference:
The WaPo neglected to mention that the President hopes to use the additional revenues from slightly reducing the charitable giving tax benefit to earners over $250,000 to help pay for universal health care for all.
Something I want to get back to before it drifts down the forgetery -- about ten days ago the New York Times reported on a study about online giving to charitable organizations. Apparently the behavior of folks who give via the internet frustrates fundraisers.
Yes, they've pointed out exactly why I like to give online. I can decide to what organization I want to send some money, find it, and give -- rather than respond to whatever the requisite quantity of badgering asks it takes at any given moment to get me over the hump of resistance. The sense of choosing my own time to donate is empowering.
But of course this donor driven pattern of giving doesn't help the organization to make a budget.
I'm a little surprised that a follow up email barrage is not as effective as direct mail in getting repeat donors. After all, I've spent years (and some dollars) on the Move-On list, not to mention Obama for America. At least for me, email works, probably better than snail mail begging letters which I no longer even open.