Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

May 29, 2013

Where will the nonprofit sector end up in the North Carolina tax reform debate?

Among its many services, Wake Enterprises provides an adult developmental vocation program focusing on teaching individuals work skills and appropriate interaction in the workplace.

Special to Philanthropy Journal

Walter Weeks

Lawmakers in the North Carolina General Assembly are considering various tax reform proposals with provisions that would hurt charitable nonprofits. While modernizing tax law is praiseworthy as a concept, tax reform should not be done to the detriment of the charitable nonprofits that provide vital servces and important resources to North Carolinians. Our lawmakers must take into account in their deliberations how taking away tax exempts for nonprofits could have a variety of unintended consequences.

As of when I'm writing this, the Senate leadership's announced "Tax Fairness Act" is not yet formal legislation, but its elements have been enumerated. The plan will take away the sales tax exemption for all charitable nonprofits, by initially setting a cap on sales tax refunds and then reducing the cap to zero over three years. Additionally, the Senate leadership's plan would eliminate the deductibility of corporate charitable contributions and may treat individual contributions in the same manner. Further, new taxes are likely to be imposed on services offered by charitable nonprofits. The House reform effort, led by Representative David Lewis, is more reasonable for nonprofits, but nothing is set in stone and presumably anything could be brought up and altered in legislative negotiations.

As Executive Director of Wake Enterprises, a 501(c)(3) organization providing life skills and job trainig to more than 250 people with intellectual and physical challenges, I know firsthand how eliminating the charitable nonprofit tax exemption will reduce critically needed community programs and services.

In this economy, it can be worrisome to consider how most charitable nonprofits operate on thin budget margins. Eliminating nonprofits' tax exempt status could cut directly into the vital services they provide which may, in turn, lead to longer-term costs for state government and taxpayers.

North Carolina's charitable nonprofits are an important part of the social and economic fabric of the state. Our state lawmakers should appreciate how the charitable nonprofit sector is vital not only to citizens in need but also to the overall success of business and economic growth in North Carolina. Charitable nonprofits add value to North Carolinians and their communities across the state. By caring for the needy, supporting culture and the arts, providing spiritual guidance and supporting families from preschool to senior care, charitable nonprofits enrich our communities in ways that can attract new employers and grow our economy.

North Carolina's charitable nonprofit sector shares a common concern that nonprofits will lose important resources in the tax reform process - potentially hundreds of millions in total. I am working in cooperation with charitable nonprofits of various types and sizes from across the state to protect our tax-exempt status. Many of us are in close contact with our state legislators to seek updates and to talk about how important the tax exemption is for all charitable nonprofits.

North Carolina's charitable nonprofit organizations across the state share the view that the legislature would be wise to preserve our tax-exempt status to enable us to carry out our missions which are, after all, centered around the needs of all North Carolina citizens.

Walter T. Weeks Jr. is Executive Director of Wake Enterprises Inc., a private, nonprofit organization based in Raleigh whose mission is to assist people with disabilities to achieve their maximum level of independence.

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A unique playbook for crisis

Katherine McLane

The LIVESTRONG Foundation's 100 team members hardly expected to see Lance Armstrong scant hours before his much-publicized sit-down with Oprah Winfrey in January. Some had expected never to see him again, given his resignation from the cancer non-profit's board in the fall of 2012.

But as the social workers, health policy experts and cancer counselors cautiously welcomed the organization's founder, they saw someone they barely recognized - a humble,visibly shaken man struggling through emotion to say one thing: I'm sorry. I wanted to tell you that in person before you saw on TV. You deserve that, after all you've been through because of me.

The events leading up to that day were heartbreaking and chaotic for the LIVESTRONG Foundation team. The top-rated non-profit had struggled for nearly three years to keep focus squarely on its work - providing cancer patients with free services that increase quality of life and improve outcomes - as the scrutiny around Lance's cycling career became more and more intense. 

Then, in October 2012, a damning report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency dispelled any remaining doubt that Lance had misled the world, as well as his colleagues at the Foundation. The board of directors encouraged him to consider resigning all official ties. And Lance indeed stepped away, leaving behind a legacy as one of the world's best-known and most effective cancer advocates.

He also left behind the 100 people making the LIVESTRONG Foundation vision a reality, working every day at an organization as far removed from the world of cycling as one can get. These people were - and are - devoting their lives and careers to this cause. So what now for them, and for the cause? Can people embrace the Foundation's mission - serving cancer patient's today - without a famous face? Is the nonprofit nimble enough to rally?

For the public servants at the Foundation, these are not abstract ponderings. They are a daily and very personal reality, one they face without a handy playbook of previous organizations' experience. Instead, we are writing our own playbook for how to show the world, and reassure the patients who turn to us for help, that the Foundation is in it for the long haul:       

  • Look three years out, not 12 months... The next 12 to 24 months will be tough, no doubt about it. But the true tale of the Foundation's survival will not be told in one year. The nonprofit has outdated perceptions to overcome. Trust to build. Supporters to reassure. In many ways, it is starting from scratch. That takes time, dogged commitment and enormous effort. But because of good fiscal planning, the Foundation has a strong financial picture that gives it the space to reintroduce itself to the world while continuing to fund the free services that help today's patients preserve fertility, get insurance and afford treatment. So to anyone inclined to draw final conclusions about the Foundation's success or failure come November 2013, the one-year anniversary of Lance's resignation, hold your horses.
  •  ...Operate as though it's now or never... Many nonprofits or corporations who have just endured a staggering amount of often-negative global attention might consider now a good time to go dark. Rest up. Let the dust settle. And then re-emerge with a slick advertising campaign that seeks to make people forget all that bad stuff. That's not our style. For one thing, we're a nonprofit. Most of our marketing dollars are devoted to advertising our free services to patients and providers, not burnishing our own image. And we recognize that it's now or never. In a year, if we have stayed silent, people may assume we're done. We have to show that we're still serving cancer patients and survivors who need help now – and who, by the way, might like to see that we're fighters too, just like we help them to be. We're one of the top charities in the U.S., we aren't remaking who we are and we are going to tell you all about it AS LOUD AS WE CAN, wherever we can.
  •  ...And clearly define the mission once and for all. The LIVESTRONG Foundation's mission is to achieve better outcomes for cancer patients and survivors now. To get them through the financial, insurance, emotional and practical challenges that no patient has the energy to tackle alone. Opinion research shows most people believe the search for a cure is most important in the fight against cancer, and it is important. But for 14 million people Americans who have the disease now, investing in research that might produce a breakthrough in 15 years doesn't provide the support that can make a difference in the life they live today and even how long they live it. It doesn't help them get a second opinion, understand their diagnosis, know their rights or deal with cancer's heavy emotional toll. Not to mention that, for many in the U.S., the cure already exists, but does them no good unless someone can help them figure out how to afford it. So there are two parts to the equation: Improving outcomes for today's patients and investing in research to help patients of the future. Our part is today.
A frequent question I get is, "How's everyone at the Foundation doing?" The truth is, it's been rough. None of us anticipated the rapid and radical changes that are now the new normal. But we're dusting ourselves off and keeping the focus where it should be: helping people with cancer today.

Katherine McLane is Vice President for Communications & External Affairs at the LIVESTRONG Foundation. This blog was first published in The Huffington Post. See related PJ story here.

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May 28, 2013

The key to success in fundraising: Know yourself, and be yourself

Special to Philanthropy Journal

Andrea Kihlstedt

When it comes to raising money from individual donors, the advice I find myself giving over and over again comes down to a simple formula:  Stop trying to match your personality to your prospect's. Instead of trying to act like someone else – which never really works – craft your donor presentations so they reflect your unique strengths.

But how do you do that? After more than 40 years in the nonprofit sector and as a student of human behavior, I've learned that that are four different Asking Styles that are a natural outgrowth of four basic facets of people's personalities. Learn your own Asking Style and you're on your way to becoming a successful fundraiser – without having to feel like you're faking your way through donor interactions.

Take me for example. I’m an extrovert and naturally drawn to people. I seldom shrink from a one-on-one or even a group encounter; in fact, I enjoy the back and forth of a good discussion and the chance to try on different ideas. I actually find out what I think through conversations! I’m not inclined to deep research, and would much rather explore ideas than get hooked on the facts – from my perspective facts are meant to back up ideas, not to spark them. This is just who I am – an intuitive extrovert. In the Asking Styles lexicon, I’m a Go-Getter.

But my style might not work for you. In fact, you may be shocked – even horrified! – to think that someone would propose ideas before doing careful research to see what the data suggests. Does the very thought of having a free-flowing conversation or talking to a donor without a plan of attack make you anxious? At the same time, you may be a still-rivers-run-deep kind of person. Where I'm gregarious and love personal interactions, you may be more comfortable writing an email than working with people in person, or even picking up the phone.

Regardless of whether you're intuitive or analytical, an extrovert an introvert, don't worry! Whatever your natural temperament, you can ask for gifts in the way that suits you best. If you know your Asking Style, you’ll be more comfortable asking for gifts. And more the more comfortable you are, the more effective you’re likely to be.

The Four Asking Styles

The Asking Styles system is simple and easy to remember; based on two axes, the system sorts people into four primary styles.

Start with the vertical axis. Are you an extrovert or an introvert – are you energized by interacting with others, or do you need alone time to charge your inner batteries?

Then add the horizontal axis. Are you intuitive – a deductive thinker who comes up with ideas and then examines the facts? Or are you analytical – an inductive thinker who does research before shaping your ideas?

Combine these two axes to find the four Asking Styles: Rainmaker, Go-Getter, Kindred Spirit and Mission Controller. Each style is quite distinct, and each brings different strengths to the fundraising table. Knowing your own Asking Style will help you understand the approaches that are the most comfortable and effective for you.

If you find yourself thinking you have a foot in more than one Asking Style, don't worry; Asking Styles are a continuum, not a set of absolutes. For example, your primary style may be Mission Controller (analytic introvert) but you may also share characteristics of a Kindred Spirit or a Rainmaker. Take a look at the simple descriptions below and see which of the styles seem to best describe you.

Kindred Spirit
Mission Controller
Big picture
Conflict averse
Detail oriented

Knowing the different Asking Styles – and knowing which one most closely describes your personality – will give you a clearer sense of everything from deciding which prospects are best for you to choosing how to prepare your ask, conduct the solicitation and even follow up with the donor. 

In fact, after working with this approach for several years – and writing a book about it – I've found that consciously employing Asking Styles can have a positive impact on virtually all aspects of the fundraising process, from choosing solicitation teams to pairing fundraisers with donors. The key here truly is knowing and being yourself.

Andrea Kihlstedt has served the nonprofit sector for more than 40 years as a fundraiser, consultant, teacher, and speaker. In her third book, Asking Styles – Harness Your Personal Fundraising Power, Kihlstedt describes how anyone can use the fundamental aspects of their authentic personality to become highly effective fundraisers.

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May 22, 2013

‘Changing the Game’ shows how contemporary foundations can succeed

Edward Skloot

We’re about to begin the second century of philanthropic giving by community foundations. Started in Cleveland in 1914, they now number more than 700 institutions domestically. They are linked and distinguished by a unique, place-based, community-engaged approach to philanthropy. Their targets are local. Their efforts are continuously informed by local developments. At their best, they are involved in a locale’s nearly every important civic venture. 

Several months ago I asked Paul Grogan, the president and CEO of The Boston Foundation, as well as a good friend, to reflect on recent developments in philanthropy and highlight the compelling strengths of community foundations as seen from his perch. Paul’s arrival at TBF more than a decade ago had ushered in a transformation in how the Foundation did its business. TBF now acts in a very different manner than under its predecessor. In research, analysis, policy advocacy, communications, outreach, and numerous other clusters of its work, the changes have been planned, organic, and effective. Today there is universal agreement that TBF is one of the most effective foundations in the country. 

Paul’s story is also a personal one of leadership, both institutional and individual. We can see examples of growth and maturation. He describes a decade of changes and the results the changes produced.

It is a very important story, and not only for Bostonians. Many of the institutional and programmatic strategies devised and encouraged by TBF are available to other funders – adapted, of course, to their local situations. The description shows how contemporary community foundations can become more agile, energized, relevant, and, not least, consequential in their communities. As we enter the second decade of a new century, this essay offers a rough guide for foundations willing to intentionally take up the challenges of staying relevant and forging positive social change.

Changing the Game is the second in a series of occasional essays published by the Center. (The first was titled Disrupting Philanthropy: Technology and the Future of the Social Sector, whose lead author is Lucy Bernholz of Stanford University.) I am the General Editor of the series, along with Barry Varela of the Center’s staff. Please do let us have your feedback on this essay and send along ideas for topics of high import that should be addressed. 

Edward Skloot, who has served since 2007 as Director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society at the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, is retiring at the end of June. “Changing the Game: Civic Leadership at The Boston Foundation, 2001-2012” may be viewed here.

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There’s a coach for that? How professional coaching can contribute to nonprofit success

Special to Philanthropy Journal

Sackeena Gordon-Jones

When the topic of “coaching” comes up, many people think about the leaders of successful sports teams. The type of coaching that the International Coach Federation (ICF) supports, though, is a little different. We take the same concepts surrounding these highly trained and skilled professionals and transfer them to a wide range of organizations and individuals seeking guidance to reach their goals.

This week’s observation of International Coaching Week is designed to raise awareness of how professional coaching helps people increase their productivity, attain their goals and lead more fulfilling lives. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has even issued a statewide proclamation officially the occasion.

The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients, including nonprofit organizations and personnel, in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching is a distinct service and differs greatly from therapy, consulting, mentoring or training.

Individuals who engage in a coaching relationship can expect to experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision-making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work and life roles.

For business, coaching from a certified professional can help executive leadership set company goals, formulate a plan for achieving those goals, work with employees to cut the clutter and improve overall culture and more.

With nonprofit organizations, these same initiatives can be achieved, always keeping the people served by the nonprofit at the forefront. With budgest and personnel being tight for many nonprofit organizations, coaching may seem out of reach. We believe, however, that coaching should be accessible to all who need and can benefit from the carefully structured and informed guidance of professional coaches.

To this end, the ICF-Raleigh Area Chapter has launched an initiative to extend the benefit of professional coaching to nonprofit organizations on a pro bono basis. Our goals for the nonprofit organizations we assist are:

 ● Providing a meaningful way for our member coaches to give back in our communities;

 ● Providing exposure to the experience of coaching to those who could benefit the most, but may be able to afford it the least, and

 ● Raise awareness of the value and benefits of ICF and professional coaching for leaders and organizations.
We recognize that different nonprofits have varying needs based on the communities they serve. Though ICF members are available to help in a variety of ways, here are some of the common areas covered in these coaching relationships:

 ● Burnout prevention and stress management

 ● Leadership and interpersonal skills

 ● Clarifying the nonprofit mission/vision

 ● Decision-making, both for organizational and volunteer goals

 ● Team-building and motivation

 ● Life and career transitions, including moving from the business to nonprofit sector

 ● Creating balance between professional and personal lives of nonprofit employees and volunteers
Through working with nonprofits to provide them with professional coaching, we seek to help them devise a strategy to achieve goals, raise awareness of their organization and the services provided, expand their reach, build public goodwill and more. Most of all, we want nonprofits to become stronger and enhance their mission and vision through professional coaching.

Remember, there is a coach out there for any nonprofit organization, whether local, national, dealing with the arts, medicine, children – you name it, there is a coach for that! After all, nonprofit organizations serve the public in a variety of ways, and we want to serve them in a way that is accessible to all.

If you are interested in coaching for your nonprofit, please visit the ICF-Raleigh Area Chapter website at, email Sackeena Gordon-Jones at You can follow the organization on Twitter at @IFC_RAC, on Facebook at or on LinkedIn at Nonprofit leaders that are members of the NC Center for Nonprofits can also request the service by using the online application on the Center’s website.

Sackeena Gordon-Jones is the president of the International Coach Federation-Raleigh Area Chapter. With more than 20 years of corporate experience, she has held numerous roles including strategic advisor, leadership development consultant, corporate coach and director of Global Learning and Development at SAS. She now provides executive and personal coaching in a private practice while serving as director of the Business Coaching Program at NC State University.

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