Practical Advice for Modern Fundraisers

When Does Your "YEAR-END" End?

In talking to many people at a range of organizations, I discovered that there is some controversy about when your "year-end" campaign actually ends.  What we are really talking about are those checks that show up after January 1st dated December 31st.   


Well, the simple answer is that no matter the date on the check the IRS considers the gift given when the check gets mailed.  So using this year as an example if the postmark on the envelope is after December 31, 2018, then it is a 2019 gift.  


But who does it this way? I talked to one agency that was very strict about the rule.  They occasionally got push back from donors who had anticipated writing the gift off their taxes in the year they dated the check. I would imagine most do anyway.  Where I think being strict throws you off is that you have a lot of January gifts that are really December gifts.  If you only do two appeals a year, you might miss these donors since in your books they have given in the present year when from the donors perspective they have not. 


If you fudge the closing of your year-end campaign and say keep your books open for an extra week, or so you get a better idea of what your actual December Giving is.  Now you are pushing it with the IRS, but you are following the donor's wishes. In all honesty, I have typically followed this approach, and I have never had a problem.  


I would recommend working with the head of your finance department and get their feedback.  At the end of the day, it comes down to how your finance department wants to count the gifts.  I'd be interested in hearing how you and your organization deal with this quandary.  You can use the comment box below to send me your responses.

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New Tax Affect On Year-End Donations 

Last month I discussed my concerns about the effect of the new tax law on charitable giving.  In talking to a number of colleagues at other organizations, the consensus is the tax law did hurt. Just how much I am still trying to discern.  I do know that at one organization over 30k less came in after New Years from checks dated 12/31/2018.

Interestingly their acquisition program did pretty well. It was renewal gifts that went down. After doing a cursory search, I found donors that had given for numerous years who did not give 2018.  So what to do and will this trend continue into 2019.  

I am recommending being very conservative in budgeting income for 2019, much to the dismay of many a  finance department.  But it is better to upgrade your goals at mid-year then have to lower them.  What you should do to try and bring back those donors you lost. I typically do a donor survey in Q1 this year I will be doing a separate survey of those that did not renew their gift asking basically what happened and can we do anything to change the situation in 2019. Beyond that, I am suggesting that stewardship is the key. We have to keep those who gave closer and reach out to those who did not give to try and let people know that your organization needs their support.

I always worry during December about year-end donations. I can't help it my fundraising minds is completely aware that more gifts are made between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve.  This is the giving season for two reasons it is tradition to make gifts to non-profits just like we give gifts to our friends and family and for tax reasons.  The first reason still holds true. Some people give because they care about your cause.  The tax reason isn't as true anymore.  In case you didn't get the memo the New Tax Reform law doubled the personal tax exemption.  What does that mean well if someone made a gift to lower their taxable income they may not need to make that gift anymore.

Research estimates that 13.1 billion or 4.6% will be lost to charities the year because of the new tax law and most of that will "not" show up in the next few weeks.  If you are curious about how this might affect your organization one way to estimate how much of your 2017 donations were "tax" dollars. Run a report that compares the date of a check with the day that it was processed.  Now, this assumes that you leave your books open past 12/31 to let the mail catchup.  If you keep the organization's books open until mid-January for checks dated by 12/31 you can simply add up the gifts that came in during that period.  I call this the "tax period."  

This number will give you an estimate of what might not come in. It might be a pretty big number.  For one organization I know it the number was over 50k.  The scary part is that you will not know what donations will come in until you close your books for 2018 if you are on a calendar year fiscal year.  If you are lucky enough to have a June 30 or some other end date for your fiscal year you have time to try and renew those gifts. 

I have been telling anyone who would listen especially my Executive Director, Director of FInance and board that we might not make our goal because of the change in the tax law.  If you are in this position, I hope you have been telling everyone as well. Of course, we may be surprised, and the gifts will come - but I doubt it.

 

Do you use video?  How successful have you been?  Here are some examples of successful videos from Nonprofit Tech for Good.

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