Sam Harrelson

Churches and nonprofits must explore income alternatives in 2018 and beyond.

American churches and nonprofits are in for an even louder wake-up call in 2018 and beyond. It’s definitely time to start planning for the near future to keep your church or nonprofit solvent, especially if you are smaller in size and rely on donors who make less than $75,000 yearly.

Churches must begin to explore income alternatives with an expected decline in individual giving in 2018 from the pending tax reform plan, along with year-over-year declining church attendance in all mainline Protestant denominations and increasing numbers of individuals with no reported religious affiliation.

via Tax reform plan reinforces the need for churches to seek alternative income methods | Religion News Service

The source of concern is how the tax bill is expected to sharply reduce the number of taxpayers who qualify for the charitable tax deduction — a big driver of gifts to nonprofits. One study predicts that donations will fall by at least $13 billion, about 4.5 percent, next year. That decline is expected to be concentrated among gifts from the middle of the income scale. The richest Americans will mostly keep their ability to take the tax break.

via Charities fear tax bill could turn philanthropy into a pursuit only for the rich | Washington Post

The tax reform legislation that was just passed by Congress and signed into law by the President will present an unprecedented challenge to churches and nonprofits in light of charitable tax exemptions. In short, because of changes to the standard deductions, far fewer taxpayers and households (particularly those making less than $75,000) will itemize. That’s now the only way to take advantage of the charitable contributions deduction.

So unless your church or nonprofit relies heavily on donors in the top tax brackets, you need to diversify income sources.

If you rely on a large number of smaller donations from members or patrons who are in “the middle class,” you need to diversify income sources.

From CNBC:

“To use your charitable contributions against your taxes, you must itemize your deductions. This means for it to make financial sense, the combined value of all your deductions would need to exceed the standard deductions for 2017: $12,700 for married couples, $9,350 for heads of households and $6,350 for single filers and married couples filing separately.”

We work with churches and nonprofits to help identify and engage with alternative income sources. Get in touch if you need help.



Nonprofits, the smartphone, Facebook, and Google

Interesting thoughts here from the NY Times CEO on how they are shifting focus in relationship to Facebook and Google due to the smartphone revolution … much of this applies to how nonprofits and churches can do better marketing as well:

It’s about how you think about the product and what you’re trying to do and what is the value you’re giving to users. The areas of weakness in the publishing industry have been not having an audience strategy or sufficient brain space to think about how you serve your audience. It’s very easy to get tracked into assumptions about who your audience is. In legacy media, journalistic parameters were set by the geographical limitations. [The smartphone] changes everything. You need to reinvent journalism from the ground up with this device in mind, and then try and figure out what you’re going to do on a laptop and the physical newspaper.

via ‘Facebook is not transparent:’ NY Times CEO Mark Thompson says the platform’s role needs to be clearer – Digiday



Working Through Fears

Whether you’re starting your own business or non-profit or trying to make an existing one feasible as a “job,” the fear that you encounter at 4am as you do the week’s invoicing and receipts in your head can be staggering. I know, I’ve definitely been there in the low tides of “working for yourself.”

Our mind tries to trick us into being more cautious and avoiding the risk associated with such endeavors (often for good reasons). But if you can step outside of your own mind and observe the fears associated with “starting up,” you can make powerful realizations about your own abilities and potential.

Good read:

We can limit and hold ourselves back with our beliefs. In my case, I really believed I would be judged for what I was doing. For a while, I operated almost entirely on referrals. While I did excellent work, I didn’t have an active lead generation plan in place because that would mean showing up on social media and letting my friends and family know what I was up to. I convinced myself that people would make fun of me and my business, and I allowed that fear to hold me back to the point that while I was home for Thanksgiving last year, I even considered taking a family friend’s advice to leave Bali and “get a real job.”

Thank goodness I found a way to work through my fears and stick to my guns! There will always be haters, but at the end of the day, the people who matter will support you: between my social media and email list, I now have over 10,000 business owners following my work.

via How This 23-Year-Old Makes Six Figures From Her Online Business – And Helps Others Do The Same



Can Non-Profits Benefit from LinkedIn?

je-linkedin-see-more-link

One of my favorite clients had this question on our weekly call this morning.

I excitedly said “YES!” which feels a little odd. Going back through my blog archives here, you’ll see lots of instances over the last 10 years where I’ve written that LinkedIn “sucks” is “terrible” and “should not be used.”

However, LinkedIn can be a fabulous tool for groups and nonprofits looking to make an impact within a certain influencer group. I offered a couple of different thoughts on how to do that in our call this morning, but the highlights are that you should be posting updates and your posts should be “mobile-first” (short, narrative, and text). Secondly, use their native video feature to share QUICK and focused updates via mobile video, especially if you’re doing outreach or looking to connect with parties in your community.

There’s a great list of other ideas here from Social Media Examiner that I found while doing some research:

Keep it short. No one wants to read walls of text. Also, on LinkedIn mobile, a See More link appears on text updates longer than five lines. On the desktop version, your post is cut off after only three lines. With these limits in mind, if you use a storytelling approach, put a compelling hook in the first line to encourage people to read the whole post.

via How to Improve Your LinkedIn Engagement : Social Media Examiner



Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists

“Facebook urgently needs to address the impact that its algorithm changes are having on nonprofits, NGOs, civil society, and political activists—especially those in developing countries, who are never going to be able to “pay to play” and for whom Facebook is one of the few really effective ways to get a message out to a wide audience without government control or censorship.”

Source: Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists

I’d urge nonprofits (like our own Hunger Initiative) and activists to seek out means of distributing and organizing online communications that aren’t reliant on social networking silos.

Of course, it’s easy to point to Facebook with its 2 billion users or Twitter with its ~400 million users and say that’s where people are in 2016. However, nothing is to stop groups from developing their own sites / forums / online presences (even on limited funds in places of civil unrest or poor network connections) and piping content into the silos that are at the behest of corporate interests (as in the case of Twitter’s apparent decision to pursue algorithmic feeds).

Indie is the way to go, especially if you want to authentically share your own gospels:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.



YouTube Donation Cards for Nonprofits

We recently began rolling out donation cards to US creators, which let your subscribers and viewers donate directly from your videos. Just add a donation card, pick a nonprofit, and start doing good. You can choose any United States, IRS-validated 501(c)3 public nonprofit organization and they receive 100% of the money donated. We’re excited to take this first step and look forward to expanding into other countries so creators across the world can power nonprofits they care about.

Source: YouTube Creator Blog: Transform a view into a donation

I could see this being a nice secondary stream of donations for nonprofits and churches in 2016…



Gender pay gap among clergy worse than national average, and why that infuriates me

 

I won’t lie. It’s difficult to see my wife struggle with her call to ministry in that she has to constantly be juggling her time and serving others while trying to find and clarify her own voice. I struggle against my urge to be a “manly man” and step in and tell her she can be a stay-at-home mom and doesn’t have to deal with all of the daily grind that no one else sees and feels but her. I get glimpses of what she goes through occasionally, and I’m not sure how she balances what are essentially two full time jobs that get labeled as “part-time” (can there ever be a part-time pastor?) along with the demands of our newborn son on top of having to deal with me.

I imagine that’s the same with every pastor and every pastor’s family.

Yes, there is credentialing and educational requirements (undergrad, seminary, internships … and the high rate loans that are associated with them), but it’s no coincidence that pastors are also among the highest professional groups to struggle with depression and high suicide rates.

To compound that with these stats is, well, infuriating and disappointing.

New national data reveals that women clergy earn 76 cents for each dollar earned by male clergy. This is substantially worse than the national pay gap of 83 cents. The clergy pay gap is even more stark when compared to similar occupations…

The gap among clergy is noteworthy because, as an occupation, the clergy has credentialing (ordination) and educational requirements that should encourage similar pay for similar work. Religious organizations often have educational requirements and institutional controls for clergy.

Source: Gender pay gap among clergy worse than national average – A first look at the new national data – Corner of Church and State

As Willie Nelson sang, “these are difficult times” for churches and pastors. We’re seeing cultural and socio-economic shifts that (for better and for worse) are resulting in diminishing church attendance and financial support. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, and it will result in a church that “looks” very different in the coming decades both here in the US and on a global scale as the southern hemisphere begins to assert its growing influence on christendom.

It also means that churches should think about how they “treat” and pay their pastors differently. Whether it’s a 5,000 member congregation or a 50 member country church, the failed policies of the baby boomer generation in regards to running churches-as-a-business have failed. No where is that more apparent than in the relative cultural homogeneity of any particular church (at least here in the American South), and the way we’ve treated female pastors who have unique abilities to salvage their congregations.



Imagine

Imagine, if you will, that everyone who has bought a “powerball” ticket over the past few weeks had given that $2 to a non-profit, temple, homeless shelter, church, humane society, synagogue, food pantry, school PTA, mosque, hunger relief effort, community garden, or women’s shelter.

“It’s all for fun. Don’t be a buzzkill.”

Greed has been sold to us as a golden ticket out of the lower classes and closer to the life we all subscribe to on the Bravo! channel. If we wish / pray / think hard enough about the right things, it’ll happen to us. Knock, and Uncle Moneybags will answer the door.

Lotteries and Powerballs and Pick 5’s are evil and do damage to our society, culture, and communities.

Like it or not, we vote with our money in the United States. Render unto Caesar what you think belongs to Caesar.

Your chances of winning the Powerball jackpot are one in 292 million. Here’s what that looks like…

Source: How tiny are your chances at winning the Powerball jackpot? This tiny. – WSJ.com

I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…



The New York Public Library Uploads 200,000 Images for Public Use

What the web was made for… much more beneficial to humanity than social media silos or native content ads:

The New York Public Library just uploaded nearly 200,000 images you can use for free | The Verge: “The New York Public Library just released a treasure trove of digitized public domain images, featuring epic poetry from the 11th century to photographs of used car lots in Columbus, Ohio from the 1930s. Over 180,000 manuscripts, maps, photographs, sheet music, lithographs, postcards, and other images were released online Wednesday in incredibly high resolution, and are available to download using the library’s user-friendly visualization tool. It’s a nostalgist’s dream come true.”



Bigger Fixes Nothing in Churches

“CHURCH: Stop preaching downloaded sermons from other preachers. If you found it online, so can the congregation. People want to hear your take on God’s Word, not a re-heated sermon from someone else.”

Source: Bigger Fixes Nothing (7 Unexpected Steps Toward Church Health) | Pivot | A Blog by Karl Vaters

Saving these for later… and for clients.

So true.