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Fiscal Cliff: What YOU Can Do About It

December 13, 2012

New Year’s Eve is almost here, and 2013 just may ring in with some real fiscal fireworks.  Without a deal between President Obama and Congress, $500 billion in tax increases and $200 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will be imposed.  In the midst of all that, some federal officials are advocating capping deductions, including deductions for charitable donations, rather than raising marginal tax rates for top-earning Americans.  Besides fastening your seatbelt for a very bumpy ride, is there anything you can do?  The answer: YES!!!!

Here are a few actions YOU can take:

I. FIGURE OUT YOUR STORY & GET READY TO TELL IT… According to Peter Orzag, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget during President Obama’s first term, “The charitable sector has the most to lose from a limitation on itemized deductions.” [Source: Orzag, P. Vague Plans to Limit Tax Breaks Will Soon Die, Bloomberg, November 27, 2012]  How much does your organization rely on philanthropy?  Will your organization be negatively affected if deductibility of charitable giving is reduced or eliminated?  Some studies indicate that charitable donations may decline by 25%-36% if deductions for charitable giving were eliminated.  What would losing a quarter or more of donations mean for your organization and its mission-driven services? 

II. CONTACT YOUR FEDERAL OFFICIALS.   Contact Your Congressional Delegation…Contact your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators.  It is easy to do, and there are so many ways to do so.  In addition to having website-based online contact forms, email addresses, and telephone numbers readily accessible for making contact, your federal elected officials also can be reached through their Twitter accounts (note: Sen. Kohl is the only member of the delegation who does not appear to use his account):

– @RepGwenMoore
– @RpSensenbrenner
– @RepPaulRyan
– @SenRonJohnson
– @HerbKohl

But don’t stop there.  There are a number of other elected officials with whom you can share to express your perspective.  Contact President Obama…Let the President hear from your organization.  As long as you are using Twitter, he can be reached at @BarackObama or @whitehouse.  Contact Speaker Boehner…Speaker Boehner is the primary negotiator on the fiscal cliff for the House of Representatives, and can be reached at @SpeakerBoehner.  Contact Mayor Barrett…Ask the Mayor to advocate on behalf of Milwaukee’s nonprofit sector.

III. MAKE WAVES…Inform your board members, volunteers, and other supporters of your organization’s story and the potential impact that limiting or eliminating deductibility of charitable giving may have.  Encourage them to share the story with their friends and colleagues, contact federal officials, and write letters to the editor.

What happens with federal fiscal policy now will affect the nation for years—decades—to come.  This is our time to step up, speak out, educate, and lead on philanthropy.  Let’s roll!

William Martin, Jericho Resources, Inc.
Board Director, AFP-Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter

Fiscal Cliff Notes for Philanthropy Professionals

December 6, 2012

The fiscal cliff (sometimes referred to as the fiscal slope, fiscal curb, fiscal speed bump, etc.) is fast approaching.  With so many others having exercised their right to create a personal moniker for the upcoming national financial event, I have decided to call it the fiscal tsunami, given that the event will come in waves that could pack quite a wallop.  Whatever your preference in names and metaphors, the stakes are serious for our country, and will impact philanthropy.  Decisions made (or not made) in the remaining days of 2012 and early 2013 will impact the United States for years to come.

What is the fiscal cliff (or tsunami)?
Pundits continue to use the term, but little time has been taken to define the term.  There are essentially three major waves of fiscal policies that will affect the nation deeply if President Obama and Congress do not come to an agreement by the end of this year, or very early in 2013.

Recently, there has been a great deal of emphasis on the Bush tax cuts expiring, but that is certainly not the only issue to be addressed.  Here’s a quick list:

  1. From Bush Back to Clinton…If no agreement is reached, there are a series of Bush tax cuts that will expire.  The marginal rate or tax bracket for every American will return to the rates in place during the Clinton Administration.  Tax rates and exemptions regarding capital gains and dividends, estates, and gifts would increase and decrease, respectively.  Additionally, the Bush-era tax credits would be reduced significantly.  For instance, the child tax credit would decline by 50%, the dependent-care tax credit by 20%, and the earned income tax credit would be adversely impacted as well.
  2. Obama-era Tax Cuts & Credits End, Too…President Obama and Congress enacted a payroll tax holiday, which reduced employees’ payroll rate from 6.2% to 4.2%; that would expire.  So would the American Opportunity tax credit, which helps families pay for college, extended unemployment assistance for long-term unemployed, and other enhancements of the earned income and child tax credits.  Equally importantly, fixes addressing the alternative minimum tax and “marriage penalty” would sunset.
  3. Spending Cuts, Budget Caps & Sequestration…President Obama and Congress agreed to a deal last year that would reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.  As part of that deal, there will be across-the-board cuts in nearly every area of federal discretionary spending.  Additionally, the legislation set annual budget caps limiting the amount the federal government can spend in a given year.

The list above is essentially what we are talking about when discussing the fiscal cliff, tsunami, or white water rapids….Left alone, the combination of these changes in fiscal policies would result in up to $500 billion in tax increases and $200 billion in spending cuts around the beginning of 2013.

Why should you care? 

It is estimated that about 70% of all charitable giving nationally is contributed by individuals.  Without a deal, every American taxpayer will pay more in taxes, leaving less to donate to charitable organizations like yours. While we are all in awe of the relatively rare multi-million-dollar gift from a given wealthy individual, the middle class tends to give more than the nation’s rich proportionately.  So, abrupt increases in the tax burden for middle-class taxpayers could have real-world implications for nonprofits.

Combined campaigns—and the nonprofits they benefit—could feel the impact early on as the middle class is squeezed by tax credits phasing out at the same time payroll tax rates are increasing by approximately 50%.  Many combined campaigns are based largely on regular payroll deductions.  In these uncertain and potentially more highly taxed times, the capacity of middle-class donors to give a portion of every payroll check at, or higher than 2011 levels, may be sorely tested.

In the next installment, we will take a look at some of the fiscal cliff fixes being considered and what they may mean for philanthropy.

William Martin, Jericho Resources, Inc.
Board Director, AFP-Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter

2013 Board Nominees Announced

November 18, 2012

On November 13, the chapter announced its slate of nominees for the 2013 board of directors.  The slate will be voted on at the chapter’s annual meeting taking place on December 13, 2012 at the Italian Community Center. 

Amalia Schoone, CFRE President
Julie Whelan Capell Past President
Nancy Seidl Nelson, CFRE Secretary
Jim Moore Treasurer
Donna Triplett, CFRE VP Education
Lisa Attonito VP Finance
Tamara Pacada VP Membership & Diversity
Lynnea Katz-Petted VP External & Internal Relations
Barbara Armstrong, CFRE Director
Jay Blankenship, CFRE Director
Jennifer Charpentier Director
Laura Emir Director
Michelle Fobair Director
Dawn Groshek Director
Melissa Herguth Director
William Martin Director
Pamela Mattox, CFRE Director
Barbara McKillop Director
Carol McLain, CFRE Director
Cassie Mordini Director
Ann Marie Moss Director
Nancy Nadolny Director
Linda Schieble Director
Michelle Schuerman Director
Jim VanHoven Director
Marlene Vidal Director
Shannon Watry, CFRE Director
Lisa Weisman Director
Deb Wolniak Director

National Philanthropy Day – What’s not to love?

November 12, 2012


Becky Hall, 2012 Philanthropic Youth of Today

The name tags are all printed . . . the script is written . . . the videos are finished . . . in less than 24 hours our chapter will be celebrating National Philanthropy Day together with about 650 of our closest friends.  In these final hours before the event, I can’t help but smile in anticipation. 

Because I really do love National Philanthropy Day.  What could be better than a day spent recognizing local individuals who have dedicated themselves to bettering Southeastern Wisconsin through their philanthropic efforts?  I love hearing our awardees talk about who inspired them to become philanthropists.  I learn from their examples of selflessness.  I am awed by their humility. 

Whether you are coming to tomorrow’s celebration or not, I urge you to check out the profiles of our honorees on our website or our Facebook Page.   Like Becky Hall (pictured), who has raised more than $50,000 for the National Multiple Schlerosis Society through her participation in Wisconsin’s Best Dam Bike Ride.  Regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or—dare I say it?—political affiliation, you will find someone in this group of awardees who speaks to your own sense of community and reminds you that one person can make a difference.

What’s your take on National Philanthropy Day?  Who inspired you to give back? Tell us about it here, or find me at tomorrow’s event. I’d love to hear your stories.

“Ten Steps to a Dynamic Development Committee”

July 31, 2012

AFP Member Roselyn Smolej-Hill graciously shared her thoughts on our last AFP Education Session. 

On July 19, 2012, AFP hosted a breakfast meeting for its members with Erich Tillach, Vice President of Donor Relations, Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, giving a presentation on “Ten Steps to a Dynamic Development Committee”.  What could have been a very boring subject, woke the audience up not only with realistic steps to creating a development team that gets the job done and isn’t afraid to make the ask, but made the audience laugh with his self-deprecating humor. This had to be one of my favorite presentations in the many years I have been an AFP member.

 He began with evaluating your current program, looking at your past to plan for the future, setting specific goals, building the right team, assigning roles and responsibilities, explaining your expectations, how to qualify prospects, getting your prospects engaged, making the ask and finally, the follow up. For each step, Erich had strong, insightful ideas as how to make things work. I thought this was a wonderful presentation for anyone in development, whether you were new to the career or a seasoned professional. I think we could all use some new ideas or reinforcements of what we are already doing. I was very happy I made the effort to attend a breakfast meeting. Not only was the presentation excellent, but the food was wonderful as well!

 If you’d like more information, check out the members only section of website for Erich’s handouts.  

Under 40 Group Gathering on August 7th!

July 23, 2012

The next quarterly AFP Under 40 gathering has been scheduled for Tuesday August 7th at 12noon.  Space is limited and first priority will be given to AFP members, so RSVP ASAP to Tamara at

The educational portion of the gathering will be led by Doris Heiser.  She will share her experiences and vast amount of knowledge, as well as lead us in acting out three typical scenarios all fundraisers should practice:

  1. A first-time meeting with a prospect
  2. A donor that has given a couple of times that you are trying to upgrade and engage
  3. Asking for an ultimate gift from a long-time donor

Here are the details:
What:                 AFP Under 40 Networking/Educational Gathering
When:                 Tuesday, August 7th at 12noon
Where:               Jewish Home & Care Center, 1414 North Prospect Ave, Milwaukee
Cost:                   Free – bring your own lunch or food is available
Topic:                 Communicating with prospects and donors. 
Presenter:         Doris Heiser, Retired – Greater Milwaukee Foundation 
**Please come prepared to participate and learn by doing!

AFP Foundation “Every Member Campaign” is launched

July 6, 2012

This is the annual fundraising campaign for the AFP Foundation that supports its members through a variety of programs and initiatives.  If you have given to this campaign in the past – THANK YOU.  Your gift has helped support our local members through scholarships to conferences and other programs.

Your generous gift helps support the future growth and development of our profession.  The dollars raised go to support education and training of professional fundraisers worldwide and help increase the public’s awareness of philanthropy and understanding of fundraising – and that helps all of us – right?

 Our goal this year is to raise $3,850, which is 3% more than last year.  If we make our goal, 25% of our total will be returned to the chapter to help support deserving local members through scholarships to international and regional conferences.  These members would not be able to attend these conferences without this support.

 This year 100% of your AFP Board Members have made a gift to the campaign.  Will you join us?  I hope you will consider an increase over your gift of last year.

 You can make your gift or pledge online by going to and click on the “make a gift” icon in the upper right-hand corner of the home page.  It will provide an option to make a gift online or to download and print a pledge so that you can make payments over time.

 Thank you for your support for our profession.