Donors Can Gain From Giving Circles

I have written a few times about the way people are organizing themselves in Giving Circles. It seems like an interesting approach to philanthropy because it is social and communal the way some online giving platforms are, but just as personal and local as individual giving. In some ways, it actually inspires people to be much more involved and deliberate in their giving.

Via Non Profit Quarterly is a link to a story that talks about those very factors.

“There is tremendous anxiety out there about social inequality and how stratified our society is. People want to do something about it,” says David Callahan, editor of the Inside Philanthropy news site.

“Giving circles create structure for people with shared values to learn about the causes they care about and support them while creating community.”

For members, the experience can be identity-changing.


The intentionality of the process — the vetting of proposals, visits to potential fundee’s sites, hours of thoughtful debate with passionate circle members in five separate committees — has changed Rothenberg’s self-perception.

“I used to think of myself as a donor,” says Rothenberg, who’d annually write checks to her college alma mater and give $50 gifts to this or that cause. “But I didn’t really know where the money went, or it felt like a drop in the bucket.

“Now I see myself as a philanthropist — I’m part of something bigger. I feel invested in the success of the nonprofits we support.”

No Such Thing As Free Parking

Gene Tagaki at Non Profit Law blog tweeted about IRS guidance for non profits that are now faced with having pay to taxes on the parking they offer employees.

If you didn’t know that you had to pay taxes on free or subsidized parking now….well you aren’t alone. It came as a surprise to a lot of people at the end of last year. Basically, whether you are an employer or an employee where free or subsidized parking is part of the employment package, there is tax to be paid.

The new rules aim to help taxpayers calculate the amount of parking expenses that aren’t tax deductible anymore since the passage of the TCJA. The guidance also is supposed to help tax-exempt organizations and their accountants figure out how the now nondeductible parking expenses can either create or increase unrelated business taxable income, or UBTI for short.

If any of this concerns you, you may want to read the article and chat with your accountant. The new guidance from the IRS is causing a lot of grumbles due to how late it is. (Mea culpa, I meant to post on it months ago, too)  A lot of non-profit groups were hoping for a repeal of these rules rather than tardy details on how to comply with them.

Kinda Silly Use of Geofencing

I have written before about the ethics of geofencing since there are all sorts of questions raised about where data collection stops and stalking starts.

One of the uses I had suggested might occur was geofencing other arts and cultural organizations in your region and using the information about willingness to participate to present people with options at your organization. Which again, could also been seen as letting someone else do the hard work of attracting participation and then using geofencing to gather information about those who show up.

Last week I came across a pretty puzzling use of geofencing that almost seemed to be using the technology in the to send people to a competitor. Burger King was offering people one cent Whoppers…but to qualify, you have to be standing near a McDonalds.

Burger King geofenced McDonald’s locations so that when you use their app near a Mc Donald’s you can place an order for a Whopper and will be directed to the nearest Burger King.

Big question is obviously, why someone would make an extra effort drive away from a McDonalds they just took time to get close to?

Then of course there is the fact that BK has 6600 locations. McDonalds has 14,000. Which means there is a fair chance you will actually be closer to another McDonalds than a Burger King restaurant and possibly pass it on the way to the Burger King.

This seems like the type of promotion geared toward people who already prefer Burger King over McDonalds rather than something that will attract new people to Burger King.

While art and cultural organizations might be accused of running promotions that reinforce their relationship with existing audiences even as they say they are seeking new ones, I can’t think of a practice that makes people go through such absurd lengths as stopping just short of the threshold of an alternative option to redeem it.

But if you can think of one, I would love to hear it.

The Nutcracker For Chicago

I just saw this article on NextCity about the Joffrey Ballet’s effort to “make a new American Nutcracker” by setting the story in Chicago during the 1893 Colombian Exposition/World’s Fair. (The Joffrey has long had a version of Nutcracker that was set in America in case you were wondering if there was an “old” American Nutcracker.)

The article asks, “Is This the Most Graceful Urban Planning History Lesson Ever?” which is an entertaining concept in itself. But the Joffrey company tries to put an authentic American flavor to the story in this most recent version choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon,

The show then depicts immigrant construction workers at a modest Christmas party — a far cry from the traditional setting of an opulent upper-class home. It revises protagonist Marie (sometimes called Clara) from a rich girl dreaming of exotic sweets to the child of an impoverished single mother, dreaming of a visit to the multicultural exhibits at the upcoming exposition.

Part of the idea is to capture the childlike wonder that the real exposition evoked. “The World’s Fair was a truly magical turning point for this city,” Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater explained

PBS created a documentary explaining the concept and process behind creating the Joffrey version last year. They do some amazing things with their re-imagination of the story, including puppets by Basil Twist. Not to mention dancing walnuts–because you know, how can you have a nutcracker and no nuts?  Nearly every production of Nutcracker has been violating the rule of Chekov’s gun.

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