Nonprofit Radio for September 26, 2022: In Nonprofits, Do We Trust?

 

Gene Takagi: In Nonprofits, Do We Trust?

Gene Takagi

Public trust in nonprofits is eroding. Why is that, what does it mean for our work, and what can the nonprofit community do about it? Gene Takagi, our legal contributor and principal of NEO Law Group, returns with his insights.

 

 

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[00:00:52.08] spk_0:
Hello and welcome to tony-martignetti non profit radio big non profit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host of your favorite abdominal podcast. Oh, I’m glad you’re with me. I’d get slapped with a diagnosis of fragility as angry. Um if you nailed me with the idea that you missed this week’s show in nonprofits, do we trust? Public Trust in nonprofits is eroding. Why is that? And what can the nonprofit community do about it? Gene Takagi are legal contributor and principal of neo Law group returns with his insights On Tony’s take two. This is not planned, giving

[00:00:57.14] spk_1:
we’re

[00:01:41.13] spk_0:
sponsored by turn to communications pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c. O. And by fourth dimension technologies I. T. Infra in a box the affordable tech solution for nonprofits. tony-dot-M.A.-slash-Pursuant four D. Just like three D. But they go one dimension deeper. It’s always a pleasure to welcome back Gene Takagi, you know who he is. Of course he he we owe him the introduction that he that he deserves, but you know who he is, He’s our legal contributor, Managing attorney of neo the nonprofit and exempt organizations law group in saN Francisco he edits the wildly popular nonprofit law blog dot com, which you should follow and he’s a part time lecturer at Columbia University. The firm is at neo law group dot com and jean is at G tech. Gene

[00:01:58.66] spk_1:
thanks

[00:01:59.11] spk_0:
for being back Welcome.

[00:02:00.73] spk_1:
It’s great to be here.

[00:02:03.15] spk_0:
It’s always a genuine pleasure. Thank you.

[00:02:07.78] spk_1:
We’re

[00:02:20.77] spk_0:
talking about public trust today. Uh not only your concerns, but you’re, you’re seeing evidence of. And I’m certainly reading some things too about eroding public trust in nonprofits. What what are you seeing? What are you thinking about that?

[00:02:27.69] spk_1:
You know, my first thoughts, tony is that trust really is the foundation of, of good relationships, right. No matter whether we’re talking about person to person,

[00:02:39.09] spk_0:
person to

[00:03:18.40] spk_1:
charity, you know, person to other institutions and charities I think are especially reliant on trust because if you’re asking people and groups and organizations to give money to you, um, they’ve got to trust that you’re gonna do use that money for charitable purposes, not for personal gain, not for other things, but for the charitable purposes that they want to support. And when trust erodes in our charities, that’s really a red flag and sort of a harbinger of things, bad things that could follow. So trust is really important, I think, um, to talk about. And the study, the most recent study that came out from independent sector and Edelman Data and intelligence found that there’s low trust amongst all institutions. So maybe not completely surprising, but less than a third say the trust, government, large corporations and the news media

[00:03:35.93] spk_0:
and

[00:04:08.91] spk_1:
charities, relatively speaking are better than that in terms of the trust factor, but it’s been dropping and nonprofits as a, as a sector, The trust and nonprofits now is 56%. The rest either are neutral on it or have a distrust of nonprofits, only 56% and only 36% trust philanthropy or foundations and grantmaking organizations, so that’s really, really low. And women’s trust and non profits dropped even more than than men. Um, and I think another flag to point out is our younger generations, especially gen Z

[00:04:17.56] spk_0:
really

[00:04:18.43] spk_1:
have a distrust of nonprofits. Um, and

[00:04:22.83] spk_0:
with

[00:04:23.75] spk_1:
the wealth transfer that’s expected from baby boom generation to millennials and two gen Z, that’s got to be alarming to nonprofits. And I, I think it’s just worthy to call out right now.

[00:04:35.97] spk_0:
Do you know what that number is among gen z. Trust in nonprofits that in the independent sector include that in in their survey.

[00:04:49.81] spk_1:
Well, the statistic that I, I saw that that called out to me was 57% of gen z. Americans say giving directly to individuals makes a bigger impact than giving to nonprofits. So they would rather give to individuals on go fund me or another crowdfunding site than to give to a nonprofit. They find that more trustworthy.

[00:05:16.77] spk_0:
There’s another dimension to the, to the trust, which is government, trust in nonprofits. And you could read government as congressional or, you know, I. R. S. But you know, they they, the the U. S. Government has bestowed the charitable deduction so that the money is used for, as you said, you know, for charitable purposes as disclosed in your organizing documents. And if if I’m thinking more of Congress, you know, if congress feels that

[00:05:43.59] spk_1:
the

[00:05:43.80] spk_0:
nonprofit community can’t be trusted, you know, we could start to see some erosion of, uh, clawback of some of the, the benefits that nonprofits enjoy. Tax free status, for instance, and the charitable deduction to name a couple of

[00:06:00.50] spk_1:
wildly

[00:06:01.37] spk_0:
wildly valuable ones.

[00:06:22.64] spk_1:
Yeah, and that’s such a great point because just a few days ago, there was news about a case in Minnesota where government funding to feed poor Children, um, there was a huge scandal involving tens of millions of dollars. So, um, it really speaks to two if government stops trusting nonprofits or certain government agencies and cuts funding to agencies, how harmful that might be to charities and the beneficiaries they’re trying to serve.

[00:06:35.87] spk_0:
I think that one was even worse. I think it was like $240 million dollars

[00:06:41.59] spk_1:
worth

[00:06:42.04] spk_0:
of pandemic aid money. I saw that in, in Minnesota is supposed to be going to feed Children during the pandemic and, and pocketed. Yeah,

[00:06:52.51] spk_1:
patterns there as well. It’s, it’s,

[00:06:55.94] spk_0:
yeah,

[00:06:58.09] spk_1:
it

[00:06:58.93] spk_0:
is. It’s, it’s, um, and then of course there’s always been Charles grassley. I mean, he’s been, he’s been nipping at, uh, foundations and donor advised funds for for years

[00:08:03.64] spk_1:
now. Yeah. And in fact, the whole charitable sector, I think, um, and a significant portion of our lawmakers, um, take a consumer protection perspective of, we want to protect donors, um, and not strengthening the nonprofit sector perspective they want to create laws that will per, you know, try to prevent, um, uh, fraud or misuse of charitable funds as if this is rampant amongst the nonprofit sector, which my position is, it is not, but there are certain high profile cases that hit the new york times and the Washington post and all the other newspapers. And there’s so much media coverage that focuses on scandals because that’s what’s gonna sell right. The tweet or the short snippet that people’s attention span will, will actually stop on. Um, it’s gonna sell much more if it’s a scandal rather than a long term growth in in impact. Even, you know, the, the great news that child poverty has, has been really declining in in the country, which should be huge news gets short shrift compared to some of the big scandals that we hear about.

[00:09:08.60] spk_0:
Yeah, yeah. When I name dropped Charles Grassley, I should have said Senator, senator from Iowa, Republican, senator from Iowa Charles grassley. Um, yeah, right. It’s, it’s the scandals that, that’s, that get clicks that sell papers that get attention. I remember, I’m sure you do several years ago there was a scandal among an, an organization supposedly raising money for Navy Veterans like Navy Navy Veteran Foundation or something like that several years ago, but it was very high profile. Um, what was the other, do you remember, I don’t mean to put you on the spot. It’s okay if you don’t remember because I don’t the, uh, the veterans organization that was accused of squandering, you know, tens of millions of dollars on lavish retreats and high, high executive salaries. But, but, but it it had it had great outcomes. It was, it was funding lots of veterans organizations.

[00:09:25.25] spk_1:
I think the one you’re talking about is the Wounded Warriors.

[00:09:29.11] spk_0:
Thank you. Yes. Project.

[00:09:51.07] spk_1:
And yeah, it’s, um, it’s always difficult. Um, looking at an organization through the eyes of the media, um, about how, you know, how well or unwell they did. I don’t want to create, um, you know, uh, discuss particular scandals too much other than to say that they create problems for the whole sector. So, you know, that’s, it’s just something to be aware of. And they’re not necessarily reflective of the vast majority of nonprofits out there trying to do good work and help people.

[00:10:17.64] spk_0:
The 99.99% you know, our our that’s even higher than the nonprofit radio 95% No, uh, 99.99% of nonprofits are not scandalous. And could they, could many of them be running more efficiently. Yes, but we’re not, we’re not talking about mere efficiency. You know, we’re talking about erosion of trust because of high profile crises or scandals malfeasance.

[00:10:37.97] spk_1:
Yeah, high

[00:10:39.21] spk_0:
profile,

[00:10:39.92] spk_1:
not

[00:11:55.21] spk_0:
representative. It’s time for a break. Turn to communications. They know the nonprofit community and they know pr and journalism. Both partners are former journalists peter pan a pinto, one of the two worked as senior managing editor at the Chronicle of philanthropy. And after that he was at the council on foundations. So he understands the nonprofit space very well, which means he understands your challenges, understands how important pr and being a thought leader is to to your work. And the two of them together know how to build relationships with outlets, not just with journalists, but you know, also podcasters, um, conference organizers. So they understand nonprofits, they understand communications, how to build relationships and that’s what’s gonna get you heard across all media. So let’s turn to turn to communications. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c o Now back to in nonprofits. Do we trust?

[00:12:00.88] spk_1:
It takes me to another tangent though, now that you talked about efficiency, tony and that’s kind of, we’ve talked about it before and you’ve talked about it with the writers of uh, article or a letter called the overhead myth. I don’t know if you recall

[00:12:16.06] spk_0:
that many years ago. Yes. The C E O. S of charity Navigator better business. Bureau wise giving alliance and guidestar.

[00:13:08.09] spk_1:
Yeah. And you know, they were saying that we shouldn’t, you know, base ratings on a charity in terms of how worthy they are to receive funds from donors simply based on overhead ratio. You know what their admin and fundraising costs are relative to their programmatic costs and those are really wise wise words, um, that that were stated in that letter. But even today we still see organizations even high profile ones that talk about their low overhead ratio. And it can engender trust um, in their organization at the expense of trust of other organizations that legitimately have higher overhead ratios because the infrastructures and you know, the things that they need to do may be completely different. So it’s not fair to, you know, compare across the board and across the maturity of an organization. So

[00:14:06.82] spk_0:
another very valuable thing to invest in is is research, research, uh, maybe maybe going beyond research, activating a new program that, you know, that may or may not succeed, but you have to invest upfront, you know that it’s annoying the folks who hold different opinions about wise investment in technology, you know, it’s Uber should be losing money for the 1st 12 years, you know, because it’s investing in the future. Um, Tesla, you know, non profit unprofitable for many years, but you know, look where they are now, but, but in the nonprofit sector, you know, we don’t we don’t allow that that research and um, spending on innovation, we consider that overhead like, you know, like, like rent, which rent happens to be important too, but you know, something, something um, rent is not a good example, but sort of, you know, frivolous or you know, self indulgent when it could very well be research and and scaling up for for a for a dynamic

[00:14:29.60] spk_1:
future or even things like a living wage.

[00:15:22.90] spk_0:
Yeah. Good. Exactly. Thank you. Yes. Um, yeah, I I don’t like the, you know, I don’t like the double standard where we we we praise it in in some industries, but we we we criticize it uh, in in non profits. And I’m thinking specifically about investment in the future and whether that’s people or programs or even technology, technology is a is a valuable investment. It saves time. It creates productivity, makes people more comfortable at work. It enables them to work out of an office now and be remote, give them that benefit, which so many people are craving now, you know, but these are these are all wise investments, not not um, detrimental overhead.

[00:16:33.02] spk_1:
Yeah, I absolutely agree. And there’s a way to do it cheap. You could invest in technology on the cheap and that might have long term adverse consequences, including to kind of the sort of the data protection and privacy issues that can result. So if you’re really thinking ahead and investing in, not only just technology, just to be sort of more effective and efficient in the short term, the protective of your beneficiaries and your staff and others your donors in the long term, um, then you need to make more of an investment in that. And that’s another thing where, you know, we lose trust if you if you sort of blow your donor lists that are supposed to be private and you know, other big companies get ahold of it and start to target your donor base for unrelated things or even if they’re related sometimes, but not your organization and it was due to a slip on your part or your technology and information technology protocols. You can run into trouble. So again, investments have a double edged sword there. Great. But they can result in a loss of trust too if you’re not managing it properly and you compromise people’s information.

[00:16:41.40] spk_0:
Um, and also, you know, you mentioned living wage but investing in people so that people stay with your organization.

[00:16:48.75] spk_1:
All

[00:16:49.07] spk_0:
right. And that that starts with a living wage that also impacts to on technology. Uh, you know, time away professional development. You know, these are, these are investments in staff that people see and appreciate and make longevity with your organization more likely than you know, than than to to jump ship every six months.

[00:17:11.75] spk_1:
And that builds trust to write, I’m much more comfortable working with you if you’ve been with the charity for 10 years, Tony than if you were hired three months ago and there’s always a different person I’m talking to as a donor.

[00:17:31.13] spk_0:
Absolutely. Yeah. All right. You have some insights into what we as a community or hopefully even individual nonprofits can can start to think about take to their C. E. O. S. Take to their boards. This is always where you Excel gene.

[00:18:33.73] spk_1:
Well in the first steps are kind of simple. Um you know, it’s be compliant yourself, make sure your own houses in order. Um so we can sort of raise all of the issues with where you can lose trust with organizations. Um but even though 99.9% of the organizations are well intentioned, I can’t say that 99.9% of the organizations are compliant. Um so working to make sure you’re compliant Working to make sure that the tone is set at the top with the strong board of directors that is actually providing direction and oversight and not just simply helping you, you know, with fundraising and otherwise just rubber stamping the decisions of the leaders. I think it really is important that the tone be set at the top of the organization through the board of directors. A

[00:18:34.26] spk_0:
tone say say more about the tone.

[00:19:11.50] spk_1:
So the tone of placing the importance of a trusting relationship with our beneficiaries with our employees with our other stakeholders. I think that’s really important and that should be reflected in policies. So it’s not good enough to say, you know, this is what we believe in. So the, you know, one of the hot topics today is a board sets a diversity equity and inclusion policy. But if that policy just sits on the shelf and that’s the end of the discussion of it. And there are no actual changes or action plans attached to that that’s gonna maybe harm the organization more than help it. So the tone at the top means a board that is doing its role in moving that organization forward and focusing um not only on doing good work and, you know, metrics for for programmatic success, but on building trust within and outside of the organization.

[00:20:07.00] spk_0:
And that that Ceo board chair uh Ceo executive committee, if the board has an executive committee relationship is key to this. I mean, they they all whether it’s two people or the Ceo and a committee, you know, need to be uh you know, committed to the same, not only the same mission, but the same uh strategy for getting there. You know, the same commitment to the things that you’re talking about, this needs to be a a unified

[00:20:08.30] spk_1:
working

[00:20:09.10] spk_0:
group at the top between the Ceo and the board leadership.

[00:21:55.36] spk_1:
Yeah, it’s absolutely critical tony I agree. There is, however, sort of another dimension to this which adds complexity and that’s kind of the feeling amongst particularly younger generations. Again, and why there’s a little bit of distrust is too much power focused on the top of an organization without sort of distributing leadership and and the right to participate in this. You know, the bigger decisions of the organization being dispersed throughout the organization and getting input from beneficiaries about um you know, how the organization should evolve or um move forward in further its purpose if we’re not really thinking about getting other voices in it, and particularly if our boards are not very diverse, um that’s gonna engender more distrust as well um with with an organization and this leadership. So while what’s happening at the top level and the relationship between the Ceo and the chair of the board is critically important, it is really important to also make sure that leadership, authority and power is being dispersed down through the organization and that the board actually can listen to directly um input from some of the staff. Um and we shouldn’t create like a wall between board and staff completely. You know, that there’s a little bit of um new thinking on that because the old old ways is like the board should not micromanage right. We should not interfere with staff decisions, which is partly true, but it doesn’t mean that we create a complete block. So the board members don’t see the staff members and the staff don’t see the board and they just don’t know each other. So, um there is a sort of a balance there that needs to be taken.

[00:22:20.82] spk_0:
Can we, can we say a little more about that in terms of examples of how this could be done? Like you’re you’re talking about staff, but also the beneficiaries of the programmatic work. Uh is this um like, I mean, certainly beneficiaries could be members of the board or or is it more an advisory committee, but then to your point, you know, you don’t want it to just be a committee that the board doesn’t listen to. The ceo doesn’t listen to. You know, how can we uh actually execute on on some of this in terms of staff and beneficiaries?

[00:24:23.71] spk_1:
So there are a lot of different ways that it might be done and there’s no one right way for, you know, for all organizations, but getting other voices involved can be done in, you know, um through committees as you suggested, but they can’t just be advisory. If you’re really gonna disperse power, you have to give them some power even if they’re not made up of only board members and some people call any committee that is not composed of only board members, they call them at advisory committees. And because of the name, they think that they can only give advice to the board, but they don’t have any management authority. But that’s not true. You can give these other committees management authority, the way you can give a Ceo or CFO management authority, the board can delegate authority down to these other committees. These non board committees as well. So that may be one way of getting power dispersed through the organization, that that committee might be made up of some employees, some beneficiaries and maybe there is a pipeline so that some of the other people that you’d like to put onto a board, but you might not know very well, you might not have enough experience in certain things that you’d like to have them develop more knowledge of the organization and the work before they possibly a strong candidate for joining the board, but that could be a vehicle or an on ramp to being a board um board member as well. And again, creating a more diverse and stronger board with diverse perspectives and understandings of what the organization does and who it impacts. So I think there are definitely ways and we’ve seen this in other models as well. Some that have worked with some organizations and same models not working with other organizations. Hill Ocracy is sort of one example of that. What

[00:24:24.13] spk_0:
is that drug in jail? What? Hill Ocracy.

[00:25:53.62] spk_1:
Hill Ocracy is a form of management where there are still remnants of hierarchy, but a lot of decision making is made in kind of circles and circles might be employed, they might be employees and others and circles have certain autonomy over their body of decision making. So you might have a circle based on HR issues. So it’s not just one person with the final say, it’s this circle or a group in the law, we would just call it another committee. But um in hypocrisy there all circles and and this was used by some high profile for profit companies and some nonprofits, some had success with it, Some didn’t. So um there are other models out there as well, not one size will fit all, but again, there’s an administrative cost to trying to implement new models, um, but new models or maybe the way that we want to go and their movement organizations all over the place that are impacting how nonprofits and for profits are to be governed and managed. And we should be listening to some of these forces that are out there because they will gradually shape what we’re doing. You can see this by some younger people not sticking with employment as long as they were the great resignation and stuff. If you feel powerless within an organization or if you don’t feel the organization is representing what you want, your employer to be doing, they may not stay and having a little bit of say in what the organization is doing, even if it’s just the starting points because you can’t jump from point a to, you know, to the ideal point in one step, it’s gonna take a long, a long time to get there. But just to seeing that progress may be assigned to somebody to to say, I’m gonna stick around here and and find out

[00:26:35.35] spk_0:
alright creating vehicles for right people’s voices to be heard. Um, and you’re right, it’s, it’s incremental, but just the, just the showing of some progress, some initiative to uh, opening up the leadership, opening

[00:26:38.15] spk_1:
up

[00:26:41.97] spk_0:
strategic decision making, could be, it could be uh, you know, valuable to, to folks right? And encourage them to, to stay versus looking for someplace that’s more inclusive. Yeah.

[00:26:53.98] spk_1:
You know, if your Ceo doesn’t trust the board or if your employees don’t trust the ceo, how are you going to expect donors and your beneficiaries to trust the organization? So it really trust has to be built throughout the organization.

[00:28:41.45] spk_0:
It’s time for a break. Fourth dimension technologies. Are you seeing technology as the investment that it is not as an expense, but an investment in your sustainability, your staff productivity, your staff happiness, um, satisfaction, an investment in your donor relations through your crm database. Uh, it’s an investment in your organization’s work and its future. That’s what technology that’s where your technology ought to be thought of. And fourth dimension four D. For short can help you make those investments wisely so that you’re not squandering on something you don’t really need. Like maybe your backup is sufficient, but you need the multi factor authentication installed, etcetera. So you know, they can help you think through smart technology investments. That’s it four D. And you know where the listener landing pages to check them out. It’s at tony dot M A slash four D. Which by the way is just like three D. But they go one dimension deeper. Let’s return to in non profits. Do we trust? What else do you see Gene as as things we can we can think about besides this sort of distributed, I’m calling it distributed leadership or maybe you call it distributed leadership. Yeah.

[00:29:32.73] spk_1:
So other things. Maybe some simple tips guard private data. We talked a little bit about it before with technology. If you’ve got data that you’re promising that will be kept confidential. Make sure you’re guarding that. Be careful about automating and depersonalizing interactions with technology as well. Like we could have a sort of a voicemail for everybody and you know, hit one if you want to do this. It too. If you want to do this and completely not let any donor speak to any individual without, you know, spending an hour on the phone that may not be, uh, seen as something that would build trust. So we have to be careful of our uses of technology there as well in our communications. Um, if you’re going to say something, um, don’t talk the talk. If you’re not going to walk the walk, right? So don’t make promises that you’re not going to keep

[00:29:41.70] spk_0:
that for an example of that is A D. I. Policy,

[00:29:45.44] spk_1:
right? Exactly

[00:29:46.80] spk_0:
written and never, never executed or remains written once and never evolves.

[00:31:13.44] spk_1:
And if you have a campaign to engage in a particular, uh, you know, program and you don’t raise enough money. And so that program never runs, you better be explaining this to your donors. Um, why that happened. And the possibility that that might happen when you start fundraising for it. So don’t just say, you know, after the fact when they complain that said, well we didn’t raise enough. So we used your money for other things that’s not going to engender trust. Um remember your mission and your beneficiaries don’t exist in a vacuum, right? Um, so it’s not just about your organization. And if you your numbers go up, um whatever metrics that you use financial performance or number of beneficiaries served whatever they are, you shouldn’t look at it as a silo. You should be looking at the entire ecosystem in which you are participating. And that would be, you know, open up things like environmentalism like you might not think environmental, your organization’s not environmental organization, but if climate change continues and creates hardships that, you know, scientists are predicting, predicting you probably will have an impact on your mission and your beneficiaries. And so to sort of think, just, you know, outside of that, that silo you want to be thinking about what your impact of your decisions will be, not only on your organization and beneficiaries, but on your allied organizations, on the broader community and what will that do to trust as well. So,

[00:32:03.91] spk_0:
a lot of these ideas, a lot of what you’re saying could be, you know, germinating in an advisory committee, you know, how could we look differently at at our contribution to climate change and what climate change means to us in the future for our for our for our people and for our work, but also what could we be doing right now, You know, even if we’re not an environmental organization siloed as you’re saying, you know, we still have an environmental impact. So what what contribution to to minimize climate change or reverse climate change can we make as well as planning for the for the future? Uh you know, that that those kinds of conversations can come out of these um advisory committees that is that are comprised of staff and and beneficiaries. I mean, these are the folks that live the mission day to day.

[00:32:36.09] spk_1:
Yeah, I love that idea to tony Sometimes the board may not have um or feel that they have the bandwidth to sort of discuss these sort of broader issues. Um and they’re a little bit more focused. So having the help um the advisory committee on an issue like like climate change for a non environmental organization or an organization whose mission is not focused on the environment. I think that would be great.

[00:32:45.06] spk_0:
Yeah. And I want to reiterate your point that which I’ve never thought of, advisory committees can be granted policy making authority and and and change within the organization. So whatever that looks like, you know, you can bestow that that authority

[00:33:05.16] spk_1:
Absolutely, and you can give them a budget to even sort of to putting

[00:33:11.20] spk_0:
money behind it. But that that yeah, money talks. That’s a that’s a big step granting them a budget granting them some granting them authority to make change that’s empowering and an advisory committee. All right.

[00:34:01.14] spk_1:
I think, you know, one area of trust that we haven’t spoken yet, but maybe, um why I as a lawyer and talking about these things and you’re not getting it from another consultant, is that the laws can also impact trust and non profits have to decide whether they want to set a position on certain laws. And um, some of the things that I’m thinking about is the deductibility of charitable contributions. So, we’ve had an above the line contribution where non itemizers could deduct as well because of Covid. Um, but that was just temporary. Um, and now there’s sort of a push for, well, we should make a charitable contribution deductible to all taxpayers, and not just about the 10% of taxpayers who itemize, who tend to be, you know, have a little bit more wealth, or some, in some cases a lot more than those who don’t itemize.

[00:34:17.90] spk_0:
Is it that small? The proportion of taxpayers who itemize is around 10%,,

[00:34:22.34] spk_1:
10-13%, is what I’m hearing.

[00:34:24.86] spk_0:
Okay,

[00:35:52.18] spk_1:
So, um, again, you know, part of trust and distrust has to do with concentrations of power and wealth, right? And when the 1% or the .1% control so much policy control the leadership of pivotal organizations in all sectors, and in government, um, there’s going to be a distrusted institutions. Again, that, you know, one third of people distrust big institutions. Um, and, you know, that concentration of wealth and power is, is the reason why. Um so laws that sort of enforce that. So if we just give you no deductible, make make tax benefits to, to richer people who can deduct, who can itemize their deductions and not to others that may feel really unfair to the public. And another reason for distrust. So, will your organization’s, even though tax policy is probably almost no organization’s mission, it has an impact. Um, and so it may be something that organizations want to take a look at. And there are organizations like independent sector of the National Council on nonprofits and others who the Tax Policy center that that can explain this a little bit. But you you may want to take a look and see if you want to put a position on it. And one of the things that I also think, um engender distrust is when the media miss reports, the law in one area where the mis reported it is a lot of media say, charities can’t lobby and that’s just not true. Um, so charities can lobby on things like, you know, the the above the line deduction. Um, and and on other things as well, and there are just certain limits that apply, but they’re often generous, So learn a little bit more and we can build a stronger sector?

[00:36:21.84] spk_0:
Well, you and I have talked about the the lobbying limits on previous shows, is it is it safe to say that the law hasn’t changed over the past? I don’t know, 23 years maybe, since you and I have talked about this.

[00:36:34.17] spk_1:
Okay,

[00:37:06.11] spk_0:
So, so at Tony-Martignetti.com, you can search gene Takagi, you’ll find many episodes that he’s on and one or one or two are about the uh, the lobbying limits, I think, I think the last time may have been 2020 when the pre election. So we may well, with the, with the election in late The election in late 2020, so we may have done something like in mid-2020 or so on the lobbying, uh, exemption or Well, that’s not that’s not that’s not the right phrase. What the limits of lobbying and you make the you just said, you know, they are, they are generous in some cases. It’s not it’s not that it has to be a de minimus proportion of your budget or something.

[00:37:24.83] spk_1:
Yeah, the

[00:37:26.87] spk_0:
yeah,

[00:37:27.68] spk_1:
the losses insubstantial which scares the majority of charities away from doing any of it, but it turns out it can be fairly generous limits to engaging in lobbying.

[00:38:01.79] spk_0:
Okay. Um, and the point that you made before that, I was going to say something about that too. Well, sorry, what did you say? Right before you were talking about the uh, the permissibility of some lobbying activities. You made a point? Yes, thank you. The last thing we want is for Donating to charity to be perceived as, uh, as an elitist activity. That only the only the top now you’re saying whatever 10 or 13% of the population can, can give because they’re the only ones who get the advantage because they’re the only, they’re the ones who itemize their deductions. The last thing we want is for donating to charities to be perceived as an elitist activity.

[00:39:13.92] spk_1:
Yeah, absolutely. tony and with, you know, with our current tax policy, how it works. Um, then I don’t want to get too complicated with that. We are seeing a shrinking middle class. I don’t think there’s anything denying that people, most people have less discretionary income. So if we look at the fundraising statistics now, the giving statistics, we see that, um, even if giving goes up Giving from kind of the middle class and smaller donors has shrunk, um, and, and quite significantly, and it’s, it’s the people, um, that have put in huge contributions that have made up for that. So the Mackenzie Scott, you know, with, I think $13 billion dollars over the last few years, they’re making up for that. But that can change the way nonprofits run if, if it’s all about, again, elite, wealthy, powerful individuals who make the big contributions that then have the ear of the boards of these organizations that then talk about policy and they create policy or, or advocate for policies that keep that dynamic in existence. So it is problematic.

[00:40:52.59] spk_0:
It’s time for Tony Take two. My latest video on linkedin is this is not planned giving uh it’s short under two minutes. I give you an example of what is not planned giving and remind you what planned giving is, how simple planned giving is when it’s done right, when you start with simple gifts by will. But I’ve got kind of a lighthearted back way of looking at it through what planned giving isn’t in the opening. So latest video on linkedin, you’ll find me on linkedin. My name is tony-martignetti by the way that has escaped you. And uh it’s my latest video there That is Tony’s take two. We’ve got boo koo but loads more time for in nonprofits. Do we trust with Gene Takagi? Look at this dark potential that people look at at the United States as alright, the wealthy control government because of dark money and and the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court uh wealthy control business because only wealthy people start and or run run businesses and grow them and only only white males have the access to capital to start businesses. And then and then the perception that um the wealthy control the nonprofit

[00:41:13.41] spk_1:
sector, you

[00:41:21.27] spk_0:
know, and the wealthy control of media, you know, this is all this is all very uh a very detrimental, very dark cynical way of looking at the at the country, but I’m not I’m not sure that where that’s far away from

[00:42:10.55] spk_1:
it. Yeah, I agree. tony And I think past generations, you know, including ours, you know, we’ve always kind of done better than our parents. Our parents were lucky enough to put us in that position. But the younger generations now economically um and maybe, you know health wise and mental health wise, they may not be doing as well as their parents overall and they’re questioning kind of the system because of that. Um and we maybe didn’t question it because our generation did better than our parents um in those terms. But now there is just legitimate questioning of do we need to change these policies and these dynamics and these power structures and um you know, organizations have a say in this and and use your voice, get get people to vote. Maybe that’ll be my my one of my big messages vote

[00:43:27.00] spk_0:
voting is fundamental to although, you know, in a lot of states that’s being eroded you becoming more difficult, although in a lot of states it’s easier to um you know, another thing that comes to mind when, you know, you’re talking about the generations below the the the boomers not doing as well as the one before them. Um The FDA just yesterday recommended mental health screening at regular uh regular doctor visits, like an annual annual health health checkup for everybody under 65 And and they had been considering this policy that this recommendation is just a recommendation to the medical community from from for years before the pandemic. This is not, this is not pandemic-related recommendation. They had been considering this for years before the pandemic that there’s a lot of stress and anxiety among the population under 65 and 65 is basically the baby boomer cut off within a couple of years.

[00:43:59.55] spk_1:
And then, you know, as you noted, this was even before Covid that they’ve been advocating for this and now with Covid and the mental health issues that are sort of go along with not just the disease, but the isolation that many are experiencing and long Covid, which is sort of an underappreciated under recognized problem and disabilities maybe creating more disability, disabled americans than anything. Um, since you know, the World War two, I think would be the last one. It’s just, it’s mind blowing

[00:44:01.44] spk_0:
and I and I and all this does contribute to a decline in trust in all institutions and nonprofit. The nonprofit community is a major institution in the country. So you know, that’s, that’s how this is all related

[00:44:15.09] spk_1:
to what you

[00:44:21.48] spk_0:
and I are talking about. I want to make that connection explicit that anxiety among the population creates anxiety for nonprofits and, and and distrust and disbelief in nonprofit work. Whether that’s justified or not perception is reality.

[00:44:36.71] spk_1:
Yeah, I agree. tony

[00:44:40.74] spk_0:
All right. I don’t know. So we had, we had said one of the things we’re gonna talk about is what happens, what happens if this continues? I mean, I already painted a pretty dark cynical scenario. Um, is there anything more you want to say around? You know, what, what the implications are if the community doesn’t start to help itself?

[00:46:25.73] spk_1:
Well, maybe on a more micro looking basis, it just means for a charity, they’re gonna experience diminished fundraising. Not everybody gets Mackenzie scott, Jeff Bezos money. Right. Most of them are relying upon a pool of donors, um, many of which are aging, um, and may age out of their donor pool. Um, and shrinking again, middle class, shrinking, discretionary income for many people, meaning West donations. Um, we might see more direct giving to individuals as people are saying, well, I don’t trust charities overall. I’d rather just give to my friends who say, you know, somebody is in need as crowdfunding fight sites just continue to, to grow in importance and also in in power as well. Um, and that’s just gonna be to the detriment of, you know, beneficiaries of our charity. So again, in the micro level, we make less money, people trust us less. Our employee retention is less. Um, our donor pool is shrinking and we can help less people even as the need for our services increases. So that’s kind of the dark side look of it. Um, we can try to be the nonprofit that stands out and you know, is the trustworthy non profit from, from a public perception standpoint. Um, that’s good. But again, don’t see yourself in a silo lift yourself up with all the boats in the water and, and really try to strengthen the nonprofit sector where you can, and, and advocating on some of the laws that make things more fair, I think is a good start there

[00:46:41.97] spk_0:
advocating maybe there’s a way of partnering

[00:46:45.00] spk_1:
with other

[00:46:55.64] spk_0:
organizations, not, not in all in all things. I don’t mean a legal formal partnership, but you know, if, if there’s, if there’s a way of working together for an event or, or some kind of advocacy,

[00:47:03.61] spk_1:
you

[00:47:11.44] spk_0:
know, we’ve had shows on the values of that and how to do that. Um, so that everybody, you know it, so that it’s, it’s not seen as a, as a zero sum within your, within your community that if if if someone else, some other organizations benefiting, then you’re losing. You know, that’s not the way to look at,

[00:47:25.67] spk_1:
at,

[00:47:26.47] spk_0:
at the world and and that not nonprofit support. We we all could be or a couple of couple of organizations together could be rising together.

[00:47:37.64] spk_1:
Yeah, I’ll add that the independent sector survey, the Edelman Data Intelligence survey that we mentioned at the start of the show also has some tips on building up trust within the sector. So it’s not all of dark outlook. It’s just encouraging people that the importance of this is very, very high. Um, so let’s go out and actually make things happen? So that, that dark outlook doesn’t happen

[00:48:05.70] spk_0:
within independent sector. Gene, what’s the, what’s the name of the you’re saying? Edelman data?

[00:48:11.03] spk_1:
Yeah, I think they contracted out with Edelman E D E L M A. And Data and intelligence and their third annual reports. This is an annual report is available on the independent sector website.

[00:48:26.66] spk_0:
Okay, thank you. Edelman E D E L M A N,

[00:48:30.68] spk_1:
correct.

[00:48:49.24] spk_0:
Okay. Okay. Uh, you mentioned the five oh one C four’s a little bit, but there have been a couple in the news very recently, most recently the uh, Patagonia companies, uh, sort of evolution into a uh, a new nonprofit, a new a new five oh one C four. non profit the hold fast collective.

[00:51:57.05] spk_1:
Yeah. So the founder of Patagonia and his family member, they were the principal owners of Patagonia and they decided to give up ownership of the company, but you know, they gave it not to a charity, but to a 501 C four organization. Um, it’s called the social welfare organization and for listeners who aren’t maybe familiar with it, you probably are familiar with many five oh one C four organizations themselves, like the N. R. A. Planned parenthood, the A. C. L. U. Sierra Club. So these are advocacy organizations that have kind of charitable like purposes. Um, but our can engage in unlimited lobbying and can engage in election nearing or political campaign intervention? Supporting political candidates and political parties, as long as that’s not their primary activity or purpose. So this is sort of the source or one of the big sources of where dark money comes in tony that you mentioned with the Citizens United Decision before donor that wants to support a candidate but stay hidden from public view about their support of the Can rather than giving directly to the candidate, could give to a 501 C four organization and the C Four organization can get their money’s into the candidate. And the donor that is disclosed is the C Four organization, not the donor to the C Four organization. So that’s how you can create dark money. And with the Patagonia case, it’s very clear who the donor was. So we don’t expect that to be the dark money that we’re as leery of, but it’s still, you know, a huge gift which, you know, for somebody who believes in in in the environmental movement I think is a great gift. But news media miss reporting it or some news media are mis reporting it as kind of something that doesn’t get a tax benefit because a donor doesn’t get an income tax deduction for giving to a five oh one C Four organization the way they do if they give to a charity. Um but there are other tax exemptions that apply like a gift tax exemption or in a state tax exemption. So this gift is overall saving. Um uh mr Schwinn nerd um the owner and his family probably somewhere in the realm of $800 million in taxes. Um So it is not completely a no tax benefit transaction. Again this is not to disparage them for taking advantage of a system that allows for these gifts Um to go with with some tax benefits, but it’s not just the income tax deduction that matters in in donations there for for very wealthy people like billionaires. Um the gift and estate tax exemptions which can be 40%, right? So it can be very very high higher than income tax they matter. Um and so that’s something to be aware of that. Um this is a very wealthy person who gave up much of the ownership share, I guess all of his ownership shares to this 501 C4 organization, except really importantly 2% of the gift. Overall gift was given to a trust that’s not a nonprofit.

[00:52:14.55] spk_0:
Yeah those voting, those are the 2% of the voting that are the voting shares,

[00:52:58.58] spk_1:
right? So because they’re in control of that trust with with some close advisers um they have not given control out of Patagonia, right? They still can control Patagonia. Um And again they’re taking advantage of existing law what what it allows but it allows billionaires to not give up control of their company, get an $800 million tax benefit for giving or you know $3 billion Uh to a 501 C4 organization that could spend nearly half of it on endorsing political candidates. Um So it’s kind of an interesting tax system that that allows for that.

[00:53:18.19] spk_0:
And if if you consider that, you know supportive of uh of a liberal progressive cause because the whole fast collective the the new C4 is is devoted to uh the ill effects of climate change, you know, reversing climate change, impacting climate change. Uh So if you consider that of a left cause, then there’s an example on the right side with uh mr barr seed and the marble Freedom Trust. Another five oh one C four.

[00:53:44.39] spk_1:
Yeah. And that sea forces led by Leonard Leo who maybe the person most responsible for the changing of our Supreme Court and therefore the decisions on things like abortion might be largely attributed to mr Leo,

[00:53:56.21] spk_0:
fundraiser and activist and very well connected guy in conservative circles.

[00:56:20.34] spk_1:
Yeah. And used to be Executive vice president of the Federalist Society whose mission was to change the composition of the Supreme Court. So um I I don’t think that’s controversial and that’s just what their goal was. And they were very effective at achieving that goal. But this $1.6 billion kind of same thing. There there are some tax benefits that go along with it. There’s no income tax deduction. Um and mr uh c passed away. I think this was given after his death. But another big contribution to an organization led by somebody who has immense influence and now a huge war chest that can be used for political activities. Again, the primary activity cannot be political campaign intervention. Um, but some people believe, or many people believe that means 49% of the funds can be used for political campaign intervention. And that’s kind of the source of dark money. Although again in this case we do know where the donor came from. Um, so it’s not dark in that way in terms of hidden donors, but it’s still donations that didn’t go directly to the political candidate. It went through five oh one C four first, get the tax benefits for that, which his heirs, I guess would appreciate. Um, uh, and the impact of that again, is that? Well, in both cases, very wealthy people are able to keep control with people who they trust or their family members of their money to be used for political purposes. They can’t use it for themselves to, you know, to buy huge houses and boats, but they can use it for things that were very important to them. But that means for people like us and most of your listeners, tony is like, what influence do we have compared to that individual who gave billions of dollars to influence political elections. Um, and you know, what, you know, can we change our Supreme Court sort of composition the way that they’re able to do, probably not by ourselves. So it again is, is the reason why people go, hey, these are nonprofits that they’re using to do this. I don’t trust non profits, this is what they’re used for. And charities kind of get lumped in because the ordinary, you know, people, the lay person doesn’t know the difference between a five oh one C three and five A one C four organization.

[00:56:36.19] spk_0:
Yeah, and that’s right. And it’s it’s if it’s mentioned in a in in press coverage, you know, it’s mentioned in passing that it it’s it’s an organization that’s distinguished from from uh charities. But you know, it’s like, it’s like a sentence or two. You know, it’s it’s never it’s never a focal point. So your point is correct that people just lump them all together

[00:57:00.57] spk_1:
and flows through nonprofits and that’s why we shouldn’t trust nonprofit.

[00:57:04.97] spk_0:
So the wealthy control government and they control politics and they control business and media and and nonprofits.

[00:57:18.46] spk_1:
Yeah, that’s that’s what we, We’re finding more and more is the case, but we’re trying to change policies and change minds about this so that we can see that the impact of the 99.9% out there is actually even bigger than the impact that we mentioned about a few individuals. Um, it just has to be organized. Um, and non profits are way to do that.

[00:58:21.68] spk_0:
Well, that’s a, that’s a pretty good way to close. Probably we should have closed with what our community can do. But you know, you’re suffering the lackluster host. So uh you can rewind to that section and then uh fast forward and you can end with that if you want to. Um, but but jean, you know, always thank you, you know, sort of reality, but also wisdom and inspiration. And and not only um ethereal pedagogical inspiration, but you know, ideas that we can we can we can act on. So thank you. Thank you.

[00:58:24.63] spk_1:
Thank you Tony. And your closing statement is actually always the greatest ending. So, I’m looking forward to hearing it.

[00:59:39.16] spk_0:
Okay, All right, thank you jean. Next week. Let’s see what develops and why do I even say uh, next week if I don’t know what’s coming up next week, but we’re here we are. We’re talking about trust and part of that is transparency. So I’m being transparent that I don’t know what next week’s show is gonna be, I know what the 1 to 2 weeks from now is gonna be. We’re gonna have beth cancer and Allison fine talking about their new book, but I can’t promise that for next week because well, that would be a lie and that’s going to reach the trust because they’re not on next week. Next week. Uh, it’s up in the air, but trust me, it’ll be just that’s conclusory. Just trust me now, I hope you trust non profit radio I’ll find something good if you missed any part of this week’s show, I Beseech you find it at tony-martignetti dot com responses by turn to communications pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c o and by fourth dimension technologies I. T. Infra in a box, the affordable tech solution for nonprofits. tony-dot-M.A.-slash-Pursuant four

[00:59:48.37] spk_1:
D. Just

[01:00:03.54] spk_0:
Like three D. But they go one dimension deeper. A creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff to show social media is by Susan Chavez. Mark Silverman is our web guy and this music is by scott stein, Thank you for that. Affirmation Scotty B with me next week for nonprofit radio big nonprofit ideas for the other 95%. Here it is, Jean, go out and be great.

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