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2018 Tax Bill Implications on Schools’ Charitable Giving

Julie Chomiak | 4 min read

The recent Republican tax bill is on everyone’s mind. What does it mean for individuals, their taxes, and their future? While much of this information is hazy, it’s been made clear that fewer people will be able to itemize their charitable deductions, meaning fewer charitable gifts are expected. This could be devastating to nonprofits and 501(c)3 organizations across the United States, but we believe there are ways to rise above this political noise, and encourage - and receive - donations to your school.

Yes, there are hurdles to overcome, but with the right messaging and reframing of your school’s mission and reasons for fundraising, your school can meet its fiscal year goals and continue to do so going forward.

Reinforce why people give to your school

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) made this statement loud and clear, underscoring that the value of charitable giving supersedes the tax benefits for the majority of donors.

Ultimately, the best strategies are about how effectively charities engage donors and tell their stories of impacts and outcome. No matter the tax code or the economic environment, charities that can connect with donors, show the impact of their programs and inspire donors to get involved will always be successful. Charities should be focusing on how donors can make a difference.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)

Your school has a mission statement and values, so make use of them. Include your code of ethics, community statements, and overall purpose in every communication to your constituents. As we know, it takes multiple touches before someone gives a gift, so be consistent in your messaging. Reframe your appeals by emphasizing how your school’s pillars are the backbone of its success and how charitable gifts allow for continual evolution and growth of your students and community. These are the points your donors want to know about and that will generate gifts.

The Inspire & Ignite Fund at Regis Jesuit High School speaks directly to its priorities and strategic vision. It brings the school’s mission into focus and illuminates the many reasons people can and do give to the school.

Image: Regis Jesuit High School’s Inspire & Ignite FundRegis Jesuit High School’s Inspire & Ignite Fund

It’s true donors like to get a tax break for their charitable gifts, but if you have a compelling reason to give - such as grooming the next generation of leaders - your school will see the fiscal returns it needs. You’re still providing benefits to your donors, but in a more altruistic way, rather than just tax benefits for charitable gifts.

Demonstrate how gifts impact your school

It’s an old adage, but showing is more effective than telling. Create ways to demonstrate how gifts are directly impacting your school, your students, your faculty and staff, and your community. Using short videos to highlight a new program that was made possible by charitable gifts or an annual report that does more than list your donors’ names will convey the immediate effect of charitable donations.

Saint Mary’s School Annual Fund did just that with their video message from a recent graduate. In the video below, Hope speaks to how alumni contributions to the annual fund betters the school every single day through updated facilities, scholarships, and a myriad of other ways.

Saint Mary’s School Annual Fund video

This strategy goes beyond an appeal and connects donors and prospective donors to your school. When your constituents can see a tangible result of donations, it motivates them to give. While annual funds are a bit tougher to grasp, there are still ways to show how every single annual fund dollar allows your school to function at its best, which is what every school strives to do.

The tax bill is something for your school to be aware of, but given why the majority of donors give to your institution, it doesn’t mean absolute peril. During this tumultuous time, give your donors reassurance that their gifts are going to good causes that make a lasting impact on your school community. The intrinsic value of their donations will become more apparent, and your donors will continue to give no matter the tax implications.


About Julie Chomiak

Julie is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. Before becoming a full-time writer, she spent nearly ten years fundraising for non-profits and private schools, where she focused on alumni annual giving. She loves sharing her insights and helping schools improve their development efforts in service of fulfilling their missions of improving each child’s life.

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