Dreams can come true!
December 19th, 2012
This morning brought great news that our colleague organization, Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), received a phenomenal stock gift of $500 million from Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook. This gift will definitely help to transform lives and communities in the Bay Area!
Can you imagine the strength of that gift? Can you imagine the impact that gift can have for students who may not have any hopes of attending college or providing needed housing assistance to the family who is trying to make ends meet and things just aren’t working out?
No stranger to philanthropy, Mark Zuckerberg signed the “Giving Pledge” in December 2010 promising to donate at least half of his wealth over his lifetime along with other notable persons Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. He gave a significant gift to help the Newark Public Schools two years ago and certainly seems to have the faith and confidence in working with the SVCF to accomplish more of his vision for the future.
As reported in the San Jose Mercury Times, Zuckerberg stated, “Today, in order to lay the foundation for new projects, we've made a contribution of 18 million Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation," Zuckerberg continued. "Together, we will look for areas in education and health to focus on next. I'm hopeful we'll be able to have as positive an impact in our next set of projects."
Also interesting is that in the same article the following was noted: “While some of Silicon Valley's wealthiest executives -- such as William Hewlett and David Packard -- created their own foundations to distribute their wealth, others who channeled funds through the community foundation include former eBay President Jeff Skoll, who announced in 2005 that he had donated $150 million each to his own private foundation and to a fund affiliated with a forerunner to the community foundation.”
Emmett Carson, SVCF CEO, was gracious in his comment, "Mark's generous gift will change lives and inspire others in Silicon Valley and around the globe to give back and make the world a better place."
Obviously Mark Zuckerberg knows that the SVCF can make his aspirations come alive in his community just as the Grand Rapids Community Foundation can do the same right here in our area! Our staff team is simply the best in identifying needs, fleshing out how organizations operate, what projects can really focus on making a positive impact. Come and explore with us! We do make things happen. As we say loud and clear, “Community Happens Here!”
Congratulations to our colleagues at Silicon Valley Community Foundation!
Lessons learned from a Generous Man
November 26th, 2011
Fred Meijer passed away on November 25th a few days shy of his 92nd birthday. He was a staunch and generous supporter of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. My memories of Fred are so wonderful and here is merely a glimpse:
Twenty some years ago, David LaClaire our board chair at the time, invited Fred Meijer to lunch along with me to discuss a gift to the Community Foundation. I remember a warm and real person who asked me a lot of questions about who I was and my family. He and his wife, Lena, had initiated a scholarship fund for the children of Meijer associates back in 1975 and it was understandable that he wanted to know more about the person who was running the Community Foundation now.
The lunch conversation was lively and fun! However rather subtly the discussion changed from the agenda that David and I had fashioned to Fred's philanthropic agenda. His dreams were expansive punctuated by the desire to have a community botanical garden that mirrored those he visited in Europe. It was fascinating. Then there was the time he invited me out to the Meijer Headquarters to see the statues and outside art he had commissioned to realize his vision of a community garden. A huge garage alongside the corporation's parking lot housed these treasures. He was beyond proud with a decided twinkle in his eyes as he looked to the future.
That was something I will always remember about Fred Meijer! Not only innovative, caring, philanthropic but reaching out to the future! He did believe in the positive strength of endowment and he and Lena demonstrated that by establishing Donor Advised Funds for their grandchildren passing the baton of giving back. What a visionary!
There are many stories that people will have about Fred Meijer that will be shared over the next few days and I have many more as well! Thank you Fred Meijer for shining the light of philanthropy for all! You will be missed tremendously! Thank you for a life well-lived! My sympathies to Fred's wife Lena and the entire Meijer family.
Threat to the Charitable Tax Deduction
October 17th, 2011Over the years, I have either participated in or witnessed the "great debate" around why people give to causes and various nonprofit organizations. Recently, I had a lively conversation on Facebook with a woman who was adamant that people would give to causes regardless of having a tax incentive or not. I acknowledged that while many do give because they believe so strongly in the cause, if we lost the ability to offer a charitable tax deduction frankly I do believe that would have a tremendous negative impact on the nonprofit/social sector.
Given the fact that both at state and federal governmental levels, there exists a serious deficit problem, it is no wonder that many proposals and legislation are being introduced to try to stem the tide of financial woes. For the 4th time, President Obama is proposing a change on the charitable tax deduction for households with income greater than $200,000 or net worth greater than $1 million. This is part of the President's formal recommendations to the supercommittee charged with developing a deficit reduction plan by November 23rd.
According to the Council on Foundations:
"The administration has proposed disallowing any charitable deduction to the extent such a deduction reduces the income tax liability of the donor by more than 28% of the donation. Individuals subject to the highest tax rates - currently 33 percent and 35 percent, and scheduled to increase to 36 percent and 39.6 percent in 2011 - would see the tax benefit of their charitable deductions reduced significantly."
This is a big issue for the philanthropic community! I believe that this proposal could be the beginning of a slippery slope; merely the start of undoing the charitable tax deduction which has been in existence for more than 100 years. I am wary that if the charitable tax deduction is reduced once, it will continue to be whittled away over time. Even if a small portion of donors take advantage of itemizing their charitable donations, we don't need a reason to take away giving particularly at this moment in time! We need to encourage people to give! I will write more on this issue - this could have the impact of billions of dollars to the philanthropic sector across the country.
August 10th, 2011I recently had a friendly debate with a woman on Facebook about whether tax incentives really matter when it comes to charitable giving. My summary of the discussion was "it doesn't hurt!" The headline for a strong case for giving to a nonprofit organization certainly includes transparency as well as what impact is being made because of the programming of the organization. As I have written in past blogs, the reality of really getting the message out to the community on the good works of organizations is tough given constraints on budgets but really necessary.
In early May, the Michigan Legislature passed the Governor's tax reform package in a close vote and this bill eliminates the three charitable tax credits for gift to community foundations; public institutions, such as universities, libraries and public radio; and food banks and homeless shelters. These changes to the charitable tax credits are effective on January 1, 2012. Gifts made before midnight on December 31, 2011 may be used for the tax credit. We will be promoting these credits until the end of 2011.
The tax credit pertaining to community foundations has been in existence since 1988 having been passed in 1987. It provides up to a $200 State tax credit for gifts of $400 to community foundations for married couples and a $100 tax credit for gifts of $200 for a single person. Businesses can take a tax credit up to $5,000 on gifts of $10,000. In order to qualify for the tax credit though, all gifts have to go to permanent endowment only and does not include any "pass through" donations.
Michigan was the first state to have such a tax credit for gifts to community foundations and frankly it has been instrumental in growing the endowment of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation as well as the agency funds that we hold. The entire cost to the state of Michigan for the tax credit since its inception in 1988 has been $50M. HOWEVER, the endowed assets of Michigan's community foundations have grown to exceed $2B due in part to the offering of the credit.
So when we are working in partnership with the public sector, our dollars have definitely made a difference in braiding funding and leveraging dollars for our communities! We have definitely added tremendous value!
Yes I know the opposing view to this could read: "What do you expect the state of Michigan to do when revenues are severely diminished and we are all struggling to keep our state moving forward?"
The Grand Rapids Community Foundation will continue to grow and provide needed financial support and strong leadership in our area. We will miss the opportunity to introduce people to the community foundation using the tax credit as an incentive to come to know us and gain an understanding of philanthropy. It did provide a terrific way for us to establish relationships with new donors. We do feel confident though that our current and future donors will continue to support the work we do and to support the strength of building our community's endowment!
The looming concern on the horizon is the preservation of the federal charitable tax deduction which if eliminated or somehow diminished could have a devastating impact on the entire nonprofit sector in our country. But that's a topic for another blog entry!
Why I can't get too exercised by the Newsweek listing!
January 23rd, 2011Stop it everyone! For heaven's sake! Grand Rapids landed on a list that is contrived by a national magazine that we didn't want to be on. We want to be known as cool, welcoming, hip along with a vibrant economy! Well guess what? We have work to do and our work today is no different than it was before Newsweek published their "Top 10 Dying Cities in the U.S." The title also was "Cities with Bleak Futures Ahead."
So instead of complaining about Newsweek - its intention - whether or not reporters stepped a foot in our city or not - let's do what we do best and prove them wrong! Magazines and their listings are for one purpose only and that is to sell magazines. The local news media, the chatter on Twitter and Facebook complete with a new FB page denouncing the Newsweek Dying Cities list, does exactly what Newsweek wants - more publicity. Their bad news and our reaction to it becomes their money maker.
Face it we do have work to do as a community and we are on the path in doing so. We need a vision that speaks to what we exactly want to be when all is said and done. We need to be more open and accepting. No wait a minute . . . we need to embrace difference and celebrate all people in our community and welcome them. It is not only the right thing to do, it IS the only thing to do. Businesses need to flourish, poverty needs to be alleviated, focus needs to be placed on early childhood education, we need a robust economy and jobs, and frankly the only way we are going to head in the positive direction is if we know where we are going to land. We all can list the indicators that will retain young people, attract all people to our area and so much more!
Don't let this listing define us - we are the ones to define us! I just had to say this and I plan on continuing our work to bring the community together to celebrate our strengths yet define our weaknesses so we can take action accordingly. We know how to do this - it takes philanthropy, government, business, citizens - everyone! Grand Rapids is building a great future and we do have the strength and tenacity to continue our work for better days ahead.