Picture of Rob Henson

There's a lot of anxiety about the new tax plan, how deductions could be impacted and what that could do to the generosity of people who support so many good nonprofits across our footprint.

Today I'm here to share three key tips that nonprofits and donors can use to have great relationships in 2018. There's not a lot we can do about how the tax plan will impact us from a charitable giving perspective. There is a lot we can do to help build substantive and beneficial relationships between nonprofits and their donors.

Increase understanding

The first step I would suggest is increasing understanding between the nonprofit and the donor. The motives of our donors are the keys to understanding why they care about us.

My favorite question to ask a donor is this, "Of all the organizations you could've given to this year, why did you choose us?" The answer to that question tells you everything you need to know about your donor's motive. Maybe you've helped someone and their family, maybe they're committed to the social cause that you help impact. Whatever their answer is, you have a window into what they care about, and that gives you an opportunity to continue a conversation about effecting the change that's most important to them.

Good communication

The second thing we should focus on in 2018 is good communication. Nonprofits need to up their communication game in 2018 as the new tax plan rolls out. We need to tell good stories about the impact and effectiveness our nonprofit has on the community. We need to look for third-party data that shows changes in social conditions that we're impacting so that we can prove, from an objective perspective, that the dollars that are being given to us are being used wisely.

As a donor, we have the right and responsibility to ask the nonprofits we give to to be more clear and consistent in their communication with us.


The third thing we can do in 2018 is focus on transparency. We'll need to put resources to articulating to the donors and the public how funds and resources are allocated and used. We really can't say enough about what it means to be a transparent organization.

We should be delivering an annual financial report to our donors and making that available to the community. We should be able to explain the difference between overhead, operating, and mission-effective expenses. We should be able to say, when funds are raised, how are they deployed in the community?

These kind of moments of transparency help build trust and accountability with the communities we serve and the donors who support us. There's all kinds of data that says 2018 will be a great year of philanthropy. Nonprofits will grow, donors will be generous, and lives will be changed because of that relationship. We will continue to understand more about the impact of the tax plan, but in the meantime, let's take meaningful steps to focus on understanding each other, having good communication, and being transparent about how resources are allocated and used.

Thank you for your time and best of luck in all of your philanthropy efforts in 2018.

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Rob has worked in all aspects of fundraising administration for philanthropic organizations. He has held positions as capital campaign manager, foundation executive director and consultant to foundation staff and leadership.

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