Thursday, July 12, 2012

2011 Remembered—2012 Anticipated

2011 was a memorable year for the Christ-centered community but 2012 portends to be a chart-topper in many respects.
     Let’s take a trip down the 2011 memory lane:
   Grassley hands nonprofit tax policy issues to ECFA.  In January 2011 Senator Charles Grassley closed his investigation of six ministries and referred the open issues to ECFA for study. ECFA’s board accepted Grassley’s challenge, approving a new national Commission.
   ECFA’s astounding membership growth.  2011 was ECFA’s fourth consecutive year of record accreditation of new members. Christ-centered nonprofits increasingly understand the ECFA seal enhances trust with givers. 
•   Resources.  2011 was the third year for nonprofits to secure resources in a recessionary environment. ECFA’s 2nd Annual State of Giving Report reflected ECFA’s members fared much better than the largest secular charities.
•   Religious hiring.  The U.S. Supreme Court opted not to hear a case that had potentially significant implications for religious organizations’ hiring practices, clearing the way for World Vision to continue hiring Christians.
•   Housing allowance.  After dropping one constitutional challenge, the same group filed a new case seeking a declaration that the clergy housing allowance violates the First Amendment.
    The Department of Justice also appealed a ruling which allowed a minister to exclude multiple houses under the housing exclusion rules.
What to expect from ECFA in 2012 as we serve our members and those who give to our members:
•  Issuance of a Phase I report from the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations
•  Expansion of ECFA’s web-based member profile, giving each member control over a section of their profile to communicate issues of donor interest
•  Launching of an ECFA church membership initiative, including a focused approach for the need of churches—a separate newsletter, Focus on Church Accountability, church-focused webinars, and more
•  Continuing the popular CEO Dialogues under the ECFA brand
•  Releasing the first in the Governance Toolbox Series—training for boards
•  Increasing the impact of the popular ServantMatch concept—expanding the giving opportunities well beyond the current 2,100 giving options
•  Republishing When Giver’s Designate Gifts (formerly Donors-Restricted Gifts Simplified) and Igniting a Life of Generosity from ECFAPress in hardcover format with a softcover version for ministry imprint
What does 2012 hold for the Christ-centered community? To coin a phrase from my pastor, I am only a “prophet of the obvious”—and this is what I believe is becoming obvious.
•   Impact of the economy. In nonprofit budgetary planning, caution will continue to be the watchword.  Some Christ-centered nonprofits will flourish while others will be challenged to match income with outgo. There will likely be an increasing pressure on smaller nonprofits to maintain or increase resources.
•  Tax legislation. While conventional wisdom dictates that new tax legislation impacting nonprofits will be delayed until the Presidential and Congressional elections of 2012 are history, tax legislation could be passed on a rather impromptu basis as Congress desperately searches for new and increased sources of Federal revenue.
    Continuing challenges to the charitable deduction are virtually certain to come in 2012. A charitable deduction floor is the most likely of the options to become law.
    If the Charitable IRA provisions are extended for 2012, it likely will not occur until late in the year—again making charitable gift planning very difficult with respect to gifts from IRA’s.
   Increased collaboration and, yes, some mergers—especially at the small to medium size charity level. A great example is the agreement of CrossGlobal Link (formerly IFMA) and The Mission Exchange (formerly EFMA) to merge, forming a body representative of 35,000 evangelical missionaries.
•  The courts. The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on healthcare reform will have a significant impact on the future of healthcare for nonprofits and staff.
•   Donors. Individual donors will likely continue to contribute over 80% of all donations to nonprofits. Donors will increasingly look for assurance (peace of mind) that charities are legitimate charities and will make good use gifts.  They will strongly value the accreditation of charities, looking for appropriate transparency. This is where ECFA shines.
     Overall, 2012 will be a time to focus on the open doors God provides—and walk through them. It will be a time to discern God’s plans—a time to say:  “You speak, I am listening.”