2018 Needs Your Credit Union’s Help
Even Pope Francis didn’t seem to enjoy 2017. During his New Year’s Eve prayer service, he said, “We humans in so many ways ruined and hurt it  with works of death, with lies and injustices.”
I use this quote as an example, not to trash all over 2017, but to say, he has a point. So much happened in 2017 and the ramifications of that year will take some time to shake out through our personal and professional lives.
There is one point I’d like to focus on as a real ramification that we will all feel and witness in our communities and the nonprofits serving our members – especially those in serious need of financial and charitable help to simply live.
The new tax law signed by President Trump has created a windfall of giving and donations to charities. And that’s a great thing! But let me clarify that the windfall came in the form of record donations and money given before the end of 2017, because those tax incentives for donating to charities go away this year and nonprofits are terrified about what’s next.
According to an article in The Boston Globe, “The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network has estimated that donations to charities in the state could decline by hundreds of millions of dollars as fewer taxpayers itemize deductions in 2018.”
In literal terms, millions of taxpayers will not get a tax benefit from donating to charity. As we humans are apt to be, without incentive, we tend not to act.
According to what’s in the tax bill, nonprofit experts believe their organizations will be hit with a one-two punch: An historic drop in donations and severe cutbacks in public assistance from the federal government.
Of course, there are varying takes of the impact of the tax bill to nonprofits. Some economists believe with the corporate tax breaks included in the bill that corporate giving will actually go up more than 2%. To clarify, corporations will still get those tax incentives while people will not … even though corporations are considered people. So, go ahead and try to make sense of that.
Anyway, all of this made me think about what credit unions can do to fill this expected charitable gap. I reached out to some nonprofit friends of mine, and they had this advice:
Connect: For many credit unions, you probably have one or two main charities that you write a novelty-sized check to each year. But this year, consider reaching out directly to your local charity leaders and find out exactly what they need because, as one expert said, “One of my biggest worries is the squeeze that’s going to happen if the number of dollars goes down.” Nonprofits will likely see cuts to community programs for kids and the elderly. And if that’s something that your credit union can focus on to keep those programs going – then do it!
Organize: Experts agree that organizations shouldn’t spread themselves out to try and give a little to everyone. For greater impact and results, have your credit union focus on one thing, one organization, one cause. Meet with your credit union teams and come up with a plan to rally around a community nonprofit to meet the needs in an almost immediate fashion. Some ideas to focus on could be after-school programs, school lunch programs, housing assistance and/or job placement help for the homeless.
Execute: Good PR for your credit union should not be the focus of why you give or why you say you care. The good PR will come as a natural communications progression of your good deeds – so don’t sweat this part unless you have some overpriced agency on retainer to get you a page one story in your local paper. Then by all means, use them and don’t waste your money. In order to execute your nonprofit goals, consider mobile giving as an add-on to your credit union’s mobile app. You can even do a “text-to-give” promotion that can go straight into the nonprofit’s account to make an immediate impact. Of course, you’ll have to come up with an incentive. And that incentive can be in the form of “feeling good about yourself” or a fact-based incentive that “this program will keep our children fed” or something like that – fine, that’s a bit of a guilt-based incentive. Whatever works.
I highly doubt there is one community in our country that will say, “Nope. We’re good with everything – everyone has everything they need.” So, find that need, fill it and help your members, your schools and your nonprofits stay alive.
When it comes to these issues, I admit, I get a little preachy. That’s because growing up, there were some years when our family relied on nonprofits and just general good deeds to help us survive as a family and keep a house to live in. Those days stay with me and that’s why I give and donate what I can where I can. If my credit union did something beyond a general community giving campaign, I think the impact and connection to our area would be so much greater for the credit union, the members and to those who are on the receiving end of those good deeds.
Your credit union cannot plan for every community emergency – I get that. But with some focus and a strategy and buy-in from your employees, you will provide a lifeline that is currently being cut by soulless actions to benefit a very small number of people. And THAT is not what credit unions are about nor are they the principals you’re built on.
I have no idea what 2018 will bring. New challenges? New scars? New opportunities? Credit unions cannot be everything to everyone, so don’t try to be. There is a need in your towns and cities. Find it and fill it, because a family out there needs your help.
Michael Ogden is executive editor for CU Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.