Monday, July 17, 2017

Nonprofits - You've Got Them All Wrong

Turns out churches do feed the hungry, clothe the naked and
care for the widows, orphans, and people with disabilities.
Some trouble-maker posted a question on Facebook today, no doubt hoping to stir up a hornets nest.  The question?
  • Should churches be tax exempt? 
The outcry from the left was instantaneous and predictably lop-sided. These precious snowflake progressives cried out loudly that churches should only maybe be allowed exemption for the actual feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless they did and NOTHING else. This reveals a stunning lack of understanding of what churches do and what a nonprofit is and why they are tax exempt. Let me 'splain...
First of all, not every 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit is involved in feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless. If that were the criteria for tax exempt status, you'd have to shut down most of the nonprofits in the United States. Here's what the regulation for tax exemption says:
  • To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual.
There are, of course, other 501(c) nonprofit organizations that have different requirements, but for this question we're talking about churches. A 501(c)(3) organization may be tax exempt if its primary activities are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering amateur sports competition, preventing cruelty to children, or preventing cruelty to animals.
The United States Government has determined that it is far less expensive to defer taxes to groups which perform these types of activities than it is for the government to do them. I might add that it's a danged sight more effective too. It's far easier for groups of local folk to identify community needs and problems and create programs and organizations to deal with them than it is for a bunch of politicians thousands of miles away in Washington DC to guess what those needs might be and create a one-size-fits-all government program to solve all those unique local problems. It's the "if all you've got is a hammer everything looks like a nail" conundrum.
Nonprofits perform missions on behalf of groups of people that are working for the betterment of their community in some way. Some provide counseling to those with mental illness or those who are bereaved. The church does this too. Some NPOs provide recreation for the disabled or for groups of individuals who have a shared interest. The American Legion and VFW are nonprofits that provide a lot of support for their members in a lot of areas. 
Recently Obama's IRS went after veteran's organizations because they had balked at providing private information about their members that the IRS is not supposed to be privvy to - like social security numbers and private information of that sort. The VFW and American Legion both felt they did not want to be responsible for recording their members social security data. 
Groups like Sierra Club get tax breaks for a portion of their work that is not direct lobbying even though their primary purpose is actually lobbying. They and the World Wildlife Fund spend surprisingly little on actual animals. Mostly they pay lawyers. They get around that by providing legislators with "educational material". They neither feed nor house the homeless so, by the reasoning of the anti-church contingent, they should be taxed on pretty much everything they do.

Churches do many things, often more efficiently than the government. Food pantries in my home state did so well that the feds cut the Food Stamp budget for East Texas by $800,000. The local bureaucrats had a fit and started a $150,000 marketing campaign with the message "Food Stamps are not part of welfare reform." Turned out they just needed more application. It's not like they were going to lower the threshhold for admittance to the program or approve any more application. They just wanted to demonstrate "need" so they could get their budget increased so they wouldn't have to lay off a bunch of suddenly useless bureaucrats.

Churches minister to the spiritual needs of their congregations. You may, instead, prefer to rescue abandoned gerbils, donkeys, tigers elephants or boa constrictors. There's a nonprofit for each of those. You may want to host Renaissance Faires to promote chivalry. There's a nonprofit for that. You may want to save the whales, the owls, or the art of quilt-making. There's a nonprofit for that.
The point of having nonprofits be tax exempt is to allow Americans to band together for a cause they mutually believe in, collect a few assets with which to perform their mission, and to do some good without the tax man getting all up in your business and taking from money from you that people gave you to do something else with. The group's members and supporters, wise heads in government (an oxymoron if there ever was one) decided that these sorts of endeavors were things which should not be taxed.

Being not-for-profit has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with the fact that no profit is distributed to stakeholders, board members or shareholders. Every penny gets plowed back into the work. If you aren't making a profit and doing those things listed above, then you are and should be tax exempt and it doesn't matter whether I like what you are doing or not so long as your supporters do.
You may dislike religion. You may just dislike my religion. So what? I'm not fond of snakes, but I will defend to the death, your right to rescue them without being taxed for your selflessness. Sometimes I think some of my liberal friends have forgotten that it's not all about what they like or want. Some people may like or want different things than you like or want. That doesn't mean you get to punish them by taxing them or banning their activities. I'm not a fan of some environmentalist groups. They still get to exist and they still get to try and do good things that they think ought to be done. Heck, I might even show up with a trash bag for one of their beach cleanups. We don't have to be enemies simply because we differ on how to solve a problem we both often agree needs to be solved. You don't have to like me or my opinion. You just have to leave me be to have it as I leave you be to have your opinion, however wrong-headed it might be.
So, if you happen to be driving by my church on Saturday morning and see me there, and don't like it, guess what?  You can keep on driving and neither your rights nor mine, neither your enjoyment of the day nor mine needs be threatened.  Live and let live is a pretty good motto. Otherwise you could find the IRS taxing you for saving spotted owls and snail darters. They tend to take a mile if you give them an inch.

© 2017 by Tom King

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Guidestar, "Neutral" Arbiter of Nonprofits, Swings Openly Left

The venerable* nonprofit organization rating website Guidestar has apparently become comfortable enough with its venerableness to openly shift to the left. This week it came out with a list of "hate group"nonprofit organizations that was long on conservative values and short on actual hate. Not surprising given that the list came from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that would be genuinely surprised that anyone would NOT consider virtually any conservative Christian nonprofit organization a hate group. SPLC's definition of "hate" seems to be anything that disagrees with the progressive agenda. One Target  on SPLC's list is the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group that opposes redefining marriage, promotes Christian values, and opposes pornography, transgender bathrooms, and abortion. This according to SPLC and now Guidestar makes it a hate group.

Let the pandering to the socialist left begin....

As a semi-retired nonprofit professional, I read trade publications for the industry and utilize websites like Guidestar. Mostly I'm trying to keep organizations I consult with out of hot water with rating sites like Guidestar. Guidestar's
raison d'ĂȘtre is ostensibly to serve as a guide to philanthropists, donors, and funding organizations as to the fiscal health and financial responsibility of nonprofit organizations that approach them for donations. Guidestar has, over time, become the most powerful arbiter of legitimacy in the nonprofit world.

Now that it has that power, like other "venerable" nonprofit journals I won't name, Guidestar's leftist underpinnings are beginning to show. One would think that a nonprofit organization should be judged by whether or not it is responsible with its funding and whether it is accomplishing its mission. If it's mission is to promote the creation of a socialist/communist state in America, so be it. Does it accomplish that mission? If you support that mission, then that's something you will want to know before you give them money.

As to the value of that mission, Guidestar should have no judgmental power, at least if it is going to claim "neutrality" in its assessment of America's not for profits.
It is not Guidestar's business to arbitrarily apply labels like "hate group" to the charities it rates, especially when their criteria appears to be that the group is conservative. Otherwise, Guidestar needs to label itself "The Liberal Guidestar" in the interest of full disclosure.

I'm just saying.

© 2017 by Tom King

* Or at least as venerable as anything gets in the digital age.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Twenty-One Things Donald Trump Has Done That, As a Conservative, I Like

I remain skeptical of our new president, but he has done some things I like and I have to admire the man for keeping his promises to conservatives. And there is one really big reason to like the man, but here is a list and I'll save the best for last.

  1. Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination and appointment. The man’s a rock-ribbed conservative constitutionalist. He won’t always make the right happy, but he’ll always do the right thing.
  2. Rex Tillerson – New Secretary of State is going about business without any regard for the tender feelings of the international socialist movement. Turns out, we’ve got an American for a Secretary of State. How cool is that?
  3. Ben Carson – I just love that he makes the left so nuts. Here’s a black man who believes that poverty is a state of mind. He’s right. One can escape poverty, but you have to not mind working without a net. Carson speaks the truth! And he’s shining a light on the corruption at HUD and cleaning house.
  4. Mad Dog Mattes – New Secretary of Defense.  ISIS is missing some people and we’ve delayed trying to go out and recruit sexually confused people until 2108. Note he didn’t cancel it. Simply delayed it till cooler heads hopefully prevail some time in the next 200 years.
  5. Betsy Devos – Secretary of Education.  Charter schools, competent teachers, getting the feds out of the education business. Love this lady!
  6. Elaine Chao – Secretary of Transportation. Loved her as Bush’s secretary of labor. I think she’ll bring the same level-headed cut-the-crap approach to the mess over at transportation.
  7. Jeff Sessions – Attorney General. It is such a relief to have a guy as the nation’s law enforcer who makes decisions based on whether a thing is legal and not on whether it makes lesbians, gays, transsexuals, Muslims, Democrats, communists, or Russia unhappy, but rather on whether it violates the law.
  8. Donald Trump talks around the mainstream media straight to the American people.  It’s not quite the way Ronald Reagan did (which also made the media frantic), but it’s fun to watch. He does not let the media define him and he’s willing to call Beezelbub by name. This makes the media insane, the spectacle of which I find quite entertaining to watch!
  9. The five-year ban on White House officials making a living by lobbying. Long, long, long, long overdue measure to stifle corruption.
  10. Popularized the term “fake news” and shined a bright light on the closet “making up the news” industry and named names. A president isn’t supposed to do that, but this one did. I’m sorry but I get a sadistic glee watching them skuttle for cover.
  11. The infamous travel ban!  Trump blocked travel from several countries that support terrorists (Obama wrote up that list) until we could get better security into place to screen out jihadis. Lib judges are still trying to find a way to block that.
  12. Cut money being sent over seas to fund abortion and repealed the Obama order forcing states to fund Planned Parenthood (a misnomer if there ever was one).
  13. Funding cut to sanctuary cities. If your city is defying federal law, it seems logical that they don’t need federal money. I’m not sure I’d have handled it so politely.
  14. Withdrew from the Paris "Climate" Accords – That so-called climate deal basically laid all the cost and work on the United States and transferred a boatload of American dollars into the pockets of the worst polluting nations on the planet, while wrecking the American Economy and doing nada for the climate.
  15. Did NOT bow to any foreign kings. WAAAY more presidential than the previous president who basically bent over and stuck up his bottom for King Abdulla to pat and tell him he was a good boy. It was pathetic. I noted he did not bow to Queen Elizabeth and gave her a book he wrote and returned a bust of Winston Churchill England had presented a previous president with.  Trump is way more class if you can believe. And his wife is very gracious out on the road.
  16. He cut about 7 million bucks worth of unnecessary folk from the White House staff. Melania will be polishing her own toes it appears or paying for that out of her own pocket. It sets a good example.
  17. Withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership. The badly lop-sided trade deal essentially transferred sovereignty over American economic interests to foreign nations. Bad for us, great for them. We needed to drop that turkey and Trump did.
  18. Approved the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines. Took a lot of oil out of Warren Buffett’s more expensive choo-choos and tank cars (which, surprise, is why Buffet supported Obama’s ban on the pipeline), and put them in safer, pipelines rather than moving all that flammable material on our nations roads and railroad. Stationary pipes are safer than vehicles moving through our neighborhoods.
  19. Illegal immigration dropped like a stone after Trump was elected. It fell by 72% in the month after he was sworn in. Apparently the border patrol got the okay to step up enforcement. And they haven’t even built a wall yet.
  20. The economy kicked back into gear. I’ve got work again in the past six months. Now if he’d ditch Obamacare, maybe I could afford some health insurance and could get off Medicaid. I’m tired of being forced to be poor to avoid IRS fines.
  21. Last but not least, WE DO NOT HAVE HILLARY CLINTON AS PRESIDENT AND BILL BACK IN THE WHITE HOUSE CHASING INTERNS UP AND DOWN THE HALLS. That alone gives me a lot of patience with the Donald.

Donald Trump was not my first choice, nor was he my second or third. I didn’t vote for him, nor did I vote for Clinton. I’m still skeptical as all get-out about his sudden outbreak of conservatism, but he has at least racked up a pretty impressive opening salvo. I think he needs to become more skilled at using Twitter, but hey.  It’s entertaining and makes the media frantic, and, as I previously mentioned, this pleases me.

 © 2017 by Tom King

PS:  Make that 22. He just gave his first paycheck $78,000 to historic battlefield preservation - namely the Antietam battlefield.  Donors matched his donation to the tune of more than $265,000 and more than 7.2 million dollars in grants have been received toward the project according to the Secretary of the Interior.  Not bad Donny boy. Not bad at all.