Sandra Day O’Connor being sworn in by Justice Warren Burger, with her husband John O’Connor (9/25/1981)

DID YOU KNOW? Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Born on March 26, 1930, in El Paso, Texas, O’Connor served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1981 to 2006. After serving as the Deputy Attorney in San Mateo County in California, the Civil Attorney for the German Army, and the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Arizona, among other things, she was elected as a Republican to the Arizona Senate in 1969. There, O’Connor became the first women in the United States to rise to the position of majority leader in the Senate. In the summer of 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated O’Connor to the Supreme Court to fill the vacant spot of newly retired Justice Potter Stewart. O’Connor was unanimously confirmed by the Senate and sworn in as the first female justice to the Supreme Court on September 25, 1981. Throughout her service on the Supreme Court, O’Connor heard several prominent cases. Although considered a moderate conservative by most, she was often a significant swing vote on the bench, especially regarding cases of election law and abortion rights. In 2006, O’Connor retired from the Supreme Court and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Today, three women serve in the highest judicial position in the country: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. But before finding out more about the journeys of these brave women, check out these nonprofit headlines of the week.

1. Google to Waive Fees for New Android Donation Feature

Google is feeling extra generous this holiday season. Last week, the search engine launched its “Giving Season on Play,” a program that will allow Android users to donate to their favorite nonprofits through its Play Store app, all without requiring any donation processing fees. By waiving its classic 30 percent fee for all app and in-app purchases, the company’s new donation feature will allow 100 percent of charitable gifts to go directly to the nonprofits they are supporting. Maxim Mai, Google Play’s Business Developer Manager, reported that the feature will not be restricted solely to Play Store users in the United States, claiming that it will soon become available to users in Canada, Mexico, Germany, Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Taiwan, and Indonesia. According to an article in The Verge reporting on this new feature, the growing list of nonprofits that users can donate to through the program includes organizations such as Girls Who Code, the American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders USA, UNICEF, and more. Yet Google is not the only one encouraging mobile donations to nonprofits. A few years ago, Apple began processing mobile donations on its App Store, many of which benefited the Red Cross in the wake of natural disasters. These donations helped fund relief efforts during Hurricane Harvey last year and in the aftermath of the devastating California wildfires this year. So, whether your supporters prefer Androids or iPhones, donating to your nonprofit just became that much easier. To find out more about Google’s new Giving Season on Play, see the full list of nonprofits already involved, and find out how your organization might benefit from this new feature, check out the article linked above.

2. How to Get Your Trustees to Prioritize Your Brand

Although more and more marketers are moving from the for-profit to the nonprofit sector, most organizations still lack personnel and board members with experience in marketing and are thus unable to justify expanding marketing budgets. A recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy offers advice to nonprofits hoping to persuade their trustees of the necessity of investing in marketing and communications. First, the article recommends keeping it simple. Ditch the fancy marketing jargon and buzzwords like “brand positioning” and “brand imagery” that will likely go right over your board members’ heads. Instead, keep your message succinct – demonstrate how putting more effort into your public profile will lead to a boost in fundraising and use data to backup your claims. Second, the article suggests finding a data analyst to calculate exactly how much of your overall budget you would need to transfer to marketing in order to see positive results, or your “breakthrough” cost. This will not only allow you to understand exactly how your budget will shift, but also to create projections for specific quarters that you can use to keep your board members up to date on your current progress. Although some such projections might be difficult to make or based on guesswork, your board is likely to appreciate this kind of specificity in your proposal. Third, if your organization has not done so already, begin developing a data collection system that can track both brand awareness and brand perceptions. This will give you concrete numbers to present to trustees when making the case for a larger marketing budget. According to the article, a popular metric for nonprofits to collect is “claimed intent,” which involves “comparing the public’s expressed intent to give money to a specific charity with the amount actually donated.” To find out the fourth and final pillar of a convincing ask for greater marketing funding and learn more specifics to include in your proposal, check out the article above.

3. Senate (Barely) Votes to Overturn Donor Disclosure Restriction

Last week, in a narrow 50 to 49 vote, the Senate moved to overturn a donor disclosure mandate passed under the Trump administration that allowed 501(c)(4)s to withhold donor identities from the government. An article in the Washington Post reported that this decision reflects a “growing unease among Democrats over the influence of wealthy donors and foreign actors in U.S. elections,” but will have little chance of surviving in the Republican-led House or receive the support of the president. Back in July, the Treasury Department under the Trump Administration enacted a rule that no longer required these organizations to disclose the names or addresses of their donors to the IRS. They were, however, still required to hold onto donor information and turn it over to the IRS should it be requested. Outspoken critics of this new rule, including Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), argue that “dark money” groups threaten democracy by removing transparency from sources of funding for political activity. Those that supported this move by the Treasury Department, including Brent Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer for Americans for Prosperity, a group backed by billionaire Charles Koch, contend that donors should be allowed to participate in political activity in accordance with their personal beliefs “without fear of reprisal.” Although the Senate’s vote to overturn this rule will face an uphill, if not impossible, battle in the House, many think last week’s decision was a symbolic win for supporters of campaign finance restrictions. Wyden, currently the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said that the decision was a “huge first step in America’s fight against anonymous political insiders looking to tighten their grip on Washington.” To find out more about how this rule, or the reversal of this rule, might affect the tax filings of your nonprofit, and to read more about what this vote could mean for the future of 501(c)(4) participation in politics, click on the article from the Washington Post above.

4. U.S. Ranks Fourth on Generosity Scale Despite High Donation Totals

A recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that Americans donated around $410 billion to charity in 2017. Yet while this is quite an impressive figure, the latest Gallup study ranked the United States fourth in the world in terms of “generosity.” The study, which collected data from 153,000 people in 146 countries, ranked Indonesia as the most generous country in the world, followed by Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Ireland, in that order. It reported that while 61 percent of Americans claim to have donated to charity, an impressive 78 percent of people living in Indonesia claim the same. Indonesians were also found to donate more of their time to charitable organizations than Americans. Jon Clifton, Global Managing Partner at Gallup, highlighted a key takeaway of the study in the report when he wrote, “the United States is often considered the most generous country in the world . . . You don’t need to be rich to give back.” Clifton predicted that these findings would come as a surprise to most, as many people assume that the measurements of spending power are directly correlated with those of generosity. Yet countries with significantly lower GDPs than the U.S. found themselves among the most generous in the world, with countries like Bahrain, Kenya, and Myanmar ranked in the top ten. China fell far below these countries in the findings, ranking third from the bottom. Many of the lower scores, as predicted, were given to countries with significant turmoil and instability, including Greece, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Turkey. So, while the U.S. is home to a widespread and successful nonprofit sector, your nonprofit might even want to consider contacting organizations in parts of the world who seem to have created an even more prominent culture of generosity and see how we can mirror their successful efforts here in the U.S. To read more findings from the study, visit the article above.

5. New Year, New Donor Trends

As 2019 is quickly approaches, it is important to understand the possible changes to giving patterns that await you in the new year. An article in Time Magazine highlights a few of the major predictions from philanthropy experts that nonprofits should expect to find in the upcoming year. Although the latest tax law will be a major driver of such changes, other determinants of shifting patterns of charitable giving include new technologies and cultural movements. First, experts predict a significant increase in “bundling,” or grouping donations together in larger sums rather than giving smaller sums multiple times, in response to the heightened threshold on charitable deductions in the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Another anticipated trend is an increase in crowdfunding on social media platforms. Una Odili, a Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, suggests that this is the result of the convergence of two patterns: “the desire of donors to personalize their giving, and advances in technology that make giving, or asking others to give on your behalf, as easy as typing up a heartfelt message and hitting ‘enter.’” According to the article, experts also predict the continued expansion of what is commonly referred to as “ultra-philanthropy,” or the dominance of large donors in the giving world. Paul Schervish, Professor Emeritus and retired Director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College, predicts that “we’re going to continue to find that the top one-half of 1% will be giving about 30% of all the charitable dollars.” While these major charitable donations given by powerful figures like Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg will continue to have significant and positive impacts in the sector, this inflation of “ultra-philanthropy” might leave smaller nonprofits, who typically rely on small to medium-sized donations, facing even steeper uphill battles when it comes to fundraising. Other notable trends predicted for the new year include a proliferation of impact investing and a greater role for women and donors of diverse backgrounds in philanthropic leadership positions. To learn more about what 2019 might have in store and what your organization can do to prepare for altered giving patterns, check out the article above.  

That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! For more information on the historically male-dominant structure of the Supreme Court and how this breakdown has shifted slightly over time thanks to brave justices like Sandra Day O’Connor, Thurgood Marshall, Sonia Sotomayor, and more, check out this article.

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