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DID YOU KNOW? This year marks the 175th year since literary legend Charles Dickens released his classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. Published on December 19, 1843, the full title of the book reads, A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. The short novel became an instant best-seller in both England and the United States, with every one of its 6,000 copies selling out within six days of its publication. By 1844, thirteen editions of A Christmas Carol had been written. To this day, the story is widely considered one of the most prominent Christmas tales in modern literature. It tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cranky old miser who has rejected his family and lives in solitude, indifferent to the needs of society and poverty of those living quite literally outside his window. Scrooge is then visited by the ghost of his old business partner, Jacob Marley, who sends the spirits of Christmas past, present, and future who show Scrooge his misguided ways and transform him into a kind and more generous man. To read more about how Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has influenced modern day Christmas traditions and cuisine, check out this article from the BBC.

1. Altering the Landscape of Corporate Giving  

A recent article in Forbes discusses how emerging charity platform, Benevity, is restructuring the world of corporate giving. By creating personalized accounts for a each of a company’s employees, Benevity, Inc. allows users to automatically direct part of their electronic paychecks to the charity of their choice. The software even gives employees the option to apply for a company donation match if their selected charity meets certain criteria. Participants can also use their Benevity accounts to sign up for volunteer work that might make them eligible for a corporate donation match or that is able to take place during work hours. “Benevity not only makes giving more convenient but also democratizes it—putting control in the hands of ordinary workers,” the article states. Of the near two million charities worldwide now available to receive donations on the platform, Benevity reported that Planned Parenthood was the top recipient of charitable giving through its platform this year. Other charities that made it into recipients with the highest contributions include: “the American Civil Liberties Union, Doctors Without Borders and Islamic Relief Worldwide, as well as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.” Between 2016 and 2018, the amount of money processed through Benevity more than doubled, with an impressive $649 million in donations processed in fiscal year 2018. Bryan de Lottinville, the company’s founder and CEO, says a critical moment in Benevity’s development came when he realized its potential usefulness for large employers looking to “court Millennial workers by playing to their sense of social responsibility.” To find out more about the history of Benevity, how the company is evolving to accommodate larger givers with donor-advised-funds, and how your organization might be able to benefit from its services, check out the link above.

2. Proposed Update to Nonprofit Accounting Will Change Measurements of Intangible Assets

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) recently announced an update to a proposed nonprofit accounting rule that would affect how nonprofits measure certain intangible assets, among other things. FASB set a deadline of February 18, 2019, for any comments on the proposed accounting standards update (ASU). The complex update boasts the appropriately long title: “Intangibles — Goodwill and Other (Topic 350), Business Combinations (Topic 805), and Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958) Extending the Private Company Accounting Alternatives on Goodwill and Certain Identifiable Intangible Assets to Not-for-Profit Entities.” Back in 2014, after concerns arose from several private companies, FASB issued an accounting standards update meant to simplify accounting for goodwill. According to an article in the Nonprofit Times reporting on this latest update, the most recent ASU would allow nonprofits to pass up testing goodwill impairment at the reporting unit level. Specifically, according to the article, nonprofits would “be able to amortize goodwill over 10 years or less, on a straight-line basis, test for impairment upon a triggering event, elect to test for impairment at the entity level, and, incorporate certain customer-related intangible assets and all non-compete agreements into goodwill.” To find out the specifics of the proposed update, what questions FASB is asking about it, and how it might affect the accounting of your organization, visit the link to the article above.

3. Improving Health Benefits on a Budget

Attracting employees to the nonprofit world is often difficult enough without the added disadvantage of decreasing budgets for benefits packages. A recent article by Martin Trussell of the Forbes Nonprofit Council gives small organizations tips on creating big changes in the health care offerings for their employees. As benefit packages have the potential to make or break employee decisions regarding future job openings, it is important that even organizations with limited budgets make the sometimes minor changes necessary to make their openings that much more attractive. A recent study measures that “more than half (55%) of employees surveyed would be at least somewhat likely to accept a job with lower compensation but a more robust benefits package." One of the ways the article suggests nonprofits can improve benefits is by offering tax-preferred accounts, such as flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). Considered a simple and inexpensive bonus to any benefit plan, these accounts can be paid for using deducted payroll from pre-taxed employee salaries. Another suggestion encourages nonprofits that have not already done so to implement a wellness program to help keep their employees healthy and prevent possible health needs down the line. Elements of a wellness program can include anything from providing nutritious snack alternatives at work, to carrying out health risk assessments, to investing in more ergonomic furniture. A recent RAND Corporation survey reported that 69 percent of employers with over 50 employees had wellness programs in place. To read more tips on how to boost the health benefit packages available at your nonprofit on a budget, click on the article above.

4. NAACP Calls for Boycott of Tech Giant

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recently called for a weeklong boycott of social media platforms Facebook and Instagram after reports were released last week that claim Russian online trolls used these sites to target Black voters. The Russian troll factory, called the “Internet Research Agency” (IRA), supposedly used voter suppression messages to target these voters and keep them away from the polls. “#LogOutFacebook,” what the organization is calling this boycott movement, now appears in large white letters on the homepage of the NAACP website. A statement released by the organization said it would be implementing this boycott “in response to the tech company’s history of data hacks which unfairly target its users of color.” Two of the reports were put together by Oxford University and New Knowledge, a cybersecurity firm, and were presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee last week. Both reports concluded that the campaign by the Russians was clearly meant to target Black voters and “shared and cross-promoted authentic Black media to create an immersive influence ecosystem” in order to do so. A third report, released this week by Amnesty International along with Element AI, highlights the specific targeting of women and women of color in the campaign, particularly using the social media platform Twitter. In an even bolder and more shocking act of protest, the NAACP announced it would be returning a donation from Facebook in response to the company’s failure to protect the privacy of its users, particularly its users of color, and accused the tech giant of putting corporate interests before the safety and privacy of these users. For more information on the NAACP’s announcement and what specific reports are saying about Facebook’s role in the data breach, click on the article above from Nonprofit Quarterly.

5. Charitable Giving: A Year in Review

As this calendar year of charitable giving quickly draws to a close, we can take a look back at significant records broken and emerging trends in the nonprofit world. A few surveys released this year identify such trends using data from 2017, the latest period with data available. According to the National Philanthropic Trust’s Annual Report released in October, assets in donor-advised funds (DAFs) meant for charitable grants exceeded the $100 billion mark for the first time. The report also found that grant totals rose in 2017 to $19.1 billion, up from $15.9 billion the previous year. Foundation Source reported in July that “private foundations with less than $50 million in assets earned more, gave more and received more contributions from their donors in 2017 than they did during the previous year.” Cygnus Applied Research also released a survey this year that measured changes in overall giving patterns. Of the more than 12,000 donors surveyed, 53 percent donated more to nonprofits in 2017 than the previous year, with only 8 percent, the lowest percentage ever recorded, reporting to have given less. While more than half of these donors (55 percent) cited increased financial stability as the main reason for increased levels of giving, a striking 38 percent reported increasing their donations due to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Finally, several studies cited a dramatic increase in the number of private foundations. To learn more about the charitable giving highlights of the last year and what surveys are saying made it a year to remember, check out the article from ThinkAdvisor above.

That’s it for this week’s Friday Five! To read some of the news clippings written by the New York Times about Charles Dickens’s holiday novel, check out this article.

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