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Growing Volunteers And Philanthropic Support

Recently, The Bonadio Group and I sponsored a fundraising event for our client and my alma mater, Bishop Kearney High School. The fantastic results from the event reminded me once again of both the importance and the responsibility of the Baby Boom generation to help secure the long-term fiscal viability and stability of tax-exempt organizations in our respective communities. This article discusses how the future viability of your organization can be enhanced through coordinated volunteer efforts and more aggressive fundraising and development activities.

The US Census Bureau estimates that there are 74.1 million Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964). The Baby Boom population is retiring at an average rate of 10,000 individuals every day for the next 10 years. The individuals who are retiring each day create an enormous opportunity for tax-exempt organizations. The abundance of people resources, experience, and talent that enters the retirement ranks each day must be tapped by the tax-exempt sector in amounts never seen before. I personally feel that the success of Uber and Lyft can largely be attributed to the Baby Boom generation’s desire for meaningful activities. The opportunity and availability of volunteer people resources is clearly at what many consider to be a historic high in the US. Accordingly, every organization’s strategic plan should have a goal of how best to capitalize on the availability of free and experienced labor. Technology advancements only add to this potential, since people can volunteer from the comfort of their own home.

In addition to volunteerism, virtually every tax-exempt organization’s strategic plan must also include goals and action steps that include more aggressive fundraising efforts. The tax-exempt service sector is in the midst of a seminal change from the past 60 years beginning with LBJ’s “Great Society”, which gave birth to both the Medicare and Medicaid programs in 1965. As all levels of government are now publicizing increasing stress on their ability to fund safety net health and human service providers, this transformation and the resulting revenue gap must be replaced.

Accordingly, I offer the following 10 recommendations for your consideration as an individual volunteer, Board member, or management of a tax-exempt organization. While certain of these suggestions may seem obvious and “old news”, you would be amazed at how many tax-exempt organizations do not place appropriate emphasis on volunteerism and philanthropic support.

  1. No substantial progress can be accomplished by charitable organizations or government if we do not make progress on the overwhelming challenges faced by our urban core. To that end, the public education sector in our communities, particularly in our City schools, continues to be a source of extraordinary frustration and lack of educational success for urban youth. Societal issues of poverty, violence, substance abuse, and lack of nutrition, coupled with the decline of the nuclear family, have resulted in extraordinary challenges. There are numerous volunteer opportunities in urban education as well as those tax-exempt organizations that provide support to the education of our youth.
  2. To be more specific, follow the example of our local Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs, as well as many other fraternal organizations, which offer tremendous value in terms of both volunteer support and financial contributions to support urban educational excellence that is not available within the budgetary constraints of our City School District.
  3. Identify families, including empty-nesters and the ever-growing early retiree constituency, who have the time and energy to adopt a student for character development, job opportunities, and developing social skills. Big Brothers Big Sisters and Compeer are two excellent organizations that effectively coordinate these services.
  4. Through social service referrals, find volunteers willing to adopt an at-risk family with children to provide monthly financial support and volunteer mentoring for our at-risk youth.
  5. There has been extensive media coverage of the continued racial divides in our country. Each of us has something to offer, either overtly or anonymously, through random acts of kindness and generosity. Support at the core of these issues has recently been enhanced by a $15 million five-year grant that will address the coordinated Anti-Poverty Initiative involving extensive community collaboration. There are dozens of tax-exempt and faith-based organizations devoting their primary mission to addressing and improving the core issues facing the City of Rochester. These initiatives are an excellent example of the benefits to be derived from a coalition of collaborative tax-exempt organizations.
  6. Businesses in the community can offer regular and frequent job-shadowing opportunities for secondary school students to provide exposure, awareness, and the reality of a job experience to our at-risk youth. Even better, sponsoring scholarships for at-risk youth can result in extraordinary benefits for those provided with an excellent education.
  7. Using the existing infrastructure of The Community Foundation and the United Way, together with our City School District-sponsored charitable foundation, encourage and promote the concept of charitable donations from alumni, businesses, and friends who want to see Rochester succeed.
  8. Healthcare systems and higher education organizations have an extraordinary track record in both volunteerism and philanthropic initiatives. There is no need to re-create the wheel. Learn from those who have been consistently successful in capitalizing on the value of volunteer time and financial support.
  9. Publicize your accomplishments in both volunteer services and fundraising initiatives, making maximum use of social media platforms. There is a long history of the importance of communicating effectively with your targeted audience in each of these areas.
  10. Figure out a way to connect with those Baby Boomer retirees. It is clear that strong philanthropic support for tax-exempt organizations frequently follows the volunteer connection and related effort.

Each of the foregoing suggestions may require further discussion and tailoring for your particular organization’s facts and circumstances. I do believe that the resurgence of downtown development and the related focus of many organizations on addressing the core issues of urban decay and our social service infrastructure will be a key component of assessing the success of these various initiatives for your organization. Although this article is focused on Rochester, the concepts can be applied to any of our communities.

This material has been prepared for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. Should you require any such advice, please contact us directly. The information contained herein does not create, and your review or use of the information does not constitute, an accountant-client relationship.