Race is on for year-end giving

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Americans for Peace Now is a small organization. When those end-of-the-year checks come in, the entire staff gathers to open envelopes, categorize checks and revel in the messages of support and encouragement.

“Part of it is just to take part in an endeavor that is heartwarming,” said Ori Nir, spokesman for the organization.


And they’re not alone. Half of all nonprofit organizations receive more than half of their annual donations in the last quarter of the year, according to Bloomberg.

“We do the majority of our revenue in the last six weeks of the year,” said Zach Briton, campaign director for Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. “We spend all year fundraising and build those relationships, but we know people are making their giving decisions this time of year. This is our Super Bowl. It’s crunch time.”

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For this year’s Giving Tuesday, which was Nov. 28, the Federation has a matching grant through Dec. 8, meaning all new or increased gifts are matched fully.

The Rockville-based Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse receives about one-third of its annual gifts beginning with its annual 5k race in October, said Hannah Zollman, director of development and communications. The group had a campaign for Giving Tuesday called Give 10 Share 10, urging supporters to give $10 and then share the organization’s campaign with 10 friends or family asking them also to give.


“We want to make everyone feel like they can give a little and still make an impact,” Zollman said.

But it’s the organization’s “Light the Way” campaign centered on Chanukah that is its biggest fundraiser of the year, Zollman said. JCADA is asking supporters to light a purple candle on Dec. 19 to raise awareness for domestic abuse. The group sends about 3,000 candles every year to individuals, synagogues and other groups. Many recipients send a check in return.

JCADA’s leaders are also looking to see whether the recent increase in attention to issues around sexual harassment and assault — the #MeToo campaign and waves of allegations against public figures — will translate to support for organizations like them, Zollman said.

For Americans for Peace Now, which advocates for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and opposes construction of Israeli settlements, current events are making fundraising this year a little tougher.

“This is a difficult year for organizations that deal with foreign affairs,” Nir said. “I think it’s a year where Americans are focused on domestic affairs — and for good reason. And our issue is one where progress is slow. It’s a marathon.”

The majority of APN’s donors are small givers who donate $100 or less, he said, noting that one-third to one-half of donations to the organization come at the end of the year.

“It’s definitely the most important time of the year [for fundraising],” he said.

And it’s not just about giving money, but time. Audrey Siegel, executive director of Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington, which provides services to those who are sick or caregiving in the Jewish community, said that along with year-end fundraising, this is also a time many volunteers get more involved. Bikur Cholim, a small organization, relies on volunteers, she said.

The organization had an initiative for Giving Tuesday, but is also focused on its Meir L’Olam hospital pantries campaign, which aims to put kosher food pantries in more local hospitals and was launched in October.

Bikur Cholim, JCADA and APN also use Amazon Smile, which donates a portion of purchase amounts to the customer’s chosen charity. In addition, APN is considering crowdsourcing projects, Nir said.

One of the reasons — beyond holiday spirit — that so many people give to nonprofits at the end of the year is to be able to claim charitable deductions on their taxes.

However, the tax incentive for charitable giving could be hitting a roadblock. The GOP tax bill, which passed the House of Representatives in November, leaves the charitable giving deduction in place. But it raises the standard deduction, meaning individuals have less of an incentive to take itemized deductions, like the one for charitable giving.

The bill also repeals the estate tax, which could reduce charitable bequests by 15 to 30 percent, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Overall, the center estimates, charitable giving could drop by $12 billion to $20 billion in 2018 if both tax changes become law.

Briton and Zollman say they remain hopeful that people are giving to their organizations because they believe in the mission, not for the write-off.

Said Briton, “We know the community has responded positively philanthropically because it wants to, not because of tax deductions.”

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