Jeffrey M. Bowen, MNO, CFRE, College Lecturer in Organizational Leadership for the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs, was featured in WalletHub’s “Most Charitable States for 2024” article published on November 6, 2023. In the article, Professor Bowen discusses the biggest challenges facing US nonprofit organizations, how to choose where to donate time and money, the board of trustees' role in providing resources and preventing fraud, and the relationship between tax deductibility of gifts and organization mission.
According to Professor Bowen, US based charities are navigating a complex economic landscape marked by a recent 3.4% dip in donations as per Giving USA's 2023 Annual Report. Factors such as stock market fluctuations, economic instability, and the normalization of philanthropy post-pandemic surge contribute to this challenge. These organizations face the arduous tasks of adapting service delivery to a digital paradigm, overcoming staffing issues stemming from the restructuring in the pandemic's wake, and grappling with political and social turbulence that may impinge on government funding and legal operational boundaries. Meanwhile, American households typically donate 1.7% of their disposable income to charity, a contribution that varies inversely with income.
Professor Bowen also recommended that when choosing a charity, individuals should evaluate the organization's mission, vision, values, transparency, and emotional resonance, among other credibility indicators such as GuideStar or Charity Navigator ratings. Increased scrutiny and regulation for charities exist, primarily through mandatory public disclosure of financial documents like IRS Form 990, and stringent governance by the Board of Trustees. However, not all nonprofits are entitled to tax-deductible contributions; only those with 501(c)(3) status and serving the public good without heavy political involvement qualify, underscoring the principle that tax benefits should align with services benefiting the greater societal good.
“The critical idea here is not how much you give, but to give what you can, as often as you can,” Professor Bowen shared. “Support those causes that speak directly to your heart!"