Our Blog Has Moved!

As part of our name change from Servant Christian Community Foundation to National Christian Foundation Heartland, we’ve moved the blog to a new location. To read the latest posts and catch news from the generosity movement, visit:

www.nationalchristian.com/heartland

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Why We Changed Our Name

On April 18, Servant Foundation will assume the name of our national affiliate, the National Christian Foundation.

Since our beginning in 2000 as the first local chapter of National Christian Foundation (NCF), Servant Christian Community Foundation has granted over $430 million to churches and ministries within our community and beyond, spanning all fifty states.

So why the change? We believe that adopting the National Christian Foundation’s brand will open the door to new donors and greater giving. By working as one with NCF, we can do more to simplify giving, multiply impact and glorify God.

Rest assured that although our name will change, our mission will not. Our focus is to ignite a culture of biblical generosity to fund the Kingdom and change the world. We will continue to inspire, teach and facilitate a movement of generosity throughout God’s Kingdom.

Our purpose – to aggressively seek innovative ways to spread the gospel – remains unchanged. As does our team: the people you’ve come to know and trust are still here. As National Christian Foundation Heartland, we will continue to serve as your advocate for funding revolutionary biblical generosity locally, nationally and around the world.

We hope you will welcome our name change, new logo and updated website, and continue helping us spread God’s Word and funding the Kingdom. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call or email.

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

Onward,
William High
President / General Counsel, Heartland
National Christian Foundation

Traveling Gold

You know what they say, “just follow the money.” Well, that’s true in scripture too.

Consider this. The first place that gold is mentioned in the scriptures is actually in the Garden of Eden:

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that   land is good… (Gen. 2.10-11)

And why not? Why wouldn’t the land of paradise have gold? Naturally, it would.

But with the fall of man, we see gold become an object to wrestle over it. Men accumulated it. Abraham had a lot of it. Men melt it down and reshape it, and literally idolize it. It covers the doors of palaces, thrones, and fills the treasuries.

Wars get fought over it. The kings carried it off, and yet still other kings attacked and carried it off to their own palaces. David. Solomon. Nebuchadnezzar. Cyrus. Darius. Back and forth, back and forth in wheelbarrows no less I suspect.

But with every story, and with every money trail, there’s always a conclusion. And in the case of gold, there’s an end for it as well. The gold of Eden, gold which is good, is found one again in the book of Revelation. It is the culmination, the apex of history, the dawn of a new era when we all return to the new Eden. It’s positioned appropriately in the new city, the new Jerusalem:

Pavement.

William High is the President of the Servant Foundation (www.servantchristian.com). Servant’s mission is to inspire, teach and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity. He may be reached at whigh@servantchristian.com.

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I Don’t Know Where to Give

Did you read the story of the Michigan university that just received a gift of $100 million dollars to start a hospital?

The gift was anonymous, and I certainly don’t know the details. But nonetheless it makes one pause. What were the circumstances that lead to the gift? Certainly, we’ve read or seen situations like this where a donor makes a large gift with little apparent tie to an organization. Why?

In some cases, the donors just didn’t know where to give. Think about this situation: a $100 million dollar gift to start a hospital. Does the community need a hospital? Where will the nurses and doctors come from? In this day of consolidation, will there be an overlap of services? Will this lead to another empty building somewhere?

One of the first foundation conferences I attended, a church was in attendance because they were looking at starting a foundation from scratch. Why? Because a donor had just left them a $17 million dollar gift, they were forced to scramble. In this case the donor had little relationship to the church. In short, he just didn’t know where to give.

As we see the Boomer generation heading toward retirement and the sale of their businesses, we’ll see more and more of this. If these relationships are not nurtured, maintained, found and developed, we’ll see more desperation gifts—gifts with no apparent relationship to the charity.

Indeed, how much better if the donor can learn to develop his natural passion for giving and can develop a strategic plan for giving. That approach will take a wise and seasoned team set up to serve givers in that way.

William High is the President of the Servant Foundation (www.servantchristian.com). Servant’s mission is to inspire, teach and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity. He may be reached at whigh@servantchristian.com.

Could Charity Marketing Programs Actually Hurt Donations?

We’ve all seen the Red Campaign to raise awareness and dollars for the fight against AIDS in Africa by giving a small portion of the profits of from sales of certain products (coffee, yogurt, t-shirts) to charity.  (An example is below).  But have you ever wondered if all that buying of cause-related products hurts donations to charities? The answer is yes, according to a study from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

“If two consumers have equal preference for a product, which is offered at the same price to both, but one of them buys this product as a cause-marketing product, her charitable giving will be lower than the other’s,” Ms. Krishna writes.

It was a reminder to me to see my purchase of Newmans’ Own products (the profits of which are donated to charity) as simply another purchase, rather than as a charitable gift.  It’s also prompting me to ask myself what are the unintended consequences of other innovative fundraising initiatives?

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Silence

There’s an old cliché that Silence is Golden.  When my kids were young and I was a stay at home mom I would have followed that cliché with a resounding Amen!  But as a giver I feel a little differently.

When I give it’s because I want to be a part of something – something bigger than myself.  The reality is that I am not Rockefeller or Gates when it comes to the dollars I give. . . but my heart doesn’t know the difference.  The dollars, limited as they may be, are expressions of my heart. I want to be a part of something. I want to make a difference. It is a journey that I am slowly growing in but I admit that I wonder if the organizations that I give to understand or care about that journey.

Being part of the Servant Foundation I get to be part of some pretty major gifts and as a Foundation representative I receive many notes of appreciation and encouragement.  But the personal giving side looks much different. A note of thanks is a rarity.  Sometimes there is literally no communication – form letter, receipt or otherwise.  In this case, Silence is Deafening. Without communication I assume my giving doesn’t matter.

Earlier this week the silence ended. I received a hand-written, personal note from a ministry leader that made my heart leap for joy. The interesting thing is that this ministry is one I haven’t given to in several years.  The note was a reflection of what our personal support (not just the giving but the words of encouragement, etc) meant to this leader.  It served as a reminder that maybe the little guy can make a difference.  The note caused me to revisit the ministry and re-engage my commitment to the cause.  Guess who’s on the top of my giving list this year?

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Why Tuesday’s Supreme Court Ruling Matters to You

The Supreme Court yesterday handed down a decision (ACSTO v. Winn) that experts consider a win for proponents of parental choice in education. But the case has other significant ramifications for charitable giving, as explained by National Christian Foundation’s President, David Wills:

Tuesday’s ruling on parental choice in education is undoubtedly a significant victory for several states, including my home state of Georgia. However, there is another angle at the heart of this case that is quite important to us all: the nature of dollars deducted as charitable donations. Are charitable gifts government money or private money? The answer over the last several years coming out of DC has clearly been the former. In fact, you may have heard me mention that the the term ‘government subsidy’ is often used by our elected officials and their key staffers – both Republican and Democrat – when describing any funds that generate a charitable income tax deduction.

Whose Dollars Are Your Dollars?

The majority opinion makes the point that there is a distinction between a government appropriation and a personal expenditure that results in a tax benefit. The former is public money. That is to say, when the government collects tax revenue and then determines where those funds are to be spent, that is money over which the government does and should have control.

On the other hand, when a taxpayer makes a charitable gift and receives a deduction for doing so, the reality of the deduction does not change the nature of the funds.  The funds retain their status as private, non-governmental dollars.  The individuals who have earned and given those funds retains the private right to determine the use of those funds. Simply, a deduction or credit does not cause such funds to become the property of the federal government.

At first blush, one might think, ‘Of course, those are private funds.’ Don’t think so too quickly…and read Justice Kagan’s dissenting opinion.  Though I disagree with it, it is well reasoned. We are to be thankful that Justice Kennedy sided with the conservatives on the court and a 5-4 decision was rendered.  He essentially said that there was no standing for bringing the suit because the taxpayer (Winn) was not harmed because the funds were not governments funds.

Kennedy wrote: “A dissenter whose tax dollars are ‘extracted and spent’ knows that he has in some small measure been made to contribute to an establishment [of religion] in violation of conscience…”  On the other hand, with a tax credit the funds were never collected in the first place. “When the government declines to impose a tax,” Kennedy wrote, “there is no such connection between dissenting taxpayer and alleged establishment.”

Inside The Progressive Mind

Kagan countered by calling the distinction between tax appropriations and credits “arbitrary.”  She wrote, “Either way, the government has financed the religious activity. And so either way, taxpayers should be able to
 challenge the subsidy.”

Here is an excerpt from the NYT regarding Kagan’s dissent:

In her dissent in the case, Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn, No. 09-987, Justice Kagan said the majority’s position was an elevation of form over substance. “Taxpayers experience the same injury for standing purposes,” she wrote, “whether government subsidization of religion takes the form of a cash grant or a tax measure.”

She offered examples. “Suppose a state desires to reward Jews — by, say, $500 per year — for their religious devotion,” she wrote. Would it matter to
 taxpayers offended by the practice whether the reward came in the form of a government stipend or a tax credit?

“Or assume,” she wrote, “a state wishes to subsidize the ownership of crucifixes” in one of three ways. It could purchase them in bulk and distribute them; it could reimburse buyers with a check; or it could pay with a tax credit.

“Now, really — do taxpayers have less reason to complain if the state selects the last of these three options?” Justice Kagan asked. Justice Kagan said the majority’s opinion was particularly surprising because the court had never thought the point even worth arguing over. “To the contrary: We have faced the identical situation five times — including in a prior incarnation of this very case! — and we have five times resolved the suit without questioning the plaintiffs’ standing,” she wrote.

Note where she uses the phrase: ‘government subsidization of religion’. When this belief becomes widespread, the charitable income tax deduction (or in this case a tax credit) for contributions to any religious organizations will eventually end.

A WSJ op-ed with a different slant began, “The Supreme Court’s big school choice decision yesterday is notable mainly for its insight into the progressive mind. To wit, no fewer than four Justices seem to believe that all wealth belongs to the government, and then government allows citizens to keep some of it by declining to tax it.”

Hanging in the Balance

This decision is a good news case for charitable giving, but let us not be lulled into thinking we have won the war.  We have only won a battle and are only one vote away from sweeping changes regarding the taxpayer and religious activity of many kinds.

One thing that is needed now are well reasoned law review articles that substantiate the ruling of the majority in this case and help under gird this ruling for future courts. A great deal is hanging in the balance.

David Wills serves as president of the National Christian Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia. He lectures throughout the country on issues involving foundations and nonprofit organizations, the transition of wealth, responsibility from one generation to the next, as well as tax and spiritual issues in charitable giving. Learn more about the National Christian Foundation and our other affiliates at www.servantchristian.com.