Friday, December 16, 2011

Tax Breaks for Christmas?

I get two kinds of mail at the end of the year: Christmas cards from friends and end-of-year appeals from nonprofits. The cleverer nonprofits make their end-of-year appeals look like holiday greetings, but we all know better: their fiscal year is coming to a close, and they're looking to end strong.

There are some year-end appeals, however, that I open as eagerly as I do the Christmas cards (and, if I'm being honest, more eagerly than I do some Christmas cards). These are the letters from friends who happen to work for nonprofits. Some of them raise the funds that pay their salaries, which is to say their housing, their health insurance, their kids' education, their retirement. Some of them raise a significant portion of (in some cases the entirety of) the budget for their organizations. Their letters are often not much different in form from the letters that come from more anonymous fundraisers--there are pictures of smiling or frowning kids, pie charts and bar graphs, underlined phrases and digitized signatures--but I know the people behind the letters, and I know that their hearts are in the letters because their hearts are in the work.

The end of the year isn't just Christmas and fiscal-year-end for nonprofits; it's also the end of the tax year. Many of us are staring down some nasty capital gains or unanticipated freelance income to report to the Internal Revenue Service in a matter of weeks; we are sometimes advised in such a situation to give some money away, to jack up our deductibles and offset our tax burden. Or something like that. I'm not typically in such a rosy financial scenario; I am, after all, the 99 percent. Many of you are as well, and you're developing nonprofit fatigue at the same rate as holiday shopping fatigue. I get that, believe me. But you may find yourself with a few extra shekels in your stocking come December 26--the second day of Christmas as well as St. Stephen's Day, for those who pay attention to such things. On that day some years ago, so it is said, good King Wenceslas looked out and saw a poor man gath'ring winter fuel. Wenceslas was sainted for his kindness to those in need, and the song dedicated to him reminds us that "he who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing."

 I write all this as much as anything to serve as a reminder to myself that, like my friends, there are people doing good and often unsung work behind those wearying year-end appeals in between all my Christmas cards--to remind myself that there may yet be some bucks left in the bank after the Christmas shopping is behind us, and those bucks could yet do some good. You may looking for such a reminder yourself. If that's the case, consider yourself reminded.

I've added a sidebar to Loud Time of "Organizations I Like." These are groups led and sustained by people I admire--many of them people I consider dear friends. If you're looking for some nonprofit to bless or to send you that blessed tax receipt this year, I happily commend them all to you. If you're a dear friend or person I admire whose nonprofit organization I've failed to like, feel free to hit me up, and I'll add it. If you have organizations you don't see in the sidebar you'd like to turn me on to, or if you'd like to add your thanks for the organizations you do see there, please comment freely. And in case I forget to say it later, have yourself a merry little Christmas.

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