Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nonprofits Talking Taxes

Earlier this month I attended a workshop at the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County called "Show Me the Money: Nonprofits Talking Taxes." The workshop was conducted by Kim Klein, a well-known, much respected, and quite beloved fundraising consultant and trainer.

But "talking taxes"? Kim Klein is the grassroots fundraising guru, not an economist or policy wonk. But, as she explained at the start of the workshop, over the past several years of the recession-that-will-not-end, with each round of budget cuts at all levels of government, more and more public institutions were turning to private foundations and individual donors to fill the gap.

Nonprofits that have always relied on those sources were suddenly in competition with schools and libraries. Not to mention those nonprofits who had been reliant on government funding suddenly got the message about diversifying their fund development plan and were also doing their first fundraising letters and grant proposals. Of course, the funds available did not grow. In fact, many foundations (and many individual donors) have less resources to meet these rising needs.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit sector as a whole has been remarkably silent in the public discussion of government budget cuts, tax cuts, and the unwillingness of many to talk about new revenue. Those behind Nonprofits Talking Taxes believed that it's high time for the sector to get involved in this debate as if our organization's lives depended on it, because that's not far from the truth.

This is not simply a fight for those nonprofits who receive government funding; this is about all of us who care about what direction our society and our communities are heading. As has been said by many, a government budget is not simply a financial document, it is a direct reflection of a community's values. So what does the California State budget say about our values, that it sacrifices the jobs of teachers rather than inconvenience corporations?

The workshop was not all gloom and doom. Quite the opposite. Through humor and group participation, we learned more about the state budget, taxes, why all nonprofit professionals should care about it, and left feeling optimistic; that we can have some control and say over the future direction of our state.

For an example of how humor is used to talk about the topic, click here to take the "Nonprofit Tax Quiz" that Kim created (on Blue Avocado).

These workshops are free, and are available to any nonprofit group in California. For those elsewhere, I'm sure they'd be happy to provide some guidance to creating a Nonprofits Talking Taxes curriculum for your state.

Learn more at the Nonprofits Talking Taxes website.