Happy holidays! This is SmartBrief's last publication for 2019. To close out the year, we have selected the most-read stories that have caught readers' attention and informed their workday. Hope you enjoy this special edition, and we look forward to keeping you smart in 2020!
Artwork by MacArthur Foundation grant recipient Mel Chin (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has unveiled the 26 recipients of its 2019 MacArthur Fellowships, also known as genius grants, who will each receive $625,000. Along with grantee Mel Chin, a conceptual artist, winners work in areas including restorative justice, evolutionary anthropology and theoretical geophysics.
About 15 million taxpayers are expected to file deductions related to charitable contributions in 2018, marking a decrease of more than 50% from 2017's levels, according to the Tax Policy Center. Donors may make lump gifts every several years or use donor-advised funds to maintain the tax benefits of giving after the tax code overhaul, writes Laura Saunders.
Nonprofits can safeguard themselves from increasing scrutiny over the source of their donations and board member actions by having policies in place that outline when someone may be asked to resign, says Melissa Berman, president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Failing to do so can lead to public protests and funding issues, which waste management's time and distract the board, she says, offering the example of Warren Kanders' resignation from the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
A lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association against former President Oliver North alleges North conspired to overthrow CEO Wayne LaPierre and has resulted in the suspension of executive Chris Cox. North reportedly threatened to publicize the use of NRA funds by LaPierre for inappropriate expenses.
Papa John's has launched the Papa John's Foundation for Building Community to advance equality and other positive attributes at the community level. "This foundation is about more than giving dollars, it's about cultivating partnerships that empower communities as they work to overcome barriers to civility and unity," says CEO Steve Ritchie.
US District Judge John Robert Blakey has agreed to consider a lawsuit from Protect Our Parks challenging the construction of the Obama Foundation's $500 million Obama Presidential Center in Chicago's Jackson Park. Protect Our Parks argues that the city unfairly leased the site to the Obama Foundation.
Nonprofits that make changes needed to grow and advance their missions tend to have the support of board members, specific goals for change in place and the belief that change can be achieved, Nell Edgington writes. "[A] significant amount of both board and staff leadership must realize that the status quo just won't do anymore," Edgington writes.
Cool down a heated conversation by using phrases such as "Tell me more" or "Let's take a breather" to create space for understanding and sharing, writes Lolly Daskal. "If you let people know you are with them, you can not only resolve the current situation more readily but also avoid future confrontations," Daskal writes.
When learning new skills, pick only a couple and try to select goals that force you beyond your comfort zone, Henna Inam writes. She offers four questions to uncover the values and skills you desire, including your most important value and a behavior that inspires you.
An hour of a volunteer's time was worth a record $25.43 in 2018, with roughly 63 million Americans pledging about 8 billion hours during the period, according to the Independent Sector. "Volunteerism has been a driving force in the strength and power of our civil society since this country's founding," says Independent Sector President and CEO Dan Cardinali.
Tough conversations require two-way communication as well as empathy, whether you are overhauling workflow or holding a performance review. "Your ability to attempt to see issues through the eyes of your audience may be the greatest superpower you will develop during your career (and life)," writes Art Petty.
Men's grant proposals get better review scores than ones from women, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study of nearly 7,000 submissions to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that was conducted with the researchers' genders obscured. Reviewers preferred men's word choices, which tended to be broader and less specific, but the winning proposals did not end up outperforming women's projects, the study found.
Are you providing your new board members with the tools they need to succeed? This orientation checklist provides important information and materials you should share with incoming board members to ensure they are prepared for board service. Download this free checklist today.
Dream teams evolve over time and are the result of being strategic about the team-building process. Nonprofit boards are no different. Broken down into three interconnected phases, The Board-Building Cycle is here to help you build a dream board team. Buy it now.
In observance of New Year's Day, SmartBrief will not publish Tuesday and Wednesday. Publication will resume Thursday.
Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
Hal Borland, writer, journalist, naturalist
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