blog from phone?

Could this possibly work? I am testing to see if I can blog from my phone.

Shouldn’t charities give something away?

Sounds obvious, right? But according to a story in the New York Times, there is growing confusion over what constitutes a charity these days. Specifically, the story reports that recent court rulings are challenging the tax-exempt status of nonprofits.

Think about this the next time your alma mater solicits a donation: Harvard University, with a $35 billion (with a “b”) endowment, is a nonprofit, but does it give away enough of it services, presumably scholarships, to needy students? Is it too rich to be considered a nonprofit anymore and, therefore, be exempt from federal taxes?

The Times says,

“The idea behind tax exemptions is that the organizations provide a public service or substantially reduce the burdens of government. Standards from property-tax exemptions are set by the states, while the federal exemption means charities are not taxed on their income.”

What about Mall of America, a 4.2 million square foot complext with its indoor rollercoaster, wedding chapel, and 520 shops? The Mall claims that, as a major tourist attraction for the state of Minnesota, it actually does reduce the burden of the state government by drawing tourism dollars. Where are the Mall’s tax exemptions?

Obviously, donors want to give to a nonprofit whose mission they believe in, but it’s totally acceptable to find out how much service the nonprofit provides to the community and how much of its income is derived from donations and/or a foundation or trust.

Again, according to the Times,

“Almost 88 percent of overall nonprofit revenues in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, came from fees for services, sales and sources other than charitable contributions, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics.”

So on the one hand, the government may not allow tax exemptions to entities whose income does not come mostly from charitable contributions, but on the other hand charities today cannot afford to provide services on without a significant amount of non-charitable contributions. The closer a nonproft gets to being run like a business, the more it risks being taxed like a business.

Lucky, spoiled, foolish me

Sometimes things are perfect and I’m glad I recognize when that is, because I’m telling you, sometimes things are perfect for only a few minutes. We’re in the middle of a few of those minutes right now. The babies are healthy and tired after a busy and fun day. The kitchen is full of groceries and food for company tomorrow. The house is quiet and cool despite the humid, sticky night outside. Even the cat is purring under the table.

I’m listening to music – and not a Disney CD either, I’m talking my own music. The baby slept almost five hours in a row last night, so I’m feeling more energetic than usual. And I’m thinking about having … a glass of wine. I’ll probably chicken out and/or the baby will wake up to nurse before I do, but it’s fun to think about.

I feel like we’re at that time when we can finally get our lives back under control. God, that was stupid as soon as I said it. But let me explain…

The baby has developed kind of a schedule now, and the four-year-old can get himself ready for bed. I’m not all freaked out about the house being a little messy, even with company coming tomorrow. I haven’t sat down with the checkbook and bills in a couple of weeks, but the big stuff is on auto-payment and the little stuff can wait. Hell, even my husband was able to cut the grass today – all 0.49 acres – and wash the minivan and the truck. I’m telling you, people, all this for us is huge.

Are things actually getting easier? Are we getting better at getting things done? Or are we just learning to accept what we can’t do or have?

You know what? You know who doesn’t care? Me. Because I’m enjoying it while I can. I know what I have and what other people don’t have, so I’m just going to enjoy my blessings while I can, in the middle of these perfect few minutes.

MAY 24: Habitat Young Leaders Gala

Here’s a good reason to buy a new cocktail dress tonight: Habitat Young Professionals second annual gala. The operative word on this one is “young,” so think fun, food, cool music and a great location.

In fact, if you haven’t been to the Long Center yet, here’s your chance. Just picture yourself walking into this gorgeous new facility, choosing from an array of catered foods from Upper Crust, Moonshine, Kenichi, The Belmont and about 10 other restaurants, and moving about to the tunes of Sprung. Great way to spend a Saturday night and a great way to support one of Austin’s biggest nonprofits.

See more about it here. Tickets are $75 each, $125 per couple… and you can even buy them online right now!

2008 Build the HYP Gala
May 24, 8:00PM
The Long Center for Performing Arts
Proceeds from the Gala will directly support building Austin Habitat for Humanity homes for those in need.
Purchase your tickets ($75 single/$125 couple) at

How to become a civic leader

Autsin offers a lot of opportunities to learn more about growing your civic leadership skills – Leadership Austin, Greenlights, United Way all offer some form of training. Here’s another opportunity for you to break in to civic engagement…

This Thursday, May 22, United Way, UT, and Hands On Central Texas will offer a free course, “Community Workshop – Innovation & Creativity,” from 6 to 7:30 pm.

Coming up with a good idea is difficult—putting that idea to work is even harder. Learn how to discover the needs and aspirations of the community, generate ideas to engage those needs and aspirations, and develop a plan for putting your ideas into action.”

Click here to learn more about the course and sign up.

Who does the Red Cross call?

This past week’s storms knocked the power out for thousands of Austin Energy customers and probably damaged just as many roofs, but while the rest of us are calling our insurance agents and wondering how we’re going to pay that deductible, the Red Cross of Central Texas is, too.

The emergency-aid agency was busy all last week helping Central Texans navigate the storm, only to find out its own building on Manor Road had been damaged, too. Here’s a note from their Web page:

“We always expect to be the ones giving assistance to others,” said Derrick Chubbs, executive director. “But now we find that not only do we need help assisting our community, we need help to repair our own building so we can stay focused on our mission.”  The Central Texas chapter of the American Red Cross serves nine counties. Consider making a donation today.

Austin young pros pitch, putt, play dress-up at Head Honcho event

YMBA members as Elvis at Austin Head Honcho Invitational

The Young Mens’ Business Alliance … it’s a long story.

Butler Pitch ‘n Putt was the site of the second annual Head Honcho Invitational yesterday, a golf tournament kind of thing among several Austin under-40 organizations. I was there for a little while, and I actually saw lots of people playing golf.

Why not? It was a gorgeous day, and the tournament kicked off at 3 p.m., which is a little earlier than happy hour but not so early you’d be cutting into your lunch time. Stephanie Fisher, president of Young Execs of Austin, kicked things off, thanking sponsors and explaining the rules of the tourney. I’m not sure how many of the attendees were golfers. A couple of teams from the United Way Young Leaders Society looked like yacht captains and skippers (Durel Bernard had an explanation for the costumes, but it seemed like a stretch), and the Young Men’s Business League showed up as Elvis… or rather, Elvi. Did Elvis golf?

Ahoy, young leaders!

Kim Jowers and Durel Bernard lead Young Leaders’ Society

Kim Jowers, executive chair of Young Leaders Society, was there to golf despite the fact she has a five-month-old baby at home. (Good for her! We new moms need our time on the green, too.) I also got to meet Traci Fisher of Young Women’s Alliance. They have a Member Appreciation Party this Tuesday night with a really cute theme: “Red Carpet.” This is a members-only, cocktail dress event… on a Tuesday night, no less. They do it right.

The fact that each of these groups makes philanthropy part of their mission demonstrates how important our community’s needs are to young Austin. It would be interesting to poll each group and quantify the financial impact they have on the community. In total, about a dozen young professionals groups were represented, including Catalyst 8, Habitat Young Professionals, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, Young Hispanic Professionals of Austin, and Helping Austin.

That last group, Helping Austin, is interesting. According to Amy Stanley, this new-ish group works through Austin Community Foundation to raise money for at-risk youth. Most of their donations have gone to Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and just about anyone can join – young or old, professional or … what’s the opposite of professional?

We’ll learn more about each of these groups in a series of Q&As coming soon to this blog/magazine.

In the meantime, heads up around Butler Pitch n Putt. The Elvi are pulling down broken tree limbs, and they’ve got a Bobcat.