Good deeds, good business

Shops work with nonprofits to help others and boost their community profile

vbridges@newsobserver.comNovember 26, 2012 

  • Charitable contributions Charitable contributions must be made to qualified organizations to be tax-deductible. Qualified contributions include churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other religious organizations; federal state and local governments, if the contribution is solely for public purposes; nonprofit schools and hospitals; public parks and recreation facilities; war veterans’ groups; expenses paid for a student living with you, sponsored by a qualified organization; out-of-pocket expenses when you serve a qualified organization as a volunteer; and agencies such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross.

The Green Kangaroo wanted to help a charity and increase its holiday card sales, so the online stationary company decided to knock out the two plans with one promotion.

This month, The Green Kangaroo started donating 25 percent of proceeds from individual holiday card orders to Wake County schools and charities, including the Raleigh Rescue Mission.

“We just want people to be aware that we are here,” said Lori Blair, a spokeswoman for the 10-year-old Cary-basedcompany. “And if they want to order locally they can support their school, a Wake County school or a local nonprofit.”

The Green Kangaroo is one of many businesses across the Triangle spreading good will while elevating its brand and customer traffic.

And representatives of local nonprofit agencies said they are appreciative of the support.

“We have at least thirty to forty businesses helping us in one way or another over the holiday season,” said Leslie Millett, spokeswoman for the Raleigh Rescue Mission, which last winter distributed donations that included 840 blankets and 1,196 coats.

Working with a nonprofit

Shawn Slome, owner of Twig, a specialty shop that sells green products at Village Plaza in Chapel Hill, started donating a portion of holiday sales to nonprofits four years ago.

During this year’s campaign, which ends Sunday, 20 percent of sales go to one of 23 nonprofits partnering with Twig, if the customer mentions the charity.

“It is a partnership,” Slome said. The nonprofits promote the opportunity to their supporters. Twig promotes the agencies, provides marketing materials and highlights them on its website.

Twig’s donations in previous years have totaled about $3,000.

Slome thinks the annual campaign raises awareness of the Twig brand.

Book Harvest, a Chapel Hill nonprofit that collects new and gently used children’s books and distributes them to children in need, also benefits from a relationship with Twig, said Ginger Young, the charity’s founder and executive director. The nonprofit receives $1 when a customer spends $10 at Twig and mentions Book Harvest. People can also drop off books at the store.

“It takes very little money for us to be able to deliver books to the homes of low-income kids,” Young said. “So a dollar goes a long way.”

And Twig and Book Harvest’s partnership brings awareness to the two-year-old nonprofit’s cause and reputation.

“This is a classic example of the kinds of grassroots activism that I am so grateful for,” Young said.

Getting the tax break

Tim Robinson, an accountant with Raleigh firm Hughes Pittman & Gupton, said the nature of a promotion or gift and the classification of a company determines how and whether partnerships with charities qualify as tax deductions. Cash donations and the adjusted cost of inventory given or used may qualify as a deductions if a business hasn’t reached its limit, but time spent on a project and discounts do not.

C corporations, which are, according to the IRS, “recognized as a separate taxpaying entity,” are limited to deducting 10 percent of their taxable income.

Limited liability companies, S corporations and partnerships pass contributions out to their owners. If these owners are individuals, deduction limits range from 20 percent to 50 percent of the individuals’ adjusted gross income, depending on the type of property contributed and the recipient organization.

“Take the deduction for materials given, not your time,” Robinson said. “If a business offers a discount in exchange for a customer participating in a charitable event, the discount will essentially lower your taxable revenue, but isn’t something that can be claimed as a deduction”

King-size aspirations

Joey and Vicki Ashley, owners of The Organic Bedroom in Raleigh’s Sutton Square Shopping Center, wanted to work with a program that donates mattresses to people in need.

The Ashleys were connected with Jackie Craig, co-founder of The Green Chair Project, a 2-year-old nonprofit that takes donations and furnishings and offers them at a low cost to people who are transitioning from homelessness or a crisis such as a fire or tornado.

“This new program that we are involved in is called Sweeter Dreams, and it is a partnership that we founded with Wake County schools,” Craig said. “The social workers at Wake County public schools are able to refer children who would otherwise be sleeping on the floor.”

Families pay $30 for a new mattress, bed and donated linens, and they have to transport their purchases.

“So it is a hand up, not a hand out,” Craig said.

A grant from BB&T paid for the first couple of dozen mattresses in the four-month-old test program, Craig said.

“Those are about to run out,” Craig said.

So earlier this month, The Organic Bedroom launched its Everyone Sleeps Cozy campaign and started donating a mattress set to The Green Chair Project for each queen or king mattress sold. The Organic Bedroom pays its vendors $119 to build each mattress, Vicki Ashley said. So far, the Ashleys have donated five mattresses, but the couple hopes that number grows to seven by the end of November.

“We just wanted to give back,” Vicki Ashley said. “Our focus is to be community-oriented. We want to make sure that we are helping our friends.”

Bridges: 919-829-8917

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