Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Volunteer drivers miss bailout bonus, and other tidbits

This may come as a shock, but when Congress passed the $700 billion financial bailout bill and the other special interest add-ons, it forgot the part about helping volunteers who do lots of charity driving.

In August, this column reported that the tax deduction for volunteer drivers had been stuck in neutral for years. Meals on Wheels volunteers and others who drive for nonprofit organizations get to deduct a mere 14 cents a mile compared to the business mileage rate that now revs to 58.5 cents a mile.

Steve Francisco, federal policy director for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN), said a bipartisan bill (S. 3429) would have tied the volunteer mileage rate to 70 percent of the business mileage rate, (or nearly 41 cents a mile). The bill never got a vote.

The volunteer mileage deduction became a bigger issue this year as gas prices rose. Francisco called it a top priority and anticipated Congress would make another push next year.

In a related matter, Francisco clarified issues around nonprofit agencies’ reimbursement of volunteer drivers. The question was: If the nonprofit reimburses volunteers for driving expenses, do volunteers then have to declare that as earned income on their taxes?

The answer is no, according to an Aug. 24, 2000 Internal Revenue Service (IRS) letter Francisco has. Nonprofits can reimburse up to the business rate without triggering a tax liability. But the volunteers have to follow the same rules as employees, and document for the agency the time, purpose and number of miles driven.

McDaniel leaves

An e-newsletter from the American Red Cross Twin Cities Area Chapter informed me that Jan McDaniel has resigned as chief executive officer.

Earlier this year I interviewed McDaniel for a story on nonprofit mergers. It sounded like a stressful couple of years for her and everyone else working there. She was hired in April 2006 and oversaw the merger of Minneapolis and St. Paul chapters. The shakeup included staff cuts and volunteer losses.

She called the process “messy” “disruptive” and “pretty awful.” The first year “was just running around trying to clean up mistakes,” she said.

Then in January 2007, McDaniel got word that the Greater Twin Cities United Way planned to reduce Red Cross funding by $1 million. That eventually meant eliminating two-dozen more jobs.

McDaniel (a former general manager for WCCO-TV) returned my calls promptly and spoke candidly, which I greatly appreciated. This time, we swapped voice mails. “I am looking forward to the next adventure,” she said.

Veteran Red Cross employee Carol Grant will serve as the interim CEO, the Red Cross newsletter said.

New youth competition: World Affairs Challenge
World Savvy, a nonprofit group working to broaden youths’ understanding of international issues, opened a Minneapolis office Sept. 1, its third location (after San Francisco and New York City).

Staff has started recruiting middle- and high-school students and teachers for its World Affairs Challenge, a sort of Odyssey of the Mind but focused on global issues. Students join school-based teams and research a topic. This year’s theme is human migration, said Charmagne Campbell-Patton, program manager.

The program provides teachers and students educational materials to help students prepare for a May competition with four elements: a formal team presentation, a poster, a quiz and an event called “the CQ” or collaborative question. In the CQ, students go into new teams and work on a real-world situation.

(Last year’s theme was global health. CQ teams were given a disease – Japanese encephalitis – and different strategies to address it. They had to agree on the best strategy and present it.)

Campbell-Patton said Minnesota is the right market for its third location. The education community in Minnesota is strong, but World Savvy saw a niche for its global education programs. “Also, the philanthropic sector is really strong in Minnesota,” she said.

World Savvy got an anonymous start-up grant for its Minneapolis operations, and is working out of Mortenson Construction-donated space in Minneapolis, Campbell-Patton said.

The sign-up deadline is Feb. 6. For more, see the website or call 763-588-7440.

Ready for the new 990?

Based on the buzz at MCN’s recent annual conference, a lot people are talking about the new IRS form 990 nonprofit tax returns that kick in next year. There’s some background here, but for those looking for more, one option is the Charities Review Council’s 990 webinar, Oct. 27, 2-3 p.m. (The only cost is the long distance call to join the teleconference.) Call 651-224-7030.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply