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Invest in Roses

Please support the innovative projects of Communicating By Design’s Roses collective:

using art, medical science and technology to
I N F O R M   +   I N S P I R E
women dealing with gynecologic cancers

Your unrestricted contribution in any amount helps support our online services (this website, our Roses-sponsored physician podcasts & podcast features, etc.), keeping these accessible to all, any time, anywhere around the world.

We are a small group of designers, scholars, physicians, surgeons & researchers who have joined together in order to work on what we see as big opportunities. But we can’t do it alone.

Fiercely committed to academic excellence, integrity & independence in research, we do not accept any paid advertising. Rather, we look to the growing Roses community to contribute in different ways — time & volunteer labor, thought, creativity, vision, advice & debate, money.

If you can help with this last need, please do so.

Donate $20, $35, $50, or whatever you can today!

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Your donation is not tax-deductible

Yes, you read correctly. That’s not a typo.  ;-)

Your financial contributions to Roses are NOT tax-deductible, because Roses is not a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

There are several reasons for this, including my belief that the strict legal and regulatory scrutiny that non-profits often experience would limit our ability to do what we do best: adapt quickly to changing circumstance (i.e., innovate and abruptly change direction when it’s clear an approach or technological/business model isn’t working; seize on new opportunities when they present; take calculated risks, and live with the consequences).

Nor do we want to be prohibited from engaging in the sort of commercial activities which are appropriate to a social business such as Roses.

Moreover, we are professionals who prefer to be hands-on employee-owners, responsible for directing our own knowledge work and making our own business decisions within a fluid and responsive organizational structure. This quest for new business models which allow each of us more freedom of action, and a self-determining power, is right in line with new findings about the value of ownership within all communities of practice traditionally linked with the non-profit sector (e.g., see the PBS NewsHour story, “Fighting Poverty in Kenya by Selling Water Pumps to Poor Farmers,” originally aired 13 July 2010).

Nobel prize-winning economist, Muhammad Yunus, makes a similar argument:

Ownership is what makes social business so special. Owners take pride in what they are doing, what they are creating, and what results they are producing. They become personally involved in the company.… In a non-profit, however, one can be involved only as a board member or as an employee. Once your term is over, you are no longer a part of the organization. There is no sense of legacy lending strength and permanence to the mission.

(Muhammad Yunus, Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs, 122)

Yunus also addresses the “tax issue,” offering yet another compelling argument as to why social businesses should be for-profit organizations that pay taxes, along with their donors and patrons:

In the discussion about for-profit and non-profit business structures, we always get drawn into the tax issue. In order to encourage charitable giving by individuals and companies, governments around the world have created various tax incentive packages, including generous tax exemptions. Many have suggested to me that social business should also be made tax-exempt. I cannot readily agree with this proposition. I see social business as an expression of spontaneous selflessness unconditioned by outside encouragement, particularly if that encouragement makes the investor a financial beneficiary.
   I am in favor of creating a favorable environment for social business to blossom. For example, it’s important to create social business funds to provide credit and equity to social business. However, mandating a tax-exempt status for social business may go too far. Suppose the government lets you take the dollar which was supposed to be handed over to the government as tax and invest it in a social business instead. Under the principles of social business, that dollar will come back to you, not to the government. This means you will financially benefit from the social business, thereby activating your selfish motivations, which are supposed to be irrelevant to investing in social business. I would rather keep social businesses as taxable entities rather than make selfish calculations part of the social business equation.
   I want this issue to be seriously debated. Until a satisfactory resolution is reached, we can leave the door open for governments to take action on a case-by-case basis. Governments may decide from time to time that investments in particular social businesses should enjoy tax-exempt status under specific conditions and for a pre-determined time period. Similar decisions could be made with reference to the tax status of the surpluses earned by social businesses. This will enable governments to give various types of support to various kinds of social businesses, depending on social urgencies and government’s need for revenue. For their part, social businesses can carry out their investment plans without waiting for government decisions on tax-exemption.

(Yunus, Building Social Business, 123–4)

The tax issue is being seriously debated now — see, for example,

pointer  Paul Solman’s Making Sen$e interview for the PBS NewsHour with T. R. Reid, author of A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System (Penguin Press, 2017), “Dreading Doing Your Taxes? Other Countries Show Us There’s Another Way” (first aired 13 April 2017)

SUMMARY: “Filing your taxes in other countries is not a work-intensive process that can take days or weeks; it can be as simple as clicking a confirmation sent online by the government. For his latest book, A Fine Mess, [T].R. Reid went on [a] global quest for a better system. Economics correspondent Paul Solman asks Reid about what he sees [as] the biggest absurdities of American taxes and how we could improve.”
   Re. the write-off for contributing to charity:
      “PAUL SOLMAN: Hey, wait, stop. Contributing to charity, surely, that’s a good thing. You want to encourage people to give to charity, right?
      “T.R. REID: Yes, but it doesn’t work. Many countries have gotten rid of it, and here’s — there’s a pattern.  ¶  For one year, there’s a small blip in contributions, and then it goes up again at the rate of income increase. People give because they want to help.” (n. pag.)

pointer  Sam Polk’s op-ed for the 12 March 2017 issue of the Los Angeles Times (p. A24), “Have a Heart, and Make a Profit,” retitled “I Left Finance because I Wanted to Make a Difference. Non-Profit Work Never Did the Trick” for online posting

Sam Polk, a former Wall Street hedge fund trader who, at age 30, left off his obsessive pursuit of money in order “to make a more positive contribution to the world,” is the CEO of Everytable (a social enterprise) and Groceryships (a nonprofit), and the author of For the Love of Money: A Memoir (Scribner, 2016), a book which “explores the birth of a young hedge fund trader, his disillusionment, and the radical new way he has come to define success.”
   Here in his op-ed, Polk writes about more transformative lessons from his own experience — in particular, learning at first hand “the exasperation of keeping a nonprofit afloat” and “the perils of volunteerism.” Polk recognizes that “Charities are essential. Many nonprofits do work that simply has no revenue potential, such as feeding and housing the homeless. Yet because nonprofits are hard to start and sustain, where social enterprises can answer social needs, they may be the better alternative. And the proliferation of such entities could inject ‘disruption’ and innovation into the staid nonprofit sector.” (S. Polk, A24)
   In sum, social enterprise — defined by Polk as hybrid businesses that synthesize self-interest and the common good — “can combine the heart of a nonprofit with the scalability and innovative potential of for-profits.” (S. Polk, A24)

pointer  Lewis B. Cullman’s column posted to the Making Sen$e section of the PBS NewsHour website on 15 August 2016, “The Charitable Funds that Benefit Rich Donors and the Financial Industry

According to Cullman, a philanthropist and retired business owner, “Here’s the problem. In 2015, while the most popular charity (measured in donated dollars) was the United Way, the second was Fidelity Charitable. Ever heard of it? It was created and is serviced by Fidelity Investments via ‘donor-advised funds’ (also referred to as DAFs), which give donors all of the tax benefits of charitable giving, but impose no obligation that the money be put to active charitable use!  ¶  Most Americans have never heard of donor-advised funds, in which ‘charitable contributions’ are invested and held until the clients give instructions (or ‘advise’) about distributions to operating charities. Clients get exactly the same tax benefits when they transfer property to donor-advised funds as by making outright contributions to a museum, soup kitchen, university or any other federally recognized charity. But no deadline is imposed for the eventual distribution of these funds to an operating charity. If a donor fails to distribute the account during her lifetime, she can pass on the privilege of making distributions to her children or grandchildren or anyone else she chooses. The effect of these rules is that assets that have been given the tax benefits of charitable donations can be held in a DAF for decades or even centuries, all the while earning management fees for the financial institutions managing the funds and producing no social value.” (Cullman, n. pag.)
   The diversion of donations from direct charitable uses to the organization providing intermediary financial services for donors and charities has a long, and not always salutary, history. One early-modern example of this — where the questionable appropriation of donor money and property was due to embezzlement rather than tax law — is reported in the papers of the 17th-century antiquary and biographer, John Aubrey (1626–1697), who investigated the charitable practices of the London Fishmongers’ Company. While compiling a list of projects by which he hoped to make money (his MS. is entitled Faber Fortunae), Aubrey wrote the following reminder to himself, as the fourth item in his list: “To discover and find out the lands concealed and embezilled by the Fishmongers’ company, which was to maintain so many scholars in Oxford and for the ease of poor Catholiques in Lent. Mr. Fabian Philips tells me I may find out the donation in Stow’s Survey of London: he can put me in a way to help me to a third or fourth part for the discoverie. J. Collins, who enformed me of this discovery, sayd the lands are worth some thousands per annum, scil. two or three thousand pounds per annum, which devout Catholiques in ancient times gave to this company for their pious and charitable use. My lord Hunsdon would be a good instrument herein. Memorandum in the records of the Tower are to be found many graunts, etc., to the Fishmongers’ company. Edmund Wyld, esq., saith that the old Parliament did intend to have had an inspection into charitable uses. See Sir Richard Baker’s Chronicle pag. 267 G, anno 22 Henry VII (1507), scil. Thomas Knesworth, mayor of London, gave to the Fishmongers’ company, certain tenements for which they are bound to allow fower scholars, that is to say, two at Oxon, and two at Cambridge, to each of them fower pounds per annum, as also to poor people prisoners in Ludgate something yeerely. Quaere Anthony Wood de hiis.” (J. Aubrey, Brief Lives, ed. by Andrew Clark, 2 vols., 1898, 2.332)

pointer  Paul Pringle’s and Nathan Fenno’s reporting for the 19 June 2016 issue of the Los Angeles Times (pp. A1 and A12–A13), “LA Foundation Proved Lucrative for USC’s Haden: The athletic director and two relatives collected about $2.4 million in fees from 1999 to 2014,” retitled “L.A. Education Foundation Became a Lucrative Source of Income for USC's Pat Haden and his Relatives” for online posting

This story is not about the tax-exempt status of non-profits per se, but about the sort of fraud that flourishes in the non-profit sector.

pointer  Jeff McDonald’s reporting for the 4 March 2016 issue of the San Diego Union-Tribune (pp. A1 and A8), “[Mental Health Systems] Charity Accused of Improper Billing: Whistleblower CFO says taxpayers were billed before outlays

Again, this story is not about the tax-exempt status of non-profits per se, but about the sort of fraud that flourishes in the non-profit sector.

pointer  Chad Terhune’s reporting for the 5 July 2015 issue of the Los Angeles Times, “State Audit Slams Blue Shield: Franchise Tax Board says nonprofit health insurer hasn’t done enough for the public

This, in turn, spawned a follow-up story on 7/6/2015 from Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman, “How Some Health Insurers Ended Up as Nonprofits.”

pointer  Michael Hiltzik’s column for the 30 March 2014 issue of the Los Angeles Times, “More than Charity Needed: Private Charity Can’t Replace Government Relief

pointer  John Larson’s interview for PBS NewsHour Weekend with Ken Berger, CEO of the watchdog organization Charity Navigator: “How to Choose a Charity that Really Delivers” (first aired 22 December 2013)

pointer  Lee Ann O’Neal’s U-T Watchdog investigation, “Nonprofit CEO Pay: Critics see ‘race to the top’ as executives one-up each other. Leaders say organizations’ complexities, competition warrant pay levels” (San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 December 2013, pp. C1 and C4), retitled “Health Bosses Top Nonprofit Pay Survey: Allies say organizations’ complexities, competition warrant the pay levels” for online posting

“The national nonprofit sector contributed more than $800 billion to the nation’s economy in 2010, or 5.5 percent of the country’s economic output as measured by gross domestic product, according to research by the Urban Institute. The most common category, 5O1(c)(3) charities, receive about 32 percent of their funding from government contracts and grants.  ¶  There are nearly 12,000 registered nonprofits in San Diego County, and most of them operate on a much smaller scale and with less visibility than the groups on the U-T list. Most of them enjoy exemptions from property tax and corporate income taxes.  ¶  San Diego County passes up more than $116 million annually in property taxes from such groups, the county assessor estimates. The figure captures the estimated amount that would be owed if some $11.7 billion in real estate on more than 4,600 parcels and certain personal property owned by nonprofits were taxed.  ¶  In addition to tax breaks, many of the charities receive direct government support.” (L. A. O’Neal, n. pag.)
   In addition, executive pay packages point to a growing divide between oligarchy vs. democracy in the nonprofit sector. “‘Sometimes it appears we’re paying these people quite a bit of money,’ said Pat Libby, who directs the University of San Diego’s Institute for Nonprofit Education and Research. ‘But these are not your grandmother’s nonprofits. These are sophisticated organizations that require a well-qualified CEO to manage them.’” (L. A. O’Neal, n. pag.)

pointer  Michael Hiltzik’s column for the 26 November 2013 issue of the Los Angeles Times, “IRS Targets Political Nonprofit Groups, Conservatives Shriek

pointer  Hari Sreenivasan’s interview for PBS NewsHour Weekend with Joe Stephens of The Washington Post: “Washington Post Report Finds Fraud, Embezzlement at More than 1,000 Non-Profits” (first aired 27 October 2013)

pointer  Rodney K. Smith’s opinion piece for the 25 December 2011 issue of the U-T San Diego (formerly San Diego Union-Tribune), “The Grinch Who Wants to Steal Charitable Deduction

pointer  Jack Shakely’s opinion piece for the 18 December 2011 issue of the Los Angeles Times, “It’s Time to Write Off the Charitable-Giving Tax Deduction

pointer  An interview with Claire Gaudiani by Annie Bergman, Heifer International writer, “Defending the Freedom to Give” (World Ark, Fall 2011, 10–11)

pointer  “The ‘Giving’ Season,” by historian and holiday Grinch, David Nasaw, originally published in the 6 December 2010 issue of The Nation

pointer  Stephanie Strom’s reporting for the New York Times, “Charities Rise, Costing U.S. Billions in Tax Breaks,” reprinted in the 6 December 2009 issue of the San Diego Union-Tribune (and retitled “Nonprofits Exploiting Tax Breaks, Group Says”)

pointer  Taxes Are a Woman’s Issue: Reframing the Debate (New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2006), by Mimi Abramovitz and Sandra Morgen, with the National Council for Research on Women (ISBN-10: 1558615229 and ISBN13: 9781558615229)

— and I’ve made my decision, setting up Roses as a Type I social business, adapting the model outlined by Muhammad Yunus in Building Social Business.

Hence, any donation you make to Roses is really an investment in a social business, with a different kind of non-monetary return than you get when donating to “charity.”

Dividends for donors, as for owners, are social, not financial.

And donation-investments in the business are not tax-deductible.

Type I social business

According to Muhammad Yunus, a Type I social business is “a non-loss, non-dividend company devoted to solving a social problem and owned by investors who reinvest all profits in expanding and improving the business”:

In a social business an investor aims to help others without making any financial gain himself. The social business is a business because it must be self-sustaining — that is, it generates enough income to cover its own costs. Part of the economic surplus the social business creates is invested in expanding the business, and a part is kept in reserve to cover uncertainties. Thus, the social business might be described as a “non-loss, non-dividend company,” dedicated entirely to achieving a social goal.… The owner can take back over a period of time only the amount invested.

(Yunus, Building Social Business, xvii)

Yunus lists Seven Principles at the core of social business, which “serve as a touchstone and a constant reminder of the values that are at the heart of the social business idea”:

1.  The business objective is to overcome poverty, or one or more problems (such as education, health, technology access, and environment) that threaten people and society — not to maximize profit.

2.  The company will attain [aim for] financial and economic sustainability.

3.  Investors get back only their investment amount. No dividend is given beyond the return of the original investment.

4.  When the investment amount is paid back, profit stays with the company for expansion and improvement.

5.  The company will be environmentally conscious.

6.  The workforce gets market wage with better-than-standard working conditions.

7.  Do it with joy!!!

We subscribe to all Seven Principles — which partly explains why it’s taken us so long to ready & launch Roses online.

Roses tribute gifts

I think of these as the first of several social dividends (with “intangible value”) returned to donors upon receipt of a donation-investment in Roses.

A tribute gift is a great way to commemorate someone special to you, and is an option available to anyone who donates to Roses and/or purchases original Roses artworks.

19th-century printer's decorative head-piece

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Donate $20 / $35 / $50 (or whatever you can) today!

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We hope you will join with Communicating By Design in sponsoring the innovative educational projects, known by the rubric of Roses, that we’re developing in collaboration with the UCSD Moores Cancer Center Gynecologic Oncology Unit.

The social dividends are many … not least, the joy that comes from giving in celebration of others.

pointer  See, for example, Paul Solman’s Making Sen$e segment for the PBS NewsHour, “Money Can Buy Happiness, Especially When You Invest It in Others” (first aired 7 January 2016).

“Economics correspondent Paul Solman sat down with [psychology professor Elizabeth] Dunn and [marketing professor Michael] Norton to discuss their co-authored book, Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending for Making Sen$e’s latest segment on altruism. Below Dunn and Norton discuss two things they say can buy you happiness: time and investing in others.”

... and another good investment you can make!

Even those of us who do research for a living sometimes get impatient at how long it takes to generate, process, interpret, and communicate the data that drives advances in the humanities, as well as in the natural and social sciences.

The research process can seem agonizingly slow to insiders and outsiders, alike.

While I can’t do anything about the slow pace of developments at Roses (even the research into “greening” our merchandise so that we don’t contribute to more environmentally-caused cancers is hopelessly complicated and slow-going), I can offer an alternative source of instant gratification for any of us who would like to start making an immediate difference in the lives of those who are struggling with cancer: the quite wonderful, San Diego-based organization, Mama’s Kitchen.

Mama’s Kitchen provides nutritious food to those in need who have cancer.

They are a non-profit, so any contributions you make to them ARE tax-deductible. ;-)

And they welcome volunteers, as well as financial donations, so there are multiple ways to start contributing right away to their life-saving mission if you’re in the San Diego area.

(For more on Mama’s Kitchen, see the pointer for the entry dated 6 July 2013 in the media links section of our FYI page entitled “Conversations About a Wiser Use of Our Health Care Dollars & Resources.”)

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Panel from "Roses", a mixed-media work by Tuck Contreras

It is with regret — and some surprise — that I announce the end of this website’s participation in the Powell’s Books, Inc. Partner Program.
   As of 29 August 2012, we will no longer earn a percentage on books purchased through our links to Powells.com (or Amazon.com). Hence, I have decided to drop all such links. There’s no point in pushing one particular out-of-state retailer over another when local, independent bookstores everywhere need our support. Click/tap here to learn more.

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To locate this title at your bookstore or library, look for:
  Yunus, Muhammad, with Karl Weber. Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs. New York: PublicAffairs, 2010.
  ISBN-10: 1586488244 and ISBN-13: 978-1586488246 (for hardcover edition).