Monday, June 1, 2009

Death and Taxes

For the past several weeks, I have been giving talk after talk to nonprofit staff and board members about taxes: the importance of taxes, why we should care about taxes, what we should do about taxes. I could use this as an excuse for not posting to this blog more often, but in fact, the real reason I haven’t is because I get too depressed by the reaction I get to what I say. Let me step back and say that I know, from years and years of feedback, that I am a good trainer and a good speaker. So at the risk of flattering myself, I have ruled out the idea that I am boring to listen to. But the reaction I get is what I would expect if I were utterly and completely a snoozer in the speaking department: blank stares, few questions, lots of surreptitious texting and checking Blackberries. Anything but to actually think about what we can do about taxes.

In examining my talks, the evaluations after (which are always positive, in contrast to the behavior of the participants), and from feedback from trusted and honest friends, this is my explanation:

People are trained from early childhood that death and taxes are the two inevitabilities, and there is nothing that can be done about either. OR, as one friend said, “In fact, the only thing that can be profitably done is to NOT talk about them.” Further, way more people than I had any idea of, imagine that they are incapable of understanding taxes and so just tune out rather than feel stupid. Finally, most nonprofits have way more immediate pressing problems and can’t see their way clear to taking on yet another (hopeless) cause.

Paradoxically, this explanation has cheered me up. Each element of this explanation can be addressed. And must be, unless we want to live in a country where most social services are privatized and most giant corporations are owned wholly or in part by the government.

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