As usual, Main Street of the Land of Lost Board Members is a great place to strike up meaningful, challenging conversations. At the recently redesigned crosswalk intersection, I found Joshua Biggly-Huge, a local philanthropist, financier and political curmudgeon. He was searching through the pockets of his expensive overcoat. “Mr. Biggly-Huge, may I help you? You look quite distressed.”
“Dear me, I am. I have misplaced a stock tip that I received from my CPA, Cash Now. That boy has a great investment sense.” He turned out several pockets.
“Can’t you just call him for a reminder?”
“No, no, he’s out of town for the holidays. But you are on to something maybe some one else in town would have that information. Let me think, stocks and investments, hmmm.”
“Maybe one of Cash’s friends. He does a lot of work with Bella Pelorizado, the nonprofit consultant.”
“But what would nonprofits know about investing and managing money?”
“Nonprofits have to be great managers. In fact a donation to a well run nonprofit should be measured in much the same way you study your personal investments. The pay back may not be in increased wealth for you, but in the expansion of quality service for the community. You should investigate management of a nonprofit in a manner similar to the scrutiny of a business investment.” I was irate.
“Humph.” He was indignant. “I do believe I give a lot of thought to my donations.”
“You’re right,” I softened, “we all respect you for your generosity and even your vision in directing and helping support a variety of nonprofit agencies.”
“That’s better.” He continued to hunt for his stock tip.
“Maybe some of Cash’s clients would know the information. He does some consulting for local government.”
“We know they can’t manage money.” It was a declaration that he expected to go unchallenged.
“We do? How do we know that?” I challenged.
“Look at what they do. They take our tax money and spend it on falling down buildings, slipshod service – always just missing the mark That’s why I joined the ‘Hell No Taxes PAC.’” He struck a Jeffersonian pose as a Hummer struck a City of the Lost utilities truck.
“I would argue that taxes are another form of investment and I would challenge you to measure need and result and management ability as part of your tax position.”
“What do you mean?” he waved his arms and distracted a bicyclist. “They can’t manage. They always need more, they never do anything for me and my friends.” He recited his usual litany against government.
“I think you’re blaming local government for all the taxes you pay, just because they’re the closest government.” I was trying to make sense of his philosophy.
“They don’t do anything for me and my friends.” If he were a lesser man he would have stomped his foot, instead he pounded on the hood of a Prius inching its way through the intersection.
“This conversation is getting awfully political, Mr. Biggly-Huge, but maybe instead of crying ‘too much tax,’ you should look at local government and measure the service being provided to you and the community, then measure the result in the quality of community life, for us and for our children.
“Quality, service,” he dodged a car spinning in the crosswalk, “are two words that cost money!”
“Think about it this way, as a tax payer, you own our buildings and are the Board of directors who sets a standard for elected officials. This is much like the model for a corporation and for a nonprofit. You have certain expectations and you understand that there are costs. It’s the results that you look for. Why not have that same standard for local taxes as you use for stock investment and nonprofit donations – be willing to pay for good management, for well thought out proposals or to maintain services and projects that serve the community. Communities that strive to serve the past by following your tax philosophy, are communities limping to the future – and certainly not welcoming investment, economic growth or ———-”
“That’s all well and good” he interrupted, ”but I don’t like taxes and nothing you say will……………..ah, wait, here is that note.” He unwrinkled it and read, “Invest in municipal bonds.” Six vehicles came to a screeching halt at the four-way intersection.
January 2008 Investing Advice