Follow the Dollar

According to The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University (via National Philanthropic Trust), 65% of households give to charity.

Sixty-five percent sounds good, since, according to IRS data, less than a third (32.64%) of all tax returns filed with them in 2010 included itemized deductions, which is where charitable contributions deductions are taken by individuals. If more people are donating than are itemizing their deductions, this means that people don’t just throw money at nonprofits for the sake of tax savings; there must be an element of philanthropy at work.

But how are those dollars contributed put to work? How do we know that the organizations we give to are actually doing with it – for the most part – what we intended?

Most, if not all, states require nonprofits to register with their attorney general’s office.

Secular nonprofits are required to apply with the IRS to gain tax exempt status, and thereafter, most are required to file some type of the federal Form 990 with the IRS every year. The 990 is – while not an income tax return, per se – a document that provides some information about the activities of the nonprofit for the year.

Nonprofits have long been required to make copies of these documents available for public inspection, but in the stone-age prior to the internet, this necessitated either mailing copies out on request, or having those documents available for viewing at their main location during “normal business hours.”

With the internet, it’s become a lot easier to check on how donated dollars are spent. There are several websites – the most well-known are and — that collect tax returns of charities from the IRS, and often summarize the more donor-pertinent data from them and assign a rating to the organization in order to assist donors in making their decisions regarding where to spend their contribution dollars. One of the things that make these sites great is that they often offer users the ability to view a good deal of information about a nonprofit – free of charge! A “guest” user can view basic information about nonprofits and after creating a free account can view the federal Forms 990 filed by the organization.

But there is a downside to some of these rating sites. Because there are so many charitable organizations in existence, the smaller ones are often ignored by the major rating sites. For example, The Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust, Inc. is not required to file the “long form,” or regular Form 990, annually with the IRS; we can file a Form 990-N, or 990-EZ. For 2011, we did file the long form, but since we are not required to file it, we are not eligible to be rated by Charity Navigator.

As an accounting professional of a couple of decades at this point, until the Trust came into existence, I had no experience in accounting for or any IRS issues for charitable organizations. As recently as a year ago, I recall that GuideStar had a similar policy to CharityNavigator regarding the smaller nonprofits and “ratings”, and in my research for preparing our first financial Form 990, read a how-to book that encouraged small nonprofits to go with the long form, in order to qualify for a rating on that site. A recent perusal of the GuideStar site, however, doesn’t appear to mention the requirement for the long form. This may or may not be due to the higher thresholds – beginning in 2010 – allowing for the shorter-form filing, which allows organizations with $200,000 or less in annual receipts and $500,000 or less in assets to use the EZ version; nonprofits with normal annual receipts of $50,000 or less can simply file the 990-N.

So we could probably file the e-postcard (990-N) indefinitely, unless the IRS changes its rules. Will we? Probably not. While the IRS seems to be making it easier for the small nonprofits – and accountants do not come cheap, you know – we are fortunate in having a board of individuals who are dedicated to assisting their Treasurer in gathering the data needed to present accurate financial information to our donors, the IRS, and anyone else who is interested. We are fortunate in that aspect, because so many worthy causes do not have access to free labor from CPA’s, seasoned bookkeepers, and otherwise well-educated and experienced people.

Jesse believed in helping others by sharing knowledge and we’d like to share some with you. It may seem daunting to someone without an accounting background to review an organizations Federal Form 990 but it’s not THAT difficult. Go to and sign up, sign in and search for the organization you are interested in. Once on a profile page, scroll down until you see “Forms 990 from IRS” (see our red arrow).

Open a current or past Form 990 in pdf and start familiarizing yourself with the layout. Generally you will find “Compensation of Officers, Directors and Highest Compensated Employees” on Page 7 and/or 8. As well, expenses to run an organizations various programs will be listed on page 2. And if you really want an in-depth accounting, you can find “Functional Expenses” on or about Page 10. Depending on the size of the nonprofit, the 990 can range in length from twenty pages upward to several hundred pages. Use the “find” option to search for specific data and don’t be daunted by the volume of information. If you see an organization that raises $230,000 but then spends $100,000 to pay its staff, well, depending on you, you might want to place your dollar elsewhere.

As a donor, we encourage you to register at and thoroughly research the nonprofits you are interested in helping. While you might be surprised at some of the information you find, you should be better able to determine if your hard-earned dollars are being spent in a manner that is in-keeping with your decision to donate. And remember, if a nonprofit can’t tell you how they spend your money, it might be an indicator that you shouldn’t give it to them.


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Take Back the Night

Working against sexual violence has been a passion of mine for years now. Through all the different programs I have participated in, the well known Take Back the Night has always been a favorite. Lexington is hosting our own Take Back the Night this Wednesday, led by the University of Kentucky’s Violence Intervention and Prevention Center.

Take Back the Night - March 27, 2013
Take Back the Night – March 27, 2013

My first Take Back the Night was in Ann Arbor, Michigan while I was an undergrad. I remember two of my initial reactions clearly – it was cold, and it was unsettling to be talking about rape, an issue that has become so stigmatized and politicized, so publicly. But any discomfort I felt went away quickly and I was left with just a feeling of awe. Inspired by the strength of the survivors who spoke out, the friends and family supporting their loved ones, the allies working to end the violence, and the community that came together put together this event – a community that finally did what was right and encouraged a diversity of voices and perspectives to speak out about rape.

Since my first Take Back the Night, I have been determined to continue to work to break the silence, continue to get rid of the stigma, continue to support the voices of survivors, in hopes of creating a community that every day makes it clear that victims and survivors aren’t to be blamed, but instead are to be supported and loved. Take Back the Night is a unique experience, one that is simultaneously heart-breaking and empowering. You stand and listen to how rape has effected the lives of so many people and it is shocking and sad, and frustrating. But you also watch as people come together, you witness people’s strength, and you are inspired to really try and make change.

If there is one event I could recommend, it would be Take Back the Night. VIP’s schedule for Take Back the Night is filled with wonderful parts and you can choose what you wish to participate in. The march starts at 7 PM at three different locations (Patterson Office Tower at UK, 3rd Street Stuff, and Thoroughbred Park). We will meet for the rally at 7:30 at the courthouse plaza, where we will have amazing guest speakers and performers, a speak out, and a candlelight vigil. And finally, there is the after party at 3rd Street Stuff. For more information, check out the VIP center’s website. I hope to see you there.

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Drawing with Tux Paint and spelling “Kangaroo”

Whoa…What a busy day at Mindtriggerz!  One of our new clients came back for his second session on the computers.  Just two more and he will have his own at home.  He has mastered finding the letters on the keyboard and managed to beat me at the connect four game a few times before he had to go home. We can’t wait wait to see him next week.

Another even younger client came back for her second time. She really blew us away learning her alphabet using an animal game. By the end of her session she was able to spell kangaroo by sounding it out!  I’m telling you these kids are amazing.

Then we had a pair of brothers; one in kindergarten and one in middle school. Jerome showed the older brother how he could use the games to work on his math and science skills. They worked on times table, fractions, and even got into some algebra. I worked with the little one and we played lots of animals and matching games, then wrapped up the session playing with the Tux Paint program.

Tux Paint!
Tux Paint!

We also had a client from over a year ago come in needing us to check out their system. We love it when clients come to us when they have issues with their computers. We are more than happy to fix any bugs or replace any parts that are no longer working. After taking a look at it it was decided he needed a whole new computer and he will be getting it next Saturday afternoon.

At the end of the day as an extra bonus we had some parents come in asking about our program. They had seen several of our flyers that were distributed through Cardinal Valley Elementary and decided to check it out. They filled out an application and will be starting their sessions next weekend. That’s 3 more kids to train and one more computer! I can’t wait! Why is next Saturday so far away?

On a personal note I have started the first of 400 hours of field work required for my social work degree at Cardinal Valley Elementary. I have enjoyed working with the wonderful staff in their newly renovated school. Have you seen it? The place looks fantastic. The kids are adorable and I’ve learned a whole mountain of new things about working with children just in the few days I’ve spent observing. I knew I would learn about social work, but I had no idea that I’d learn to be a better volunteer for Mindtriggerz. I just might be the luckiest gal in the world.


Don’t forget to “like” us out on Facebook! :-)


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The Mindtriggerz Project (and why I love being a volunteer)

We had a slow couple of weeks at Mindtriggerz last month as far as new families go; probably due to the cold weather.  But we’re seeing an increase in activity in February and are excited to reach our goal of 100 free computers before the end of the season in May!

Just yesterday we gave our first ever “Mindtriggerz Laptop” and are so excited to help a deserving young college student pursue a degree in nursing. This is Maria – and check out her shiny new Ubuntu computer!

First ever free Mindtriggerz laptop!
First ever free Mindtriggerz laptop!

A friendly reminder to future volunteers and clients: The Jesse Higginbotham Neighborhood Center is warm and toasty!  We’ve been able to use the extra down time to discuss important things related to the trust like transparency and accountability.  We’ve talked about Jesse’s vision of technology being available to everybody and what all the Mindtriggerz project has done to help realize this vision.  We’ve been able to discuss at length  how we can improve what we already do and opportunities in the future to do more.  And of course we’ve been able to joke and laugh with each other :) On a personal note it’s been great hanging out with Jesse’s parents and friends.  I’ve never in my life met such a kind and diverse hard working group of people.

Great season so far! Come by and see us Saturday mornings from 10am to 2pm at the Jesse Higginbotham Neighborhood Center.

P.S. Like us on Facebook at and follow us on Twitter at @JHTechTrust

<3 Joyce

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From Technology to Trust

When you’ve got a big name like the “Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust, Inc.” you’ve got a lot to live up to.

First there’s that little guy with a big name and a big heart, Jesse himself. Everything we do we do to honor him and to celebrate his life and what he did for us all. And while Jesse was good at a lot of things, he was great with Technology. All kinds of technology, but especially computers. So the very first thing we came up with to honor his spirit was the Mindtriggerz Project, a community based effort to reuse donated to computers which are loaded with open source educational software and placed in the homes of children and families who need but cannot afford them.

Mindtriggerz is my pet project. Ironically (Jesse loves irony!) because, unlike Jesse, I never really loved computers. Sure I used them when I had to. But I had a computer genius at home. So I got Jesse to do everything for me.

Jesse in his "Irony" t-shirt
Jesse in his “Irony” t-shirt

Now I had to learn how they worked, how to load them with software and put them together and run a computer lab to train the kids. Needless to say, I had to have a lot of help. Jon Jones and Jesse’s many other friends schooled me as best they could.  Jesse’s Mom collected, tested and cleaned computer components. And does all the literature and marketing and social media.

And, we have done pretty well so far. 96 families served and we should reach the 100 mark soon!

But we want to do more! We can do more! And not just with Technology. It’s the next word in our name.


That’s what people place in us. Our donors. Our clients. Our community. And with that trust comes responsibility. Not just to help bridge the digital divide but to help provide for the needs of those same people who have been left behind so many times. Sure, we have always tried to improve our community. The Dunbar Memorial Garden provides a native plant habitat and service hours for Dunbar high school students, as well as providing a place to honor and remember those who left us too soon.

We pick up litter on Versailles Road through the Adopt-A-Highway program. But we are doing more!

It started a couple of years ago with Hats for the Homeless, with Jesse’s Mom and friends knitting and crocheting hats a scarves that were donated to the Hope Center. Next it was a windfall of pumpkins and over 100 home baked pies delivered to local shelters and missions.

This became part of our new initiative called a “Year-Round Plan for Giving” when each month we will promote and encourage efforts to help those who need our help.

This month we set up drop boxes at the University of Kentucky to receive donations of much needed items to support the work of The Nest and MASH, which provide much needed services for people in crisis. If you would like to help and learn more, visit and “like” us on Facebook.

For all of those who have and continue to help us build a better community, one which Jesse can be proud of: Thanks! For those who are new to our cause: please help us make this world a better place for those who so deserve it.

–Jesse’s Dad

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Creating and supporting safe and inclusive environments

At the Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust we have committed to a year of giving. Volunteering and working towards change has become a major part in my life, and it mostly started with working with the Dunbar GSA and at the Dunbar Memorial Garden. Jesse, Josh and Hannah all hoped for and worked towards creating safe and inclusive environments.

We have all worked at the garden with their shared vision in mind to create a safe space to remember and relax. This is especially important in high school, when kids are growing into their identities and dealing with peer pressure and bullying. To be able to give kids a space away from parents, and away from worry that they’ll have to deal with bullying, is to give kids a place to be comfortable, grow, love, and learn from others. I’ve seen kids come to the garden, go through high school, and it’s always inspiring to see the experiences they bring, and the unique ways they make change and continue to want to make change after they leave Dunbar.

Being back in Kentucky for graduate school, not only do I have more time to spend at the Memorial Garden, but I have also managed to find a place at two wonderful organizations at the University of Kentucky: OUTsource and the Violence, Intervention and Prevention Center. Both these organizations have agreed to help us with our upcoming donation drive benefiting The Nest Center for Women, Children and Families and Arbor Youth Services.

drop box
Donation Drop-Boxes

OUTsource is a resource center and safe place for LGBTQ* students at the University of Kentucky. OUTsource offers a fun, friendly environment where students don’t have to worry about hate-speech, discrimination, and others kinds of bullying. In addition to being an inclusive space, the OUTsource works to improve the university’s climate and culture by hosting programs and doing presentations across campus. One such program is “Question Box” in the dorms where students can anonymously ask questions dealing with homophobia, gender norms, identity, and the LGBTQ* community, which later get answered by OUTsource volunteers. The OUTsource is an empowering student-run organization that let’s students take control and make change.

Violence, Intervention and Prevention Center works both to end power-based personal violence (PBPV) (sexual assault, partner violence, and stalking) on campus and as a resource for victims and survivors of violence. The VIP center is the home of the nationally known Green Dot, a program that teaches students how to step into the role of an active bystander. As bystanders, students, staff and faculty hopefully will be able to safely intervene in potentially harmful situations as well as foster an anti-violence environment on campus. It is incredible and inspiring to see an organization on campus try and approach the problem of PBPV from a proactive and positive perspective.

When you come by to drop off your donations at either OUTsource or the VIP Center, say hi and learn more about what these organizations do and what you can do to help.

To learn more about the donation drive, what The Nest and Arbor Youth Service need, and where the OUTsource and the VIP center are located, click here!

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It’s January – do we stop giving now?

Continuing our commitment for giving
Continuing our commitment for giving

For many nonprofits, donations received during December can have a huge impact on their continued work. While the Trust has never been “keen” on actively seeking monetary contributions, we truly value and appreciate our donors! Much has been accomplished in 2012 and 2013 promises even more opportunities to help and serve our community.

While January affords a bit of breathing room, rest and relaxation, and evaluating the years accomplishments – for us it’s time to move forward in our Year-Round Plan for Giving. Last month we asked our friends and supporters to help us increase the Trust’s Facebook presence and in exchange for new “likes” we committed to donating desserts to area food shelters’ holiday meals. Our page jumped from 53 to 144 and we provided over 400 cookies, 6 pies and several loaves of zucchini bread to the Men’s and Women’s Hope Centers and Lighthouse Ministries. We are also pleased to say that many of the desserts were made with locally grown ingredients – berries, zucchini and fresh pumpkin!

Our donation to the Lexington Men's Hope Center - delivered on Christmas Day!
Our donation to the Lexington Men’s Hope Center – delivered on Christmas Day!
Crafting for a Cause <3
Crafting for a Cause <3

We’re asking our friends and supporters to continue this effort in January as we launch our 2nd project: providing basic necessities to two  Crisis Shelters. Several “drop boxes” will be placed around the city to collect items such as soap, deodorant, toothpaste, combs, brushes, baby items (diapers, food, formula, gently used clothing), socks, tshirts, and shampoo. We’ll also be soliciting our “stitching friends” to create homemade scarves, hats, mittens and wash cloths through our “Crafting for a Cause <3” events!

December found some of us receiving items we didn’t really need. Perhaps a family member gifted you socks but your sock drawer is already full. Maybe Grandma gave you a hat you don’t like or need. Did Mom give you MORE underwear? Consider donating these to us and we’ll make sure they get to folks who need them. We’ll be posting a “wish list” on our Facebook Page so please stop by and see what you can do to help others. We’ve aligned with Arbor Youth Services’ MASH Drop Inn (serving children 0-17 years old who are runaway, homeless, or otherwise in crisis) and The Nest Center for Women, Children and Families (providing high quality, comprehensive services to women and families in crisis while working to prevent child abuse and neglect).  Please take some time to visit their websites and learn more about their work!

So do we stop giving now that the gifting season is over? Nope. Will you stop giving because the gifting season is over? We sure hope not. Join us. Come stitch with us. Share our page. Start your own initiative. There’s always good work to be done, work that serves those in need and those less fortunate, work that will make you feel good while doing it. Jesse would like that. <3

The primary mission of the Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust is to sponsor and support work in keeping with Jesse’s spirit of helping others. Please continue to follow us on Facebook and share with others who are involved in and concerned with community service actions, ideas and altruism

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A year-round plan for giving

At our recent Board of Directors Meeting it was decided that along with the current projects we do in honor of Jesse, we should also expand our reach by doing more things in keeping with his spirit of helping others in his community.

Several members volunteered to organize a “Year-Round Plan For Giving” – it is an idea in progress but will begin this month with a bake-off to provide area homeless shelters with homemade desserts for their holiday meals. We’ll be promoting this event by asking for “likes” on the Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust’s Facebook Page . For every 10 likes we receive we will donate a homemade treat to one of several area organizations including (but not limited to) the Hope Center, the Women’s Hope Center and Lighthouse Missions.

Homemade pumpkin pie!

In order to increase awareness of our work, our goal is to surpass our current Facebook presence from the 53 likes we now have on our page to well over 100! We want others to learn about our projects and potentially help us with donations of technology, financial support, volunteerism, and most importantly sharing our mission and purpose with others in the Lexington area as well as the global community of which Jesse was so large a presence.

2009: Some of the 100+ pies before delivery

In 2009, with assistance from friends who supplied locally grown pumpkins, farm-fresh organic eggs and baking skills, we personally donated over 100 homemade pumpkin pies for holiday meals to a variety of Lexington Shelters. This is the inspiration for our latest endeavor: we need your help and support.

We believe that even in seemingly small ways, we can all work together and do something “big.” To help, simply like our page and share it with others: invite your friends, co-workers, organizations, associates and businesses to join us and then ask them to do the same. An act of giving just by clicking – Jesse would love that! His beloved technology and social networking being used to help someone less fortunate – truly “giving” during the giving season.

We’ll start counting at 53 and even if we don’t reach 100, we’ll be baking pies, cookies, cakes and breads for our local shelters – and looking for more ways to do good things in honor of Jesse the whole year-round.

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The gift that keeps on giving – give your computer a second life

Jesse (2005 Xmas Holiday)

As we enter the gifting season, we want to remind our friends and supporters that working computers and peripherals are tax-deductible when donated to the Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust, Inc.

CPU’s with a minimum Pentium 4 processor, LCD monitors, speakers, keyboards, mice, power strips and surge protectors may be dropped off any Saturday through May from 10am to 2pm at the Jesse Higginbotham Neighborhood Center located at Valley Park (2700 Cambridge Drive, Lexington, KY 40504). You may also contact us via email or phone – “Contact Us” and we can arrange a pickup.

Your donation helps us help deserving children by giving them a gift that they could not otherwise afford. This also keeps Lexington’s excellent E-Cycling program from disposing of working technology that can in fact have a “second life.” Additionally, since the E-Cycle Center only accepts computers from residents (they do NOT accept items from businesses, including home businesses, or not-for-profit organizations, such as churches or schools) donating your working systems to the Mindtriggerz Project is an excellent option for businesses or organizations whose technology might otherwise end up in a landfill.

You and/or your organization or business can rest assured that no information on your computer’s hard drive will be compromised – the installation of the Ubuntu Operating System (which is performed immediately upon receipt) removes all data and creates a “new” system. In the past we have received computer donations from a wide-variety of businesses and government agencies as well as many individuals. We want you to feel not only good about your donation but also safe in doing so. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Give your old computer a second life and give a child a gift of what we so often take for granted: technology.

Learn more about the Mindtriggerz Project



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Jesse loved using the word “Unity” and I think he’d be proud of what we have accomplished and continue to do in his honor. I also like to think he’d have a good chuckle at how we have involved the Open Source Community in our work. The Mindtriggerz Project computers run Ubuntu and have Open Source educational software installed on them.

After the dedication of the Valley Park Shelter in Jesse’s name, I found myself compelled to become active again in programs at the park. Jesse spent many hours there playing sports as a youngster. As a teen, he ran the concession stand while I coached and supervised various sports teams. When I was asked to help “re-spark” the Valley Park Activities Board, I gladly accepted. We have already held several meetings and are gearing up to renew programs and especially T-Ball this Spring.

I love to tell the story of little Jesse whose big last name barely fit on the back of his tiny T-Ball uniform.

His Mom and I both have wonderful memories of Jesse’s T-Ball days. There was an older, more experienced and athletically gifted player who for some reason decided to take Jesse under his wing. He encouraged, gave advice and showed such true sportsman like conduct that he was a hero among the Giants, their fans, coaches and parents. He led the league in home runs and took the team to the City Championship. I would like to again see such “community” at Valley Park. I think we will.

In another connection I feel is surely inspired by Jesse, I was fortunate to meet members of Cardinal Valley Elementary School’s PTA. Jesse roamed the hallways of that school as though he owned it and was often found after hours helping in the Tech Lab. The school is undergoing a very expansive renovation but unfortunately, funds for a new playground are not in the budget. The PTA is seeking ways to raise approximately $10,000 and along with the Valley Park Activities Board, the Cardinal Valley Neighborhood Association and our Trust in Jesse’s name, we hope to help them do just that.

The PTA has asked that we help promote a fundraiser to be held on December 1st at the Jesse Higginbotham Neighborhood Center. From 9am to 6pm they will be hosting “Holiday Family Portraits” (Pre-Order Form) with packages ranging from $5 to $26. We invite everyone in our CommUnity to come to the park and help with this event. It’s a great way to support our young people and to inspire us all to help each other. I hope you will feel compelled to join in.

Jesse’s Dad



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