On February 16, 2017 over two hundred people from various parts of the country, representing a diverse cross-section of the nonprofit community went to Capitol Hill to speak to legislators about the importance of the charitable tax deduction. The goal of the Charitable Giving Coalition who sponsored this event was to encourage members of both the House and Senate to include the charitable tax deduction as they begin to create tax reform legislation.
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Besides those who flew in for this event, others made appointments to meet with their legislators while they were home for the Presidents Day recess. Still, others wrote letters and made phone calls. The Charitable Giving Coalition will continue to meet and to encourage members of the nonprofit community to speak out on this issue.
As a member of this Coalition who both personally encouraged people to come to the Hill and continues to advocate for the charitable tax deduction, I have been thinking quite a bit about the threat to the charitable tax deduction.
Here are some of my thoughts:
We are working to defend our programs, ideals, and donors.
As a new Administration and a new Congress position themselves to move forward, the nonprofit community is finding itself very busy defending programs and projects that we fear may be cut or placed in serious jeopardy. This often happens in a Presidential transition. When the House, Senate and White House are all controlled by the same political party, the situation can intensify.
However, it seems that for many nonprofits, the issues at risk are more than a specific program. A number of nonprofits sense that the very causes they represent are at serious risk. This has many of us in the nonprofit community scrambling from meeting to meeting, seeking collaborators to support our causes. It finds many of us organizing campaigns and rallies to find more public support for our causes.
There are many charities whose future will depend upon the disposition of the White House, government agencies and Congress regarding issues about human rights, equal rights, civil rights, immigration, the plight of refugees, education, healthcare, housing, employment, and the environment to name just some. In many cases, this will also be true at the state and local levels as well.
We are upping the pace of our donor engagement.
It also seems that things are moving unusually fast in an environment that usually moves at a much slower pace. Many charities find themselves taken a bit off-guard as we scurry to address a myriad of issues and sometimes more than one issue at the same time. Some politicos may argue that the seeming chaos is purposeful and not meant to overwhelm and confuse. Whether it is intended or not, many of us feel somewhat overwhelmed, and I am guessing many of our donors are too.
Although some statistics tell us that certain nonprofit groups have received more funding in the last couple of months, other groups are experiencing a little of the “town hall type confrontations” that many of the politicians faced during their most recent recess visits home.
Be intentional about your organization’s mission.
It seems to me that now more than ever, we must be very clear about our missions and our causes. We need to reassure our donors of how much we appreciate their support. We need to continue to concretely describe the outcomes realized through their generosity. Perhaps this is an important time to make a phone call, send a postcard, text message, or note to our donors to let them know our mission remains focused and that we continue to use their donations for purposes for which they were intended.
Keeping our donors connected and as actively engaged in our causes as possible seems to be critical at this time, even if our particular cause is not one being directly impacted by some of the proposed regulatory and budgetary considerations.
This brings us back to February 16 and the day spent on Capitol Hill in defense of the charitable tax deduction. This is one cause that does impact all of us in some way, and it will also impact our donors. More importantly, perhaps, is that if the charitable deduction is reduced to meaninglessness or totally withdrawn, it may well reflect a change in how all charity is perceived in the United States. It will break a long American tradition of our government offering its citizens an incentive for giving. It may even suggest to some that our missions and our causes or not quite as important or relevant as they once were.
Change the way your nonprofit describes itself.
Adam Braun of Pencils of Promise encourages us not describe ourselves as “nonprofit” but rather as “for purpose.” As we seek to protect the charitable tax deduction, let’s own our purposes, our missions with renewed vigor, energy, and excitement.
Let us also recognize that there is a purpose for the charitable tax deduction and one that has helped to encourage giving to our institutions and agencies in the past 100 years. It has also, in my opinion, strengthened our American character as well.
All of us know that together we can make a difference. So, let the “for purpose” community’s voice be heard loudly and clearly for the sake of all our most worthy causes and those most in need.
For more information, visit the Charitable Giving Coalition website at http://protectgiving.org/