November 1, 2016 - The closing day of Philanthropy Southwest’s 2016 Annual Conference in Colorado Springs featured a peek in to 2016 politics and 2017 policy, considering potential implications for foundations and charitable giving. Hadar Susskind, VP of Public Policy for the Council on Foundations (COF), told the crowd, “You can say anything you want two weeks before the election,” inviting funders to tune in to see how many of his predictions* come true. The hour-long, free COF webinar will be take place Thursday, November 10th at 1:00-2:00 pm (CT). Register here.
Regardless of election results, Susskind said, it is essential that foundation representatives proactively share information and educate their representatives. “Your power – the power of the philanthropic sector – is magnified exponentially when you build relationships with members of Congress, and your state and local representatives,” he said. “Everyone is legally able to meet with policy makers to provide information. Make sure your elected officials know about the work you’re doing and what your priorities are.”
Ashley Allison, Executive Director of the Waco Foundation, agreed, urging southwest funders to be proactive and build relationships with their representatives. “You don’t need to be a tax expert, you are experts about the work you do and are important constituents,” she said. “If you’re just getting started, join the Philanthropy Southwest block of funders for Foundations on the Hill. Also, meet with policy leaders on both sides of the aisle at home.” Foundations on the Hill will take place on March 20-22, 2017 in Washington, D.C.; learn more.
In addition to efforts to expand the IRA charitable rollover to include Donor Advised Funds and to simplify the private foundation excise tax, there is growing skepticism across the aisle on several key issues, said Susskind. “Questions are being raised about endowments, about whether tax incentives motivate individual charitable contributions, and whether all causes are created equally – in other words, should deductions be the same for donations to food banks vs. the opera.” While these questions are mainly focused on universities right now, he said, the reality is that everything being said applies to philanthropies.
“You have influence,” said Susskind. “If Philanthropy Southwest members bring their collective power to address key matters, they can wield significant leverage.”
*Based on polling two weeks before the election, Susskind predicted Secretary Clinton will be elected President, Democrats are likely to have a majority in the Senate, and Republicans are likely to maintain a majority in the House.