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It was a "wow" experience!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Linda May, Board Chair, The Simmons Foundation 
and PSW Legislative Network Committee Member.
Philanthropy Southwest (PSW) was well represented on Capitol Hill March 18-19 during the annual Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) event.  Twenty participants met in DC to represent PSW’s seven-state region…our largest delegation ever.
FOTH is hosted by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, in partnership with the Council on Foundations.  The two-day event brings foundation leaders to DC for meetings with Congress about key issues of importance to foundations and the philanthropic sector.
The experience began with several informative sessions sponsored by the Alliance for Charitable Reform.  Panelists updated us on the budget, the importance of keeping the charitable deduction and why, and other matters to help foundation representatives “make their case” during their congressional visits.
The balance of the two days was spent on the Hill where we (hopefully) educated the Members and staff about matters important to the sector.  Particular emphasis was placed on informing them why it’s important to leave the charitable deduction untouched.
We thanked many of the Members for their positive vote for the America Gives More Act.  To those who voted against the bill, we reiterated our interest in many of the provisions, including the IRA rollover extender, and streamlining the excise tax for foundations.   That bill is currently in the Senate.
Additionally, we offered our foundations as a resource should any staff or the Member need inform nonprofits during their District visits.
Philanthropy Southwest once again sponsored the Texas Chiefs of Staff luncheonation on public policy issues.  Several of us even offered to serve as guides should the Member or his/her staff want to visit local this year. Thank you to Bob Weiss who worked to make this possible.  Bob’s expansive personality and deep knowledge of the issues combined with the relationships he’s developed over the years added vigor to the delegation and the conversation.  The Chiefs were forthcoming and educated those around the table about how Congress goes about its business.  They also shared insights regarding what we might expect as the budget continues to take shape.
PSW’s vibrant Legislative Committee, led by Brent Christopher, encourages everyone to become aware of the issues at stake, even if you choose not to participate on the committee itself.  We all need to be aware of what’s happening at the state level as well as in Washington.  In states where the charitable deduction was reduced, giving decreased. People suffered.  Communities suffered.  Later those states reversed their position and changed the laws so that the deduction was reinstated.  But other states are considering the same reductions.  Stay tuned. 
It makes sense that all of us become advocates on behalf of the sector.  Here are some arguments:
  • One in ten workers (14 million) is employed in the nonprofit sector.  If jobs are important to the Member, focus on jobs.
  • The deduction serves as the lifeblood of organizations.  Social services are the safety net, especially as the Federal government continues to cut services, such as Medicaid reimbursements.
  • The charitable deduction works…it matters.  Voters overwhelmingly oppose any changes. When states (e.g. Michigan and Hawaii) made cuts in charitable deductions, giving dropped precipitously.  The deductions were reinstated.  As participants said repeatedly, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
  • Without the deduction, the donor receives nothing in return for the gift.  It’s the only deduction where donors get no benefit other than the knowledge that they have helped their community become educated, healthier and productive. 
These are just a few of the reasons why the philanthropic sector is critical.  The point is to become informed and involved.  Philanthropy Southwest is our own resource.  Please use it.
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