Advancing Philanthropy

From the President / In a Critical Year, Upping Our Public Policy Leadership

As fundraising and philanthropy have grown significantly over the years, AFP’s role as a leader in public policy for the profession has become increasingly critical. We’ve helped make the IRA charitable rollover permanent in the U.S. and celebrated the official recognition of National Philanthropy Day in Canada.

We only achieved those successes—and many more on the state, provincial and local levels—because our members, like yourself, have become more aware, engaged, and supportive of the work that we do in public policy.

But this year is a bit different, especially in the U.S., as the issue of comprehensive tax reform affecting the charitable deduction is on the table. So, we are doing things a bit differently in our public policy program.

You may not realize how much behind-the-scenes work goes into AFP’s public policy program, work that extends well-beyond meetings with legislators, the submission of comments, and the dissemination of public policy alerts. And this year, we are upping our game.

Take research, for example. When a key piece of research comes that directly affects policy and fundraising, we typically communicate that to government. But this year, AFP was a part of coalition of organizations that hosted a Congressional staff briefing about research from Independent Sector and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy about the impact of the current tax reform proposals on giving, such as the expansion of the standard deduction.

AFP and the Charitable Giving Coalition have also made a special effort this year to connect with academics, tax attorneys, and other tax policy experts to get their perspective and insight. Not all of them have agreed with our ideas, but these conversations have sharpened our arguments and given us opportunities on where to find common ground and develop potential compromises or other workable solutions.

Collaboration has always been AFP’s most important principle when working in public policy. AFP chairs and helped found the Charitable Giving Coalition, a group whose numbers exceed more than 175 organizations. This year we’ve pushed to include even more organizations in the coalition, as our capacity for influence and impact increases exponentially through these kinds of partnerships.

You should also know that your local chapter and its work are also important in our lobbying and policy work. When we visit elected officials, we always reference the local AFP chapters in their district or riding. The number of members in the chapter, previous chapter contacts with the legislator, chapter activities like National Philanthropy Day—all these activities help establish a rapport with legislative offices that are so critical in a year like this.

Why are we putting so much time and effort into public policy? First, no one else will speak for us. It is rare for the public, media, government, or even our donors to openly support the value of fundraising, so it is upon us to provide a necessary voice in support of philanthropy and the fundraising profession. Second, reaching out to government is not just a way to educate about the impact of public policy—it is a way to educate the government about the fundraising profession in general. Partnering with governments gives us the platform to explain why your work is so vital—why fundraising drives philanthropy and social good.

Third and finally, our public policy work this year supports the very core of our sector and what we do. We know that most people are generous and want to help, but they often need support and encouragement, an explanation of the needs, and recognition for their work. That is our job as fundraisers, and the role of charitable giving incentives such as the charitable deduction.

Even with everything we’re doing this year, we need your assistance more than ever. It’s quite likely that AFP will call upon you to act—to get involved in public policy. So please respond—to preserving the charitable deduction in the U.S. or participating in our Day in Ridings Advocacy Day in Canada. It is a critical year for public policy and philanthropy. AFP is doing everything it can, and I hope you will join us as we work together to preserve incentives that spur giving and advance the important role philanthropy plays in our society.

Jason Lee, J.D., Interim President & CEO

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