Advancing Philanthropy

From the President / A Critical Year for Advocacy… for Philanthropy… and for You

In her column, AFP chair Ann Hale, CFRE, talks about how we need to broaden our vision—that we need to emphasize the social impact that fundraisers help create every day. She’s absolutely right, and ensuring that the profession can continue to make such an extraordinary impact is an intrinsic part of AFP’s work.

We do that in a lot of ways, from education and training to ethics and research. But an increasingly critical way is through advocacy. Advocacy, public policy, lobbying, government relations—whatever term you wish to use—has become a key part of AFP’s commitment to advancing fundraising and upholding the great tradition of philanthropy around the world.'

We know that people don’t give because of tax policy. But tax policy does spur people to make larger gifts and make gifts more often. And tax policy represents the government’s explicit support and acknowledgement of the value of philanthropy.

2017 is a landmark year for advocacy, fundraising and philanthropy. In the U.S., it marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the charitable deduction. Also this year, Canada will be celebrating its sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, and we will be highlighting the extraordinary achievements philanthropy has made across the country.

But despite these milestones, we see governments poised to change their long-standing commitment to supporting philanthropy.

In the U.S., the Trump administration and Congress seem poised to enact significant tax reform, with numerous proposals that would limit giving and tax incentives in one form or another. Completely overhauling the tax system by eliminating provisions such as the charitable deduction is not out of the question. In Canada, a change in government resulted in the withdrawal of a proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax on gifts of real estate and private securities last year. There seems to be little interest in enacting that provision or other giving incentives this year.

We know that people don’t give because of tax policy. But tax policy does spur people to make larger gifts and make gifts more often. And tax policy represents the government’s explicit support and acknowledgement of the value of philanthropy.

This is why we must act! Your members of Congress, members of Parliament, senators and local legislators listen to YOU, the voice of their constituency. If you’ve never responded to one of our alerts before, I urge you to do so this year. The public policy landscape is different from anything we’ve ever seen. We are looking at proposals that could dramatically reform our system of philanthropy and fundraising.

The impact that you can have when you take action can be incredible. Last year at this time, AFP called upon its members to respond to a proposal from the Internal Revenue Service that would have instituted an optional form asking charities to obtain their donors’ Social Security numbers. Thanks to the letters and comments from many of you, the response in opposition was so strong that the agency quickly changed its mind.

In Canada, your grassroots action has helped us see passage of a series of giving incentives that have benefitted charities across the country over the past several years. Your work also led to the Canadian government’s official recognition of National Philanthropy Day, the only country to formally do so. Your voice matters—so much more than you may realize—and your legislators need to hear it!

In 2017, we are championing charitable giving and the tax policies that spur giving. In February, we began in the U.S. by holding a Lobby Day on Capitol Hill with our sector partners to not only defend the charitable deduction but also push for an “above the line” universal charitable deduction that all taxpayers can use when calculating their taxes. In Canada, we will be pushing for several initiatives, including calling for a minister specifically responsible for the charitable and nonprofit sector and designating a federal department to have economic responsibility for charities and nonprofits.

In 2017, we are championing charitable giving and the tax policies that spur giving.

But to accomplish these goals—to ensure that philanthropy is not only protected but advanced—we need your engagement. Keep abreast of the issues. AFP will be sending out updates. Respond to our legislative alerts. And most importantly, get your colleagues involved.

2017 is going to be a pivotal year. And while we want to protect the charitable deduction, what we’re defending extends well beyond mere tax policy. It’s about a 100-year-old tradition of philanthropy. It’s about community and bringing people together. It’s about policy that encourages us to help others, whether it’s our neighbors or people halfway around the world.

Engaging in advocacy upholds our philanthropic traditions and culture and ensures that our profession will continue to make an extraordinary impact in the world. Thank you for getting involved throughout this very important year!

Jason Lee, J.D.

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