Foundation advocates for giving

A delegation of Indiana’s community foundations and staffers from the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance converged on Washington, D.C., in early March 2020, for the annual Foundations on the Hill.

The event, commonly called FOTH, brings hundreds of folks involved in the field of philanthropy together with lawmakers to share concerns and advocate for philanthropy and people doing the work of helping lift up others.

After meeting over a two-day session last year with members of the Hoosier state’s congressional delegation in a quickly changing environment as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, I can recall waiting for my flight home out of Reagan National Airport on March 11, 2020, and seeing the CNN and Fox tickers report that House and Senate office buildings were closing down that evening for the time being. Buildings we had walked through all day. Where we visited with 9th District Rep. Trey Hollingsworth and Senators Todd Young and Mike Braun. Now closed.

Fast forward a year, and the annual Foundations on the Hill went virtual, like oh-so-many other events and meetings over the past 12 months. Executive Director Claudia Cummings and her staff at the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance did the heavy lifting of getting the virtual meetings organized. We met via Zoom with Braun, Young, Hollingsworth and other members of the House of Representatives on March 23-24.

We shared concerns about donor-advised funds (we think they are a valuable, important tool of philanthropy providing grants to vital work in our communities), about the universal charitable deduction (we think all U.S. taxpayers should be able to see the tax benefits of giving, not just the most well off), about broadband (we think improving access and affordability is essential, in urban and rural America) and charitable rollovers (we think charitable rollovers from retirement funds should be expanded to include donor-advised funds).

The Community Foundation of Jackson County participates in FOTH and other efforts to advocate for philanthropy because we think the work affected by tax laws and other laws governing nonprofits are essential to helping those agencies live out their missions of helping those in need.

The philanthropic sector is concerned that changes in the charitable deduction in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 may well lead to fewer and smaller donations to nonprofits undertaking important and impactful work in our communities. Making the charitable deduction available to all Americans – a proposal supported by the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance — would increase giving by an estimated $4 billion a year. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress included a $300 charitable deduction across the board for all Americans in the 2020 CARES Act. It was renewed for this year, too. Recognition, it appears, that an all-inclusive incentive for charitable giving has merit.

About those donor-advised funds. They are coming under attack by some in Congress and others who contend the funds are simply hoarding money and providing tax breaks for the wealthy.

That’s just not the case with the donor-advised funds administered by the Community Foundation of Jackson County. They produced $42,425 in grants during 2020, including grants awarded to a number of local agencies, including the Boys & Girls Club, Southern Indiana Center for the Arts, local churches, Clarity of South Central Indiana, Anchor House, Community Provisions, Child Care Network and others.

Five of the Foundation’s 10 donor-advised funds, supported by donor-advisors such as Fred and Tracie Moritz, Maggie Schneider, and Nancy and Dennis Sterling made new or greater gifts to local agencies because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds are not hoarding cash. They are providing important grants to help people.

We shared that information with Rep. Hollingsworth and his staff, and we expect to continue to discuss the issue with the goal of proposing legislation that would protect the philanthropic vehicle and enhance their work by making them eligible for the IRA charitable rollover. We’ll keep you posted.

And, as always, we appreciate the time and attention of our lawmakers.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County remains committed to helping our donors and nonprofits meet the challenges that face our community as, together, we build stronger, better tomorrows.

President and CEO Dan Davis of the Community Foundation of Jackson County writes a monthly column for The Tribune. He is a member of the public policy committee of the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance. The Foundation is at 107 Community Drive, Seymour, IN 47274. For information about donating, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to [email protected].