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 that 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 shutting down that evening for the time being. Buildings we had walked through all day, where we visited with Ninth District Rep. Trey Hollingsworth and senators Todd Young and Mike Braun, now closed.

Fast forward two years and the annual Foundations on the Hill went virtual again, just as it and oh-so-many other events and meetings over the past 24 months. Let’s hope we continue to return to some state of normalcy, and I certainly hope FOTH returns to Capitol Hill next year.

That said, Executive Director Claudia Cummings and her staff at the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance did the heavy lifting of getting the virtual meetings organized again this year. We met virtually with Braun, Young, Hollingsworth and other members of the House of Representatives from March 17 to 24.

We shared concerns about donor-advised funds (we think they are a valuable tool of philanthropy providing grants to important work in our communities), 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) 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 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 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 2021, 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, however, with the donor-advised funds administered by the Community Foundation of Jackson County. They produced $116,278.14 in grants during 2021, including grants awarded to a number of local agencies.

Among those recipients were Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry, the Boys and Girls Club of Seymour, Girls Inc. of Jackson County, Humane Society of Jackson County, Southern Indiana Center for the Arts, Tuskegee Airmen Memorial Endowment, local churches and others.

We shared that information and more with our congressional delegation in both the House and Senate. As always, we appreciated their time and attention to our concerns.

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. Our advocacy for philanthropy helps with that work.