Hoosier delegation advocates for philanthropy during D.C. visit


A delegation of Indiana’s community foundations and staffers from the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance converged on Washington, D.C., on May 9 for a Hoosiers version of Foundations on the Hill.

Eighteen of us involved in the field of philanthropy met with Indiana lawmakers and their staff to share concerns and advocate for the field and people doing the work of helping lift up others.

This is the first time we’ve returned to Washington as a group since attending a similar national gathering in March 2020, a two-day session 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 had visited with senators Todd Young and Mike Braun and then-Indiana Ninth District Rep. Trey Hollingsworth.

Returning to those office buildings last month after two years of meeting with lawmakers via Zoom was reassuring. Reassuring that we are moving forward. Reassuring that government still convenes and extends an open door to the folks from back home.

Executive Director Claudia Cummings and her staff at the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, including Holly Davis and Lissa Silotto, did the heavy lifting of getting the meetings organized again this year. We visited Braun and Young along with new Ninth District Rep. Erin Houchin of Salem from neighboring Washington County. We met with other House members, as well.

We shared concerns about donor-advised funds (we think they are a valuable tool of philanthropy providing grants to important 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) and charitable rollovers (we think charitable rollovers from retirement funds should be expanded to include donor-advised funds).

Since our visit, there is news to report. On May 17, several members of Congress introduced the Charitable Act, which is aimed at empowering Americans to contribute to charitable causes and support local communities. Those members include representatives Blake Moore of Utah, Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Michelle Steel of California and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire. We hope members of the Indiana delegation will give the proposal a close look.

This proposal would extend and expand the expired charitable deduction for those who do not itemize on their tax returns, ensuring that every American who donates or tithes is able to benefit from both the standard deduction and the charitable deduction. Specifically, this legislation would increase the previous $300/$600 cap on the non-itemizer deduction to one-third of the standard deduction, equal to $4,500 for individuals or $9,000 for joint filers. It seems only fair.

Of the $484.85 billion donated to charities in 2021, 67% of donations came from individuals, the lawmakers reported when introducing the bill. While charitable contributions from foundations and corporations have grown in recent years, the share of dollars donated by individuals has fallen for the fourth straight year, a trend with serious implications for the churches, food banks, museums and other nonprofits serving our neighbors and uniting us as Americans.

When Congress created the temporary universal charitable deduction in 2021 and 2022 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the drop in giving following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the result was the generation of $10.9 billion for charities with 25% of that coming from Americans earning less than $30,000. Given the impact of the smaller deduction, we believe provisions such as those outlined in the Charitable Act could help energize giving here in Jackson County and across the nation.

About those donor-advised funds mentioned earlier. 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 $123,915 in grants during 2023, including grants awarded to a number of local agencies, such as the Seymour Museum Center, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and the town of Brownstown, 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 and asked them about their work on the state and nation’s behalf.

The Community Foundation of Jackson County participates in such efforts and others 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. We remain 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.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. 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].

No posts to display