10 March 2014

ACR Summit Wrap Up (VIDEO)

The fifth annual Alliance for Charitable Reform Summit for Leaders was held on March 5, despite Mother Nature’s attempt to unravel the travel plans of those attending. Our audience members heard from three panels whose presenters addressed the potential impact of tax reform on the charitable sector and encouraged more education of our elected officials about the damage that would be done to our communities by any diminution of private giving.

Adam Meyerson, president of The Philanthropy Roundtable, noted in his opening remarks, “It’s clear we still have work to do with members of Congress on our common message that philanthropy and charitable giving are central to American life, that public policy should encourage, not discourage charitable giving, and that we must preserve the full value of the charitable deduction, which encourages individuals to give away their money for the benefit of others.”

The opening Congressional panel comprised staffers from both houses of Congress and from both sides of the aisle. This panel discussed the recent developments in tax reform, including last week’s release of House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-MI) tax reform discussion draft and this week’s 2015 White House budget. This panel was off the record, so be sure you sign up for next year’s ACR Summit for Leaders to get the scoop.

The second panel featured four charitable leaders from diverse organizations who presented exciting new approaches in communicating to policymakers the importance of private giving in enhancing the impact of the charitable sector in our communities.

Suzy DeFrancis, chief public affairs officer of the American Red Cross, kicked off the panel by highlighting the critical role of volunteers in her organization, whose financial value she estimated at $124 million each year.

“Private giving supports the infrastructure that allows us to deploy these volunteers. And any drop in private donations, I submit, would reduce our ability to deploy volunteers and volunteerism in America,” DeFrancis said.

Laurie Norton Moffatt, director and CEO of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, discussed how the nonprofit sector can make a compelling economic case in its discussions with members of Congress, particularly from the perspective of cultural organizations.

”… When we understand the importance of jobs to the economic health of our nation, I think a case can be made that we are a driver of a larger economy,” Moffatt said.

The third panelist to speak was Mason Rummel, president of the James Graham Brown Foundation in Lexington, Kentucky who encouraged her grantmaking colleagues to be actively engaged in educating policy makers about the work of foundations in their communities.

“This is about impact,” Rummel proclaimed. “We are trying to create impact and I emphasize that with all of my (Congressional) members and their staff—that together, each of us has a role in making great change and quality of life to our community.”

The final panelist to speak was Steven Woolf, senior tax policy counsel for the Jewish Federations of North America, who took a deeper look at some of the philosophical arguments the charitable sector can make in discussing tax policy issues. Woolf argued that money donated to charity should not be part of an individual’s tax base.

“Contributions should not be subject to tax because the individual is not consuming anything—he or she is giving it away,” Woolf said. “The charitable contribution is the only provision where no benefit flows back to the individual.”

*This video includes the opening remarks from each panelist but not the Q&A portion of the panel.

The final panel of the ACR Summit for Leaders addressed the need for the nonprofit sector to understand the broad appeal of the argument for lower rates in order to relay an effective message about the financial, political, and social value of private charitable giving. Howard Husock, vice president for policy research at the Manhattan Institute and current Forbes contributor, and Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation and former Wall Street Journal editorial board member, offered two perspectives.

Moore began the discussion by arguing in favor of lowering rates by eliminating all deductions from the tax code.

“You need to do that to write a complete tax overhaul,” Moore said. “… There is no question in my mind that when tax rates are lower, the economy is better.”

Husock emphasized that the any tax reform initiative needs to be held to at least one particular standard.

”…Let’s hold charitable giving at least steady or increase it,” Husock said.

*This video includes the opening remarks from each panelist but not the Q&A portion of the panel.