NEW BOOK ON TRANSPARENCY IN PHILANTHROPY
The Philanthropy Roundtable has published a new book by noted legal scholar John Tyler of the E. M. Kauffman Foundation, titled Transparency in Philanthropy: An Analysis of Accountability, Fallacy, and Volunteerism addressing recent calls for more transparency in private philanthropy and how philanthropic organizations can respond.
Lawson Knight has served as executive director of the Blue Mountain Community Foundation since 2002. Blue Mountain Community Foundation, based in Walla Walla, Washington, started in 1984 based on the idea that the area needed a place for donors who cared about the community to make long-term investments.
Sector Leaders Tell Lawmakers Limits, Caps Not a Solution to Fiscal Crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Millions of people throughout America are at risk of losing crucial nonprofit services if Congress enacts limits to the century-old charitable tax deduction. Hundreds of foundation and philanthropic leaders are in Washington, D.C. this week to make sure lawmakers understand that unraveling the charitable deduction is not a solution to the budget crisis.
The timing is key as Congress and the president tackle deficit reduction and tax reform. The House and Senate both released their budget plans last week and the proposed Senate budget suggests limits to itemized deductions – one of which is the charitable deduction – putting at risk billions of dollars in charitable donations.
“The charitable deduction is unlike anything else in our tax code, encouraging people to invest in their communities without personal gain,” said Kevin Murphy, president of the Berks County Community Foundation in Pennsylvania and board chair of the Council on Foundations. “Limiting the charitable deduction would have the greatest impact on those who need the most help, especially during tough economic times. How could we possibly limit or tamper with incentives that allow people to give away their income to benefit others?”
Last month, as part of the Summit for Leaders we organized a stellar team of more than 40 foundation and nonprofit leaders for our ACR Fly in/Speak Out. They fanned out across Capitol Hill to meet with 40 Congressional offices that are deeply involved in tax and philanthropic issues.
Now for the good news/bad news. By our reckoning, a good time was had by all and our message about preserving the charitable deduction, both now and when we get to tax reform, was warmly received. The bad news is that for those most in the know on Capitol Hill there were no assurances that charitable giving will be protected in the context of tax reform. Indeed, we heard on multiple occasions that when it comes to tax reform, “everything is on the table.”
Adam Meyerson, president of The Philanthropy Roundtable, comments on the new NCRP initiative
On June 8, the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) introduced a new project, Philanthropy’s Promise, an initiative to encourage grantmakers to voluntarily “allocate at least 50 percent of their grant dollars to address the unique needs of the poor, elderly, disabled and other underserved populations, and at least 25 percent towards supporting advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement to address the root causes of social problems.” This initiative channels at least some of the criteria outlined by NCRP in its 2009 Criteria for Philanthropy at Its Best: Benchmarks to Assess and Enhance Grantmaker Impact.
After reviewing NCRP’s latest initiative, Roundtable president Adam Meyerson commented: The Philanthropy Roundtable believes that voluntary initiatives such as “Philanthropy’s Promise” are consistent with a free society under two conditions. First, it is important that the initiatives remain truly voluntary, without the threat of coercion from regulators, legislators, community activists, and/or mandatory accreditation systems. Second, it is important that donors and foundations remain free to give to the many worthy charitable objectives that are not included in the NCRP “promise.” Activist groups should be free to criticize donors’ choices, and to seek to push philanthropic giving in a different direction, so long as they defend and respect the freedom of donors to make their own charitable decisions.
New op-ed raises debate about donor intent and private foundation money
Recently Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, posted an op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education in defense of donor intent and philanthropic freedom - what we believe is the right of donors and foundations to give to the issues, causes and organizations they value in the manner they choose, consistent with the law. He highlighted recent efforts to curtain this freedom by some activist groups including AB 624.
He notes: “American higher education depends profoundly on philanthropy, and whatever threatens philanthropy threatens American higher education… [t]here is actually a more serious threat that was much in the news… the effort to force foundations to “greenline” their philanthropy.”
The Greenlining Institute responded yesterday with an op-ed arguing among other issues for greater foundation transparency and diversity.
Peter Wood continued the debate by responding to Greenlining’s comments.
We’ll continue to follow this debate and keep your posted.
The Washington Legal Foundation just published its Summer 2010 edition of Conversations With…
Conversations With… The Honorable Dick Thornburgh, Dr. Larry P. Arnn, Heather R. Higgins, and Adam Meyerson
This edition is dedicated to threats to philanthropic freedom and features Former Attorney General of the United States and Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh leading a discussion with Dr. Larry P. Arnn, President of Hillsdale College; Heather R. Higgins, President and Director of The Randolph Foundation; and Adam Meyerson, President of The Philanthropy Roundtable. The three reflect on the American tradition of philanthropy and the growing movement to impose further government regulation on the philanthropic world.
The newly released article Respecting Foundation and Charity Autonomy: How Public is Private Philanthropy? in the Chicago Kent Law Review, Number 85, Volume 2 reexamines the “public money” argument. It was published as one of several articles included in the “Symposium on the Law of Philanthropy in the Twenty-First Century”.
Adam Meyerson, president of The Philanthropy Roundtable, recently delivered a speech entitled “The Generosity of America” as part of a lecture series sponsored by Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship.
Adam notes “Private charitable giving is at the heart and soul of public discourse in our democracy. It makes possible our great think tanks, whether left, right or center. Name a great issue of public debate today: climate change, the role of government in health care, school choice, stem cell research, same-sex marriage. On all these issues, private philanthropy enriches debate by enabling organizations with diverse viewpoints to articulate and spread their message.”
He cautions us though, warning “this freedom to give is now under serious threat… three kinds of proposals coming from Capitol Hill, the IRS, state governments, and sometimes from the charitable sector itself, that should be of concern to all Americans.”
James Madison Institute examines the impact of advocacy groups on philanthropic giving
A recent policy brief from the James Madison Institute raises the antennas of Floridian donors to the tactics of advocacy groups that seek to redirect private giving to their specified causes.
Excerpt:“Surely donors deserve the right to choose where their money goes. After all, most gifts represent the bounty from the fruits of their labor — what’s left after life’s necessities have been purchased, payrolls have been met, or federal, state and local taxes have been paid.
Granted, some choices may seem eccentric. Yet here in Florida there also are heart-warming examples of how personal experiences ignited a passion for a cause. Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, adopted as a child, gave much of his wealth to his foundation to support adoption and foster care. When one of Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino’s sons was diagnosed with autism, Marino started a foundation to support autism research. There are countless examples of such generosity by businesses, foundations and individuals across the country.”
To view the full policy brief and a related article select the links below.