ACR Blog: (VIDEO) The Effects of a 100 Percent Charitable Deduction

In the August 22 edition of the ACR newsletter, we shared a story about Puerto Rico adopting a 100 percent charitable deduction in 2011. The deduction led to a 70 percent increase in the number of individuals who made charitable donations in Puerto Rico, according to a report released by the Flamboyan Foundation.

The Flamboyan Foundation is a private, family foundation focused on improving educational outcomes for children in public schools in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, according to its website. The Alliance for Charitable Reform recently interviewed Kristin Ehrgood, president of the Flamboyan Foundation, about the implementation of the tax deduction, the results of the Flamboyan Foundation’s study, and how studying donor behavior could help expand charitable giving in Puerto Rico.

Continue reading…


Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

1997- Olin College of Engineering

College of Engineering

Franklin Olin didn’t finish school, but he was mechanically gifted and studied on his own so that at age 22 he passed the entrance exam for Cornell University, where he studied engineering. He proved to be a natural entrepreneur, and when Olin died in 1951 his bequest made his foundation one of the largest in the nation. For years, the F. W. Olin Foundation supported science and engineering projects; then the trustees decided to create a brand-new college to offer students Franklin-Olin-style twists on engineering. The Olin College of Engineering, chartered in Needham, Massachusetts, in 1997, particularly aimed to make its engineers more creative, more entrepreneurial, more interdisciplinary and comfortable working in teams, and equipped with better communications skills. All of these elements were lacking in traditional engineering training.

The foundation committed $200 million to start the fledgling school—at the time a record in higher education. They located Olin adjacent to Babson College, one of the nation’s top-ranked entrepreneurship schools, and 25 percent of Olin students are simultaneously taking classes at Babson or nearby Wellesley College. To help produce a culture of change and innovation, faculty members are untenured. Only 16 percent of applying students are admitted, and 41 percent of alums go on to advanced study. Olin graduates soon ranked among the top winners of National Science Foundation graduate fellowships and Fulbright scholarships.

When it closed its doors for good in 2005, the Olin Foundation transferred the balance of its endowment—over $250 million—to the college. With a total of $460 million in gifts from its founder, the college gives all students a half-tuition scholarship. Olin’s fresh approach to engineering has inspired wide interest and imitation. More than 50 universities send observers to the campus annually. Nine are now revising their programs along Olin’s lines. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, all engineering freshmen have begun following a program that borrows from Olin courses.

Could these changes have been triggered without creating a new privately funded model college? The college’s founding president, Richard Miller, is doubtful. “The National Science Foundation spent around $100 million over 10 years to provoke this kind of change on large campuses in the 1990s. After five or six years, they ended it—concluding that its penetration into universities was disappointing…. I view Mr. Olin as a great example…. He was an entrepreneur, he was educated as an engineer, and he was motivated to do things to create opportunities for others. We are doing all that we know how to do to inspire the graduates of Olin to follow along that path.”

Philanthropy magazine article,

Federal | State | Proper Oversight

Opinion: Dark Money

In an editorial published Wednesday by National Review Online, Bill Zeiser, a Ph.D. student at Hillsdale College, takes on the task of explaining the critical role of anonymous giving to philanthropic privacy. Zeiser cites an article authored by Adam Meyerson, president of The Philanthropy Roundtable, about the misconceptions surrounding so-called ‘dark money,’ the role anonymous donations play in upholding freedom of association, and the necessity of protecting a charitable donor’s identity in a thriving civil society.

“So-called ‘dark money’ illuminates our society,” writes Adam Meyerson of the Philanthropy Roundtable, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting donor intent. He points to the 1958 Supreme Court case of NAACP v. Alabama, in which the Court unanimously ruled that if the civil-rights organization were forced to disclose its membership, supporters might be subjected to “economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility,” thereby restraining “their right to freedom of association.” Meyerson extended this justification to philanthropic privacy, reminding critics of both DonorsTrust and Tides that “the right to privacy enjoyed by contributors to donor-advised funds is no different than the right to privacy that governs the overwhelming majority of charitable giving.” Meyerson listed some of the reasons donors might wish to remain anonymous, including “to protect themselves from unwanted solicitations, to protect their children from knowledge of their family’s wealth,” and most resoundingly to protect their “freedom to support controversial organizations without fear of reprisal or ostracism” like NAACP donors of old.”

Click here to read Zeiser’s full editorial.

ACR Blog: The 2014 Philanthropy Roundtable Annual Meeting

The Philanthropy Roundtable Annual Meeting is quickly approaching. On October 9 and 10 we’ll be in Salt Lake City, Utah to explore meaningful and effective giving that solves our nation’s greatest problems.

Click below for a five minute video interview with Lindsay Miller, our managing director of events, discussing what’s in store.


Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

1937- The Guggenheim


Solomon Guggenheim was born into a wealthy mining family, and expanded his fortune through his own mining ventures. He turned to philanthropy full time after the First World War. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation was launched in 1937 “to promote the understanding and appreciation of art, architecture, and other manifestations of visual culture, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, and to collect, conserve, and study the art of our time.” It opened its first museum in 1939, showcasing samples of Guggenheim’s unusual collection. The foundation consistently promoted Solomon’s interest in the current, the abstract, and the unusual, even in its buildings.

Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned to design a larger home for the museum in 1943. It was finished in 1959 and opened as the renamed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. A spiraling cylinder, the building is one of the most iconic of modern structures.

The collection continued to grow through the ‘50s and ‘60s, and during the 1970s Peggy Guggenheim (Solomon’s niece) added her own considerable collection of abstract and Surrealist art. Upon Peggy’s death in 1978, the foundation began to expand to multiple sites around the world (the Spanish and upcoming Abu Dhabi locations designed by architect Frank Gehry). Today, the collective aggregate of what is colloquially known as the Guggenheim represents one of the most formidable assemblages of modern art and architecture in the world.

The Guggenheim, History,

CGC Thanks Ryan in Letter for Comments Supporting Charitable Deduction

Coalition Also Expresses Concern Over Floor, AGI Limitation, Evaluation

The Charitable Giving Coalition sent a letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) today thanking him for his comments supporting the value of the charitable deduction. Ryan has voiced support in recent interviews for avoiding a cap on the charitable deduction.

The coalition also reiterated concerns in the letter over proposed provisions in House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-MI) Tax Reform Act of 2014 that would implement a two percent floor on the charitable deduction, streamline adjusted gross income limitations, and require gifts of property to be evaluated according to basis instead of fair market value.

Click here to read the full letter.

ACR News 09.19.14—Congress Returns, Camp Plan Effect on Charitable Giving

>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: Tax Extenders Delayed
>> Federal: Urban Institute Releases Report
>> Federal: Consider This
>> Top Reads: Study finds Camp’s tax reform would reduce charitable giving

Washington Roundup

Congress returned to Washington last week after the summer recess, but only briefly. Members will leave town late this week to return to their districts to campaign before the elections on November 4. During this short work period, leadership in both the House and Senate addressed only a few ‘must-do’ items. These included a bill to fund the government beyond the end of September to avert a government shutdown. On Wednesday, the House passed its bill to keep the government open through December 11, which also included provisions to address the recent Ebola crisis, renewed the operating authority for the Export-Import Bank through June 30, 2015, and extended the Internet Tax Freedom Act through December 11. The Senate passed the bill without amendments on Thursday, 78 to 22.

Tax Extenders Delayed

Congress officially delayed action on tax extenders, the 60-plus annually expiring tax provisions, until after the November elections. The issue received some attention this week when the House introduced a comprehensive jobs package that contained four popular corporate tax extenders that the House made permanent earlier this year. But the Senate did not take up the legislation during this work period.

As for the rest of these tax extenders, the House remains committed to its approach of addressing each provision individually and making select extenders permanent. As you may recall, in July, the House passed H.R. 4719 – the America Gives More Act – which would make permanent three charitable tax extenders: the IRA charitable rollover, the enhanced deduction for conservation easements, and the enhanced deduction for food donations. H.R. 4719 also included two other provisions that are not tax extenders but have long been ACR priorities: the streamlining of the private foundation excise tax to a flat one percent rate, and giving donors until April 15 to make charitable donations for the previous calendar year. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), however, said he remains committed to passing a two-year extension of expired tax incentives, much like the bill he negotiated with Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and passed out of committee last April. As of now, it is unclear how the House and Senate will reconcile their two approaches but some Senate aides speculate that there could be an appetite in the Senate for permanently extending a few select provisions – the ones with the most bipartisan support – and authorizing a two-year renewal for the rest.

Urban Institute Releases Report

Last week, the Urban Institute released an analysis of the impact that House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s tax reform draft would have on charitable giving. The study found that the full combination of Chairman Camp’s proposed changes could decrease charitable giving between $17 billion and $34 billion per year. More specifically, the study found that implementing just the 2% of adjusted gross income (AGI) floor, combined with a lower maximum limit for cash gifts of 40% of AGI, would decrease giving by up to $10.6 billion. These are staggering numbers and reinforce the need to continue to communicate with lawmakers about the importance and need for the charitable deduction.

As you may recall, Urban Institute Fellow Dr. Eugene Steuerle, one author of this new report, is also a member of the ACR Advisory Council. In an interview with ACR in July, Dr. Steuerle explained how the tax policy included in the draft affects the charitable sector and offered his thoughts on provisions that would help strengthen it.

Consider This

With fewer than 50 days to go, we appear to be in a near coin toss for control of the Senate.

So what is really at stake in November? Not the continued Republican control of the House because that seems like a done deal. It is all about the Senate and the set-up for the Presidential election in 2016. Although we obsess over any tidbit related to the toss-up Senate seats, we know in our heart that the stakes are not nearly as high as our level of focus.

Make no mistake about it, controlling the Senate means, to a large degree, controlling the conversation. The majority party schedules the time of the Senate floor for legislation it wants to bring up and also shapes the committee hearings, including the witnesses called to testify. However, even if the Senate does flip, the margins will almost certainly be so close that it will be near impossible to get very much done. And there is a better than even chance that if Republicans take back control of the Senate in 2014, Democrats will wrestle back the chamber in 2016 because of the number of seats that will be up for grabs. In 2014, 20 Democrats and 13 Republicans are up for election while in 2016 that flips to 10 Democrats and 24 Republicans.

What will it mean to us if Republicans take control of the Senate and Senator Hatch (R-UT) takes the gavel of the Finance Committee? While both Senator Hatch and current Chairman Wyden (D-OR) can be expected to pursue tax reform in the next Congress, both have been true friends of our sector and we don’t expect much to change. Despite the dysfunction in Washington, we will continue to press our issues in a bipartisan, bicameral way and look to them for help in that regard.

Top Reads

Please feel free to email us at if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.

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ACR Blog: Constitution Day

Members of the Constitutional Convention officially adopted the Constitution as our nation’s supreme law on this day in 1787. As such, September 17 has officially been designated as a day of observance to commemorate this pivotal moment in American history.

The Constitution has endured for nearly 230 years and preserves the rights the citizens of our country hold dear. They are the very rights that have helped establish a vibrant and generous tradition of American philanthropy. In the Fall 2013 issue of Philanthropy magazine, Adam Meyerson, president of The Philanthropy Roundtable, wrote about the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of association and the critical role of anonymous giving in a thriving civil society. To commemorate Constitution Day, we re-publish Meyerson’s letter as a reminder of the importance of philanthropic freedom.

Continue Reading…

Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

2012- Rolling Restoration of Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum


The Smithsonian Institution was a product of philanthropy (a bequest from James Smithson), and about 30 percent of its budget continues to come from private donations (which play a particularly large role in expansions and new initiatives). A major refresh of its National Museum of Natural History began in the late 1990s, sparking the largest gift to the museum to that point from Ken Behring, who rose from harsh poverty to riches by selling cars and then developing real estate. He donated $20 million to spearhead a massive renovation of Natural History’s ground floor, resulting in, among other things, a new Hall of Mammals which opened in 2003. (Behring later donated $80 million to revitalize the National Museum of American History, making him the Smithsonian’s largest private donor.)

The Museum of Natural History continued its upgrade with a subsequent $15 million gift from major philanthropist David Koch, which created the David Koch Hall of Human Origins. Then in 2012 Koch donated an additional $35 million which will be used to remake the museum’s dinosaur hall, its most visited area. One of the highest priorities of museum officials, the dinosaur-hall funding will provide fresh displays and specimens, and allow obsolete interpretations to be updated with the newest information from the fast-changing science of dinosaur paleontology.

Smithsonian magazine,

Interview with Ken Behring,

Washington Post article announcing Koch gift,

Honoring the Families of the Victims of September 11

Courtesy: 9/

Today we reflect upon the events that shook our nation 13 years ago and honor the fallen. With that in mind, we share an article from the New York Times about the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, which provides full scholarships to family members of the victims of the September 11 attacks.

“The organization initially enlisted President Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Dole to raise more than $100 million so that children with so much on their minds would not have to worry about money for college. In a fitting coincidence, the last $4.8 million of those initial contributions will be handed out this fall semester,” wrote the New York Times.

Click here to read the full article.