Sep 17, 2014
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.
Sep 15, 2014
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, smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/New_Hall_on_the_Mall.html
Interview with Ken Behring, philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/economic_opportunity/interview_with_ken_behring
Washington Post article announcing Koch gift, washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/david-koch-donates-35-million-to-national-museum-of-natural-history-for-dinosaur-hall/2012/05/03/gIQAIjT3yT_story.html
Sep 11, 2014
Honoring the Families of the Victims of September 11
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.
Sep 8, 2014
Philanthropic Achievement of the Week
1721 Endowed College Chairs
Thomas Hollis, a wealthy merchant and Baptist from London, wanted to express his gratitude for the good treatment Baptists had received in Boston. So in 1721 he gave funds to Harvard University to found the Hollis Chair of Divinity with a salary of 80 pounds per year for its occupant. The gift also included money to offset administrative expenses, to increase the size of the student body, and to support “ten scholars of good character, four of whom should be Baptists, if any such were there.”
Hollis’ gift was the largest Harvard had received from a single individual. Five years later he established another professorship, the chair of mathematics and experimental philosophy. All told, Hollis’ gifts eventually topped 6,000 pounds, a staggering amount for the time.
The endowed professorship spread rapidly in the U.S. and became an increasingly popular way for donors to support institutions of higher education—undergirding the spectacular rise of American colleges and universities to their current position of international preeminence.
Nathan Wood, History of the First Baptist Church of Boston (Ayer, 1990)
ACR News 09.05.14—What to Expect When Congress Returns
>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: Looking Ahead
>> Federal: Paul Ryan Discusses Civil Society, Charitable Deduction
>> Federal: Consider This
>> Top Reads: Tax-Smart Philanthropy Made Easy
Congress returns from a month-long recess on Monday, September 8. Members will have just two-and-a-half weeks to address several legislative issues before breaking again for the November elections.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) outlined a number of priorities for the short legislative session, including passing a bill to extend government funding to avoid another government shutdown on September 30. Leader Reid made this a priority, saying he hopes to adjourn at least by September 23 and that “there will be no weekends off.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has also indicated he plans to pass a funding bill that will keep the government open. “I would expect there will be a continuing resolution to fund the government from September 30 into early December,” Boehner said.
Congress will likely delay any action on tax extenders—the package of annually expiring tax incentives—until the “lame-duck” time period after the midterm elections and before the end of the year. In July, the House of Representatives 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 includes 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 extending the charitable giving deadline from December 31 to April 15.
Recall that in May, the Senate Finance Committee also passed a tax extenders package renewing through 2015 nearly all of the provisions that expired at the end of last year. This legislation also included the IRA rollover, conservation easements, and food donation incentives, but it did not make them permanent. Furthermore, the Senate legislation did not include the additional private foundation excise tax and April 15 bills. It remains unclear how the House and Senate will reconcile their different approaches into a final agreement.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is widely expected to take over as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, continues to be asked about charity-related issues in media appearances. In our last newsletter, we shared a story from Politico reporting that Ryan stated that the charitable deduction is “the one area where I believe we should not have a top cap.” We also have video from another interview with Chairman Ryan, this time with CNBC, in which he expressed his belief in the critical role of our civil society, approved extending the deadline to claim a charitable deduction until April 15, and reiterated his support for avoiding a cap of the charitable deduction.
The discussion was part of a broader conversation about the popular “Ice Bucket Challenge” for ALS. Chairman Ryan’s comments begin at 1:20.
While kids across the country have already returned to school (and recess), members of Congress don’t return from recess until next week; and we expect them to leave town again as early as September 19.
What does this mean for the America Gives More Act?
It probably does not mean a lot in the short term as we don’t expect the Senate to take up the package in the next few weeks. However, Congress is already talking about a “lame-duck” session to address pieces of the America Gives More Act, namely the IRA charitable rollover, conservation easement incentive, and the food inventory donation. All three were made permanent by the House bill but not by the Senate. So, we’ve got a showdown.
And when we do get to the “lame-duck” session, the odds are that the House and Senate will split the bill with only one or two of these provisions being made permanent while the other(s) will, yet again, simply be extended for just one year. We also believe that two other provisions—simplifying the private foundation excise tax and extending the charitable giving deadline from December 31 to April 15—may come under serious consideration as well.
Bottom line: we need to push for action in the short term on these provisions with the understanding that Congress won’t likely move anything to the President’s desk until after the election.
- National: Tax-Smart Philanthropy Made Easy
- National: More Firms Use Charitable Programs as a Recruiting Tool
- Opinion: Millennials Transform Charitable Giving into Philanthropic Action
- Opinion: Push the Senate to Pass the America Gives More Act
- Opinion: Ten Years Schooled in Disasters: Philanthropy Emerges Top of the Class
- Local: Executive’s Desk: Proposed tax changes could impact philanthropy
- Local: Tax reform legislation will affect important work done through charitable contributions
- Multimedia: (VIDEO) Ryan: Civil society is one of the most important components of American life
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