(ACR BLOG) Rep. Ryan: No Top Cap for Charitable Deduction
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is widely expected to take over as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, recently expressed his support for not implementing a cap on the charitable deduction, according to a report from Politico. Ryan stated that the charitable deduction is “the one area where I believe we should not have a top cap.”
Aug 20, 2014
(ACR BLOG) Salt Lake Tribune Op-ed: Don’t let tax reform undermine charitable giving
Fraser Nelson, executive director of the Community Foundation of Utah, and Jeramy Lund, a Utah private investor, co-wrote an editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune on August 16 urging Utahns to contact their elected officials this month while members of Congress are home. Lund and Nelson explain the importance of constituents letting elected officials know how the decisions they make will affect the nonprofit sector.
Aug 19, 2014
Philanthropic Achievement of the Week
1999 Gates Millennium Scholars
Just before the turn of the millennium, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put into operation a major college scholarship program for minority students, with an initial grant of a cool billion dollars that was later increased to $1.6 billion. Every year, the Millennium Scholars program selects 1,000 new African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American college prospects and offers them good-through-graduation scholarships (set at various levels to cover their need). These can be used at any college the student chooses. The program particularly aims to encourage minorities to enter scientific fields like computer science, math, public health, and engineering (where they are underrepresented), and any Millenium Scholar in good standing who finishes an undergraduate degree and wants to continue on to grad school in one of these technical fields will also have their graduate education paid for by Gates.
In addition to financial aid, the program offers leadership development, mentoring, internships, and other resources to help students succeed—which collectively have yielded a rate of college graduation within six years of nearly 90 percent, more than double the average for all African Americans. Since its establishment, the Gates Millennium Scholars program has propelled more than 16,000 young Americans through their educational careers, and 28 percent have gone on to graduate school, half of them in the technical fields that Gates has particularly targeted.
Gates Millennium Scholars Program, gmsp.org/publicweb/aboutus.aspx
Aug 14, 2014
Surprising White House Executive Action Critics: The Brother’s Keeper Philanthropy Controversy
By Howard Husock
It’s not often that President Obama faces criticism from the liberal left regarding his Administration’s policy initiatives in matters involving race and disadvantage. Which is what makes so notable an opinion piece in the latest Chronicle of Philanthropy criticizing My Brother’s Keeper, the President’s program, announced this past February, “to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color.” That focus was a cause of concern for NoVo Foundation executive director Pamela Shifman and former Schott Foundation program manager Nakisha Lewis, who wrote that Brother’s Keeper inappropriately overlooks the “dire straits” of many “minority women and girls”, including “epidemic levels of of domestic violence.”. The article goes further in criticizing Brother’s Keeper for “elevating a patriarchal conception of a “good” family—boys of color will grow up to be fathers and heads of households that are made up of nuclear families.”
There is little doubt that both minority males and females are not faring nearly as well as they should in the U.S.—and that both philanthropy and government have their roles to play in improving their educational and economic outcomes. But what makes the criticism proffered by Shifman and Lewis notable is their concern that My Brother’s Keeper is sending a signal from the White House to U.S. foundations and philanthropists—to focus one one group at the potential expense of the other. It’s a criticism that matters because of the nature of My Brother’s Keeper. It’s not a federal program so much as an effort by the White House to focus private giving and match it with non-federal government appropriations. As the White House has put it: ”Through this initiative, the Administration is joining with cities and towns, businesses, and foundations who are taking important steps to connect young people to mentoring, support networks, and the skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way into the middle class.”
Put another way, the President has put his thumb on the scale used by donors when they decide what missions they should support. Whether one agrees with the views of Shifman and Lewis about family structure or not, they are quite right to be concerned that the White House is throwing its weight behind a select approach. Historically, as I’ve argued in my book Philanthropy Under Fire, government and philanthropy have operated independently of each other—allowing philanthropy to identify problems government lacks the means or understanding to deal with.
The Obama White has consistently chosen a different approach—choosing, instead, to signal to philanthropy the sorts of causes which should merit support. This has been, for instance, the animating principle of the White House Social Innovation Fund, the Obama Administration initiative mounted through the Corporation for National and Community Service. It invites private donors to match White House-directed funds dedicated to addressing select social ills—ranging from HIV/AIDS to “community-driven initiatives to combat obesity and tobacco use”.
As with those addressed by My Brother’s Keeper, these are, without doubt, problems which merit attention. But by signaling what it views as the nation’s most important social problems—in effect through executive action—the Obama White House has risked undermining the traditional independence and creativity of private philanthropy (which, it must be noted, has not been all that reluctant to throw itself into the arms of government, or to see its ideas brought “to scale” as government programs, often ineffectively).
The objections to My Brother’s Keeper show us even those who may broadly agree with the concerns of the Obama White House can be put off by what can be seen as a nexus of big government and big philanthropy, which favors some causes over others.
It’s worth noting that there was a previous President who undertook a partnership with private philanthropy—one described by historian Oliver Zunz (in Philanthropy in America: A History) as “federally-directed philanthropy.” It was tried in the Administration of a President one suspects is not on President Obama’s short list of favorite predecessors: Herbert Hoover. And, notes historian Zunz, “it collapsed under the sheer scale of what was needed and under the pressure of conflicting visions of social justice.” The White House executive action to direct philanthropy appears to be leading to just those sort of conflicting visions once again.
This article originally appeared in Forbes and is published here with permission of the author.
Aug 13, 2014
ACR Blog: Private Charitable Giving: A New Italian Tradition
Private charitable giving has played a significant role in the United States in preserving our country’s historical culture and landmarks. For example, David M. Rubenstein is one of many well-known philanthropists who share a passion for preserving American history. According to a recent Washington Post article, Rubenstein, who agreed to cover $7.5 million of the cost of restoration for the Washington Monument after the 2011 earthquake, has also made a donation of $12.35 million to restore Gen. Robert E. Lee’s home at Arlington National Cemetery.
Aug 11, 2014
Philanthropic Achievement of the Week
1882 Great Libraries From Enoch Pratt—and Others
Enoch Pratt arrived in Baltimore from a Massachusetts farm with nothing but $150 in his pocket, but he was frugal and industrious and eventually thrived in a variety of businesses. In 1882 he offered to give the city of Baltimore a major circulating library for free public use, along with 32,000 books, plus four branch libraries in different quarters of the city, and an endowment of $1,058,333 for upkeep and future expansion. Once built, the Pratt almost immediately became one of the most heavily used libraries in the country, and it thrived over the century and a quarter since. Andrew Carnegie described it in The Gospel of Wealth as the best such institution in the country, and he cited Pratt as his exemplar for his own nationwide library program which he launched the year Pratt’s main library opened. In fact, two decades after the initial opening of the Pratt Library, Carnegie donated a half-million dollars to Baltimore to allow the building of 20 additional branches—part of his wider campaign that paid for the erection of more than 2,500 libraries (see the 1881 Carnegie Library entry in our companion list of major achievements in the arts and culture).
These were just two of the many American philanthropists who lifted American literacy and learning by donating important collections of books to the public. The grandfather of them all was Benjamin Franklin, who in league with a group of friends incorporated the Library Company of Philadelphia, the first such entity in British North America, in 1731 (see separate entry below). In 1814, Thomas Jefferson offered his large and impossible-to-replicate library to Congress for official use after the British burned Washington. Judah Touro gave the American West its first public collection of books when he offered to put up the Touro Free Library in the city of New Orleans in 1824, and at his death he helped endow the famous Redwood Library in Newport, Rhode Island. John Jacob Astor gave $400,000 to New York in 1848 to establish a library, later combined with the $2 million library given by James Lennox, as well as a trust containing most of the wealth of Samuel Tilden, to form the New York Public Library. With a $50,000 gift and 30,000 books “of permanent value,” financier Joshua Bates launched the Boston Public Library, whose main reading room remains named for him.
These gifts transformed libraries, over the course of just a couple generations, from luxuries possessed by the wealthy for self-improvement available to all. Today there are more than 16,000 public libraries in the U.S., and they are visited a billion and a half times every year.
Enoch Pratt Library history, prattlibrary.org/about/index.aspx?id=1604
Original Pratt documents, archive.org/stream/enochprattfreeli00enoc#page/14/mode/2up
ACR News 08.08.14—No Recess for the ACR Newsletter
With Congress out of session for the month of August, we will be providing you with slightly abbreviated editions of the ACR newsletter. As we did in our last newsletter, we highly encourage you to reach out to your elected federal officials while they are back in their home states and districts. Again, we recommend you take a moment to watch the eight-minute video below of former congressional staffers explaining why it is so important to engage with your elected officials.
For the last several months, ACR has posted a weekly spotlight of great achievements accomplished through private charitable giving. These achievements are being collected by The Philanthropy Roundtable in a groundbreaking almanac on American philanthropy. The almanac will be available in print in 2015, but excerpts can be accessed online.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to spotlight these great achievements on a weekly basis. A few of the projects we have highlighted include:
With the The Philanthropy Roundtable’s annual meeting just two months away, ACR has finalized its portion of the agenda. ACR will again feature three panels at this year’s meeting, which is slated to take place in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 9-10.
Tax Reform and the Preservation of Private Giving Incentives
- Howard Husock, vice president for policy research and director of the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, Manhattan Institute
- Stephen Moore, chief economist, Heritage Foundation
- Steven Woolf, senior tax policy counsel, Jewish Federations of North America
- Joanne Florino, senior vice president of public policy, The Philanthropy Roundtable (Moderator)
Proposed IRS 501 c(4) Rules and Possible 501 c(3) Implications
In a related note on this topic, you can watch a hearing of the House Oversight Committee from July 30 that further examines the IRS scandal and explores options of how to prevent it from happening in the future.
Legislative Threats to Donor-advised Funds
Additionally, plenary sessions at the annual meeting will feature:
Make sure to visit the annual meeting page of The Philanthropy Roundtable’s website for more information on the annual meeting, including instructions for registration.
- National: Are Americans getting less greedy?
- National: Empathy or Justice: What Makes Consumers Donate More to Charity?
- National: Advanced Marketing Opportunities for Nonprofits
- Opinion: Innovation holds the key to nonprofits’ further success
- Local: Retirees can take many avenues to charitable giving
- ACR Blog: Paul Ryan on tax policy and private charitable giving
- Multimedia: Tax Policy and Private Charitable Giving
Please feel free to email us at email@example.com if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.
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