The Philanthropy Caucus

Inside the building named for Texas’ Sam Rayburn, down the long hallways of polished floors and state flags standing sentry by Members’ offices, you arrive at Room B369, and a bipartisan briefing engaging Members, staff, and advocates to discuss opportunities to encourage charitable giving.

People complain that nothing gets done in Washington and the perennial battle to make charitable “tax extenders” permanent speaks to that problem. But as for the assertion that policymakers from different parties never work together, this gathering (co-sponsored by the Council on Foundations and Independent Sector) is proof that, as Speaker Rayburn might have put it, “that dog won’t hunt.”

Rep. Pat Tiberi, Republican of Ohio, sets the tone by calling the charitable community the “backbone of America.” He recalls a classmate, the first in his family to graduate from high school, who recently contributed $25 million for cancer research at Ohio State University. “Don’t let anyone tell you that the tax code didn’t have something to do with it,” says the Congressman. He encourages the nonprofits present to “redouble your efforts. You are the secret to getting these things done.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii, highlights her resolution to recognize “Giving Tuesday,” the post-Thanksgiving day of giving launched by IS members 92Y and the United Nations Foundation in 2012. It “celebrates the creativity and generosity of the charitable sector as well as the principle of servant leadership,” says Representative Gabbard. Rep. Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, calls upon the audience to “do an even better job of talking about the importance of nonprofit issues…. Have your members talk to representatives about policy change.”

Policy change is next on the agenda. Five leaders demonstrate the diversity of the charitable community and the critical importance of Giving Tuesday and charitable tax extenders: moderator Geoff Plague, vice president of public policy, Independent Sector; Asha Curran, director of innovation and social impact, 92nd Street Y; Cameron Kitchin, director, Cincinnati Art Museum; Darcy Oman, president emerita, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia; and Michael Heller, manager, Clagett Farms, a nonprofit farm owned and operated by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Making the IRA charitable rollover permanent, along with enhanced deductions for food inventory donations and land conservation easements, will, they say, inspire and perpetuate a universe of good works.

This is the message delivered with urgency in Members’ offices and home districts, in person and via a variety of coalition efforts, by IS member organizations like the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, Feeding America, The Jewish Federation of North America, Land Trust Alliance, the National Council of Nonprofits, United Way Worldwide, and the Salvation Army – among many others.

As to the briefing itself, IS’ Geoff Plague says: “We were delighted to work with the Council on Foundations and the leaders of the Congressional Philanthropy Caucus to host this important conversation about the ways in which the tax code supports the vital work of charitable and philanthropic organizations every day.”

President Barack Obama did sign legislation at the end of 2015 to make permanent three charitable tax incentives. Learn more about this monumental victory for the sector.

NOTE: The briefing was made possible by the co-chairs of the Congressional Philanthropy Caucus: Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH). The House and Senate Philanthropy Caucuses were originally established in 2007 and 2008, respectively, to inform members of Congress and their staffs about the dynamic role that philanthropy plays in communities around the world.

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