Yesterday, Americans cast their vote for the future course of our nation. Many of our fellow citizens affected by Hurricane Sandy endured much more difficulty than normal in voting, some using flashlights to see their ballots. Their resolve and resiliency is a tribute to the American spirit and reminds us all of our freedom to express our voice at the polls. But just as voting is a core characteristic of our national persona, our choice to give time, talent, and treasure is also firmly rooted in our heritage.
Last night’s election results set the stage for some important political debates, including one about the future of giving in our country. Over the course of the next six weeks, federal lawmakers will set the terms of the tax debate in 2013. The Obama Administration favors limiting the charitable deduction by capping it at 28 percent, and we know for certain that multiple scenarios involving alterations to the charitable deduction are on the table as the president and Congress consider options to generate revenue and address our national debt.
Now, with the election behind us, the imperative is greater than ever to build awareness about philanthropy’s impact. It is essential that we collectively communicate the stories of those who benefit from our work and convey to lawmakers what is at stake for their constituents and their communities if charitable giving incentives are diminished. Each story is a testament to the personal side of your work and the difference it makes in individuals’ lives. Together, they build a strong case for the collective impact of philanthropy in job creation, economic growth, and advancing the public good.
Last month, I announced that the Council would lead a crucial effort to build awareness about philanthropy’s impact in society—but more importantly about the people who benefit. Much of this important work is well underway. Specifically, I have built an external team of strategic advisers for this campaign. In addition, I have realigned our senior staff to focus more intensively on our advocacy efforts. As we add key players and hone our strategy, we will redouble our efforts to educate federal lawmakers about the countless constituents and communities that benefit from the generosity of Americans.
In the end, the charitable deduction and the regulatory landscape that encourages giving may look different. But we must take a strong stance on behalf of charitable and philanthropic giving to show lawmakers that we need not choose between a healthy government and a healthy philanthropic sector. To achieve this balance, the Council team, in consultation with our external advisers and the Public Policy Committee, is shaping a broad, more holistic framework of policy priorities and legislative options for congressional consideration. In the coming weeks, we will engage more Council members for input and active participation in this campaign.
A few weeks ago, we asked you to share stories about the beneficiaries of your dynamic work. The stories of renewed hope, new jobs, and increased opportunity you shared through #mygivingstory on Twitter and on our blog are heartening. This is a great beginning, and I look forward to reading more. We must help lawmakers clearly understand and value philanthropy so we strengthen the conditions that promote philanthropic giving. Your stories of impact will be the backbone of our effort, and ultimately, these will be the greatest evidence we can present about why philanthropy matters—especially to those who benefit from it.
I hope you’ll join me on Thursday, November 15, for a post-election briefing call to examine the implications of the election and various tax-reform scenarios. In the meantime, please continue to tell your stories either through #mygivingstory or by using our charitable deduction template. And finally, thank you for the investments you make to serve the common good.
Vikki Spruill is president and CEO of the Council on Foundations