Philanthropy Platform

AMERICAN PHILANTHROPY:
LEADING TOGETHER TO STRENGTHEN SOCIETY

The Council on Foundations maintains the Philanthropy Platform to articulate our priorities clearly for current and future policymakers.

The Philanthropy Platform presents philanthropy as a dynamic force for innovation, strategic thinking, and leadership that advances the common good. Philanthropy uses private resources and provides vital risk capital and expertise to inspire nonprofit investment and build vibrant communities. The Council, with its members and colleagues, will use the Platform to engage with and inform our nation’s policymakers about the benefits of philanthropy.

We believe it is critical that the United States maintains a positive environment for America’s foundations and charitable giving. To this end, the Council is asking policymakers to take concrete actions that will strengthen and promote our country’s philanthropic traditions.

Our Priorities

 

ENHANCE THE ABILITY OF FOUNDATIONS TO LEVERAGE ENDOWMENTS STRATEGICALLY

Through their philanthropic endowments, foundations are able to operate with a longer-term focus. Foundations thrive when policies allow them to be agile, autonomous, and different from the government and business sectors. The perpetuity of endowments assure that private resources will continue to be available to address difficult social issues and the evolving needs of society, especially when other resources may not be available.

Policymakers should preserve foundations’ ability to advance their charitable missions. Lawmakers should acknowledge the importance of philanthropic endowments and recognize that these endowments are critical to sustain communities. They help underwrite long-term support of charitable institutions, use public and other private resources, and provide a base for the development of new and effective philanthropic tools that will support the charitable sector in the future.

ASSURE PHILANTHROPY IS A KEY STAKEHOLDER IN FEDERAL POLICYMAKING

Our nation benefits from the collaboration between government and the philanthropic sector. In recent years, these partnerships have become increasingly critical in addressing community needs, especially since the Great Recession. While recognizing that foundations cannot be expected to assume the responsibilities of government, policymakers should support the role of philanthropy as important in federal policymaking.

Building on the Council’s successful Public Philanthropic Partnership initiative, we urge policymakers at the legislative and executive branch levels to create a climate in which continuing engagement with philanthropic organizations is integrated into federal operating practices. Our national leaders should consider philanthropy, alongside business, state and local governments, and nonprofits as essential partners in policymaking.

According to Giving USA, generous Americans donated an estimated $358 billion to charity in 2014, and foundation giving increased more than 8 percent this year to nearly $54 billion. Yet federal government spending, which topped $3.8 trillion, dwarfs these figures.

FORTIFY TAX POLICY TO ALLOW PHILANTHROPY TO FLOURISH

As Congress considers tax reform, lawmakers should ensure the most positive environment for foundations, philanthropic giving vehicles (e.g., donor advised funds), and individual giving incentives (e.g., the charitable tax deduction). It is important that the provisions of any tax proposals both protect an individual’s freedom in charitable giving and enhance the ability of philanthropic organizations to fulfill their missions in support of the common good.

Our tax code is outdated, overly complicated, and contradictory.

Despite repeated calls from national leaders for a comprehensive overhaul, the last large-scale reform occurred almost three decades ago. Stakeholders in business, government, and the nonprofit sector—including the Council—have urged lawmakers to revisit existing provisions and update policy to keep pace with a vibrant and dynamic philanthropic sector.

SUPPORT THE EVOLUTION OF AMERICAN PHILANTHROPY

Since the founding of the American colonies, communities have organized resources to invest in their immediate and long-term needs. Throughout our nation’s rich history, the philanthropic sector has demonstrated its perseverance in responding to both community needs and national crises. With familiar institutions, technologies, politics, and society in shift, this resilience remains critical to our country’s success.

Policymakers should celebrate philanthropy’s history, support the giving trends of today, and enable philanthropy to flourish in the future. Our American spirit of giving will be preserved for future generations by recognizing the importance of our tradition of giving and encouraging new philanthropic pathways and opportunities.