Foundations On The Hill

As foundations work to foster and build relationships with their elected officials and staff, both at home in their districts, 2012 presents a rare challenge to keep in mind: redistricting. The person who is your congressional representative today may not represent you a year from now. New York is losing two congressional seats. Texas is gaining four. For most states, the lines for existing districts are being redrawn with sometimes dramatic differences.

My badge at Foundations on the Hill last week sported a blue ribbon that read “First-time Attendee.” Ah, a newbie, fresh face, initiate. Welcome to Washington. My two-day Capitol adventure got underway Wednesday morning with a series of panels and briefings hosted by the Alliance for Charitable Reform. From the “labyrinth of transparency” to L3Cs and PILOTs (payments in lieu of taxes), speakers led us through an overview of issues facing the foundation field.

In the news business, some of the best advice I ever got from an editor was: “Show me. Don’t tell me.” In other words, the most compelling articles are usually packed with descriptions and real examples and people speaking for themselves. You have to go out and talk to people, connect with them, weave it all together. That’s what makes a good story. That’s what makes an impression.

Florida Philanthropic Network is pleased to once again be leading the state’s delegation to Washington, D.C., for Foundations on the Hill (FOTH), March 21-22. Although we coordinate visits with our members of Congress back in their home districts throughout the year, FOTH is a critical part of our annual public policy engagement work.

I admit it. I’m a policy wonk who happens to serve a foundation that understands the importance of public policy and advocacy work. We consider weighing in where our participation may be a catalyst for positive change in our state, our region, and our nation. That’s why the annual trek to Washington, D.C., for Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) is a highlight of the year. In addition to being a welcome opportunity for face-to-face meetings with our state’s congressional delegation and staff, it’s also a prime opportunity to visit with peers, team up with regional associates, and exchange stories and ideas about how philanthropy can make our communities stronger.

“If we are not at the table, we run the risk of being on the menu.” How I remember that comment from last year’s Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). Sure enough, we had a close call this past season with efforts to trim the charitable deduction. This alone provides a major incentive for CMF and our members to again come together and join colleagues from across the country for FOTH on March 21-22.

Many observers view 2012 as a year when little will get done legislatively, as the candidates and political parties jockey for position in advance of the presidential election. Contrary to that opinion, this year is actually a huge opportunity for interested parties-like foundations-to build relationships with key policymakers and their staffs in advance of the many reforms expected to be pursued by the 113th Congress.