Making Our Voices Heard

Last week, I predicted that the itemized deduction could soon be back on the table as Congress looks for ways to raise revenue. It may not have been a great leap to predict that, but my crystal ball is working: Yesterday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) announced a February 14 hearing to examine the itemized deduction for charitable contributions.

As Chairman Camp stated, “Public charities and private foundations perform invaluable services for our society, especially during this time of economic slowdown and high unemployment…Because of the critical role that charities play, the committee must hear directly from the charitable community before considering any proposal as part of comprehensive tax reform that might impact their ability to obtain the resources they need to fulfill their mission.”

Rest assured that we will be submitting written testimony that offers specific examples of how philanthropy drives innovation and creates change that our government and the private sector cannot. I urge you to do the same.

The committee’s hearing advisory provides guidance for submitting written comments by Thursday, February 28, if you’re interested in lending your voice to the discussion.  If your representative is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, your voice would be particularly helpful.

If the deadline for comments doesn’t work for you, there are other ways to make sure your voice is heard, including sharing your stories of innovation and impact on this blog or by using #mygivingstory on Twitter. I also recommend that you make plans to attend next month’s Foundations on the Hill in Washington, D.C., so you can meet with your congressional representatives and their staffs to educate them not only about the important work you are doing in your communities, but what’s at stake if Congress tinkers with the sector in ways that are intentionally or unintentionally detrimental.

Whatever venue you use, the most important thing is to let your elected officials know that raising revenue at the expense of philanthropic organizations is not a solution. This is a critical moment for our sector. I know I’ve already suggested some specific marching orders, but I have one last request: Please send an e-mail to to let us know what’s on your mind and tell us how we can serve you better.

Sue Santa is senior vice president for public policy and legal affairs at the Council on Foundations.

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