Washington Snapshot - June 6, 2014

News IconCommunity Foundation Survey

Last week, your community foundation may have received a survey on donor advised funds (DAFs) from Elizabeth Boris of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at The Urban Institute. As the Council and our colleagues address critical issues of concern to community foundations regarding DAFs, this survey will inform us as we develop strategies for engaging effectively with Members of Congress and their staff.

Our intent is to provide the full picture of DAFs and their importance to communities nationwide. This survey is critical to increasing education and understanding. If you’ve received the survey, you may note that it presents some new questions that haven’t been addressed in prior surveys by the Council or other organizations. They aim to address issues including the types and timing of investments DAFs make in communities here and abroad, and the relationships community foundations have with their donors.

Please take the time to fill out this short electronic survey and return it to Urban by June 18th. If you have questions or would like more information, please email govt@cof.org.

Events IconCouncil Annual Conference & Public Policy Pre-Conference

We are excited to see many of our readers this Saturday for our inaugural Council on Foundations Public Policy Seminar! The Seminar is designed for our members and colleagues who work in policy and advocacy. This intensive one-day workshop will dive into the art of developing an effective strategy to address complex, multi-issue legislation. We will use House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s Tax Reform Act of 2014 as our launching off point for the discussion.

The 2014 Annual Conference: Philanthropy Exchange officially kicks off Sunday morning at the Washington Hilton in Dupont Circle. Our policy team is pleased to bring you numerous sessions that will help you explore policy topics of interest to foundations. We hope those who are attending the conference will be able to join us as we discuss these compelling and timely topics!

Here is a sneak peak at a few of these sessions:

Washington Update: Tax Reform is Coming - What Now?

Monday, June 9th 11:15 AM -12:30 PM, Monroe, Concourse level

Curious about how the fast-paced, animated, and sometimes-dysfunctional D.C. policy environment can trickle down to influence your work? Do you wonder about whether tax reform will ever happen and, when it does, how these changes will impact philanthropy? Come hear how the decisions being made here in our nation’s capital affect the work you do in your community!

Momentum is building for a major overhaul of our tax code, and it is imperative for philanthropic organizations to weigh in on the conversation. In February, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4) released his tax reform discussion draft, with many proposed changes that would have a direct bearing on individuals’ giving incentives as well as the way in which tax-exempt organizations go about their business. In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) has expressed strong interest in tax reform. Action on the regulatory front and the expiration of tax extenders will add additional topics to the discussions.

Our panel of D.C. insiders will dive into these issues and discuss why they matter to you. Come hear how you can engage on these issues and ensure your voice is heard.

Fostering Bipartisan Problem Solving

Monday, June 9th 1:30 PM – 2:45 PM, Jefferson East, Concourse level

The political divide in Washington looks like it is here to stay, so those in the world of philanthropy must find ways to forge common ground and solve critical problems facing our country. Two leaders at the forefront of efforts to bring Republicans and Democrats together will discuss the opportunities and challenges for making government work.

Jason Grumet is the President of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank that actively promotes bipartisanship. BPC brings together experts and leaders from across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions to difficult problems. BPC recently created a national Commission on Political Reform to develop policy recommendations for reducing the impact of polarization.

Nancy Jacobson is the co-founder of No Labels, a growing citizens’ movement of Democrats, Republicans and Independents dedicated to promoting a new politics of problem solving. The organization has formed a coalition of more than 90 members of Congress who are committed to regular, across-the-aisle meetings, embracing the new attitude of problem solving and being real leaders.

The panel will be moderated by Joe Goldman, who leads the Democracy Fund, which supports BPC and No Labels as part of its initiative to reduce political gridlock and hyper-partisanship.

Retrofitting Movements: A Pioneer's Guide to Advancing Advocacy in a Networked World

Monday, June 9th 1:30 PM – 2:45 PM, Monroe, Concourse level

In a world being dramatically reshaped by the power of networks and technology, how can philanthropy support nonprofit leaders on the front lines of social advocacy – especially as they run organizations and movements founded well before the advent of the internet? What does this look like in the real world?

In this interactive session, learn how funders can partner with pioneering nonprofit leaders – in this case, an 80 year-old civil rights bellwether addressing immigration and criminal justice — to embrace technology and breakthrough forms of collaboration.

Our panelists will share their perspectives on what it means for philanthropy to take risks on “uncredentialed” approaches to advance justice in response to a rapidly changing landscape. Explore how this approach is making waves nationally and how established and emerging movements are becoming reenergized by using new pathways to advance equality and inclusion.

Breakfast Plenary: Bringing the Nation Together: Building a Community of Support for Veterans and their Families

Tuesday, June 10th 7:30 AM – 9:00 AM, International Ballroom, Concourse level

Foundations are well positioned to respond to the needs of a new generation of American military veterans. Funders are joining public sector and business partners all over the nation to help veterans and military families make a successful transition back into their communities. The time is right to harness our great American community spirit toward a more comprehensive, holistic “welcome back” to America’s all-volunteer force who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, including our neighbors in the National Guard and the Reserves.

Meet and greet delegations of veterans and spouses from the Blue Star Families, the Military Spouse JD Career Network, and Hope for the Warriors who will be attending the breakfast as guests of the Council. Plenary speakers will highlight the critical role foundations and non-profits play in creating welcoming communities for these families as they return to civilian life. A roundtable discussion with funders of the Joining Forces Impact Pledge, veterans, and civic engagement leaders will interact with the audience who will be invited to tweet their ideas about community engagement opportunities and philanthropic leadership roles.

Let us lead our communities toward the partnerships needed to insure there are no closed doors to those who have served our nation during a time of war.

Congress IconNews from the Hill

Senate Finance Hearings on Tax Reform

Last night, The Hill reported that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have scheduled summer hearings focused on advancing comprehensive tax reform.

“This summer, the Senate Finance Committee will forge ahead with hearings that examine reforming the broken, dysfunctional tax code in areas ranging from taxpayer privacy protection to education to corporate taxation,” the Senators stated in a press release. They continued by sharing their broad reform goals: “These hearings will provide the committee with the information necessary to create a simplified tax code that promotes long-term growth and ensures economic prosperity for the American people.”

The hearings scheduled so far include one on education tax incentives, taxpayer protection, and tax code modernization. We will keep you posted on any additional hearings that are announced, and will look for opportunities to ensure that philanthropy’s voice is represented.

Donor Advised Fund Supporters Oppose Payout Proposal

Yesterday, Bloomberg BNA reported on nonprofits’ efforts to take a donor advised fund (DAF) payout off the table in comprehensive tax reform. As our readers know well, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp’s tax reform discussion draft included a provision which would require all donor advised funds (DAFs) to payout in five years or be subject to a twenty percent excise tax.

In the article, Harold Hancock, Tax Counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee, said that the “DAF proposal has turned out to be one of the most controversial” provisions impacting nonprofits. Sandra Swirski, Executive Director of the Alliance for Charitable Reform, noted that “killing a payout requirement entirely may be difficult to accomplish.” On the other hand, Steve Woolf of Jewish Federations of North America commented, “We'd love to see the distribution requirement dropped entirely.”

The Council continues to stay actively engaged on this issue by educating members of Congress and their staff about the important role DAFs can play in providing community support.

As noted above, we are undertaking with partners a critical survey aimed to help us fine tune the information we deliver to Members of Congress and staff about the importance of donor advised funds, the types and timing of investments they make in communities here and abroad, and the relationships community foundations have with their donors.

State Policy IconHappening in the States

Michigan Charity Gambling Regulations on Hold

Last Friday in Michigan, a coalition of charities made progress in pushing back against a set of regulations set forth by the Michigan Gaming Control Board that would limit gambling for charitable purposes. These regulations, which were designed as a compromise to a bill proposed by State Representative Jeff Farrington that would have placed minimal oversight and regulation on gambling for fundraising purposes, would have placed restrictions on when, where, and how many of these fundraisers could occur.

The coalition of Michigan charities that were opposed to these regulations were able to file and receive an injunction – postponing these regulations from going into effect. This victory grants the coalition of charities some temporary relief from what they view as restrictive rules, but it is not a permanent solution. The coalition hopes that Governor Rick Snyder will intervene to facilitate negotiation efforts so that this does not evolve into an extensive legal battle.

More Charitable Gaming News in New Hampshire

Along similar lines as the push to preserve charitable gaming in Michigan, this past Wednesday, New Hampshire legislators passed a bill that would require stricter record-keeping and reporting standards for gambling fundraisers that are held on behalf of nonprofit organizations. The legislation also requires the state attorney general to perform a more thorough background investigation on the nonprofits engaging in these types of fundraisers.

The bill also clarifies the enforcement authority of New Hampshire’s Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission over specific types of charitable gaming (such as redemption slot machines), and commissions a study on charitable gambling in the state.

News IconPhilanthropy News and Op-Eds

Commentary on New 1023-EZ

The Hill published an op-ed from Tim Delaney, President and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits, on his concerns about the IRS’s new Form 1023-EZ. The new form, meant to streamline the process for obtaining tax-exempt status for those organizations that qualify to use it, relies largely on the attestation of applicant charities. It eliminates much of the supporting documentation required by the current Form 1023.

While many nonprofits argue that the current form is much too burdensome to complete, some commentators like Delaney are raising a different issue with the new streamlined form. He argues that the new form is akin to “[h]anding out charitable status like candy at Halloween.” The National Council of Nonprofits supports reducing the burdens associated with the Form 1023, he explains, but this form is far too simplistic and requires too little of applicants for tax-exempt status. He asks: “If the IRS abdicates its assigned duty as gatekeeper, then who will determine whether applicants legitimately deserve charitable status?”

Delaney urges the IRS to consider the input of state charity regulators, legal practitioners, and charities as they look to refine the Form 1023-EZ.

Nonprofit Accreditation Standards Change

The Standards for Excellence Institute has announced an expansion of its accreditation standards to include criteria for fundraising, disaster planning, and relations between executives and board members, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports. This overhaul was prompted by a recent study, which suggests that being accredited makes a positive difference in the amount of funds that charities are able to raise.

In addition to these changes in standards, the Institute has implemented a “tiered recognition” system to replace their former three step process – which included (1) an initial assessment by the institute, (2) a peer review by sector professionals, and (3) a final review by the Institute’s Ethics Standards Committee. The new system maintains the distinct steps, but allows nonprofits to complete each step separately and achieve recognition for the standards met on each level without having to complete the entire process (though, only nonprofits that complete the entire process will receive accreditation status).