Washington Snapshot - August 15, 2014

With lawmakers out of town for the month, the action—and the policy news— has shifted away from Washington to local communities. As a reminder to our readers, Washington Snapshot will be taking a short summer break the next two weeks, returning on Friday, September 5th. We hope you enjoy the last few weeks of summer and have a pleasant Labor Day weekend.

Congress IconAre you Activating in August?

As our readers know, the Council is leading efforts among the foundation community to mobilize the sector in support of the America Gives More Act (H.R.4719). Check out our Re: Philanthropy blog post this week for our take on why this bill will provide much-needed certainty to nonprofits and donors.

The message is simple — reach out to your Senators and ask them to support the America Gives More Act, which helps foundations invest in communities across the country.

To recap how we got to where we are today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America Gives More Act with a strong bipartisan vote of 277 to 130. The legislation makes permanent three very important tax extenders — including the IRA charitable rollover — that have been proven to expand charitable giving. It also includes a provision to simplify the excise tax on private foundations.

We need you — foundation leaders on the ground in your communities — to reach out to your Senators and encourage them to support community investments now.

Tell your Senators to urge Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the America Gives More Act (H.R. 4719) to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as possible.

In addition, if you’re meeting with your House members, and they voted for the bill on the House floor a couple of weeks ago, be sure to say thank you. A list of the Yes votes can be found here.

The Council has created an easy to use “Activate in August” advocacy toolkit. We will update it regularly over the next several weeks. Our colleagues in the field, including many regional associations, are gearing up their efforts as well. And, both Independent Sector and National Council on Nonprofits have released new information to guide their members’ efforts.

We need to ensure that this bill becomes law. But we don’t have much time. We’re hearing that Congress will come back to Washington for merely three weeks in September before going back home to campaign for the November elections. That’s only about 15 work days! For that reason, the field is galvanizing around this single, important message for the Senate to approve the House bill.

Meet with your Senators. Send a letter. Write an op-ed for your local paper. Encourage your partners in the field to act. Email. Tweet. Whatever it takes to get our voices heard.

And, the Council is here to help. Please feel free to contact our Policy Analyst Katherine LaBeau with any questions or for additional resources.

Events IconUrban Institute DAF Survey Results Webinar

Thank You to More Than 300 Community Foundation Participants

Join us on Thursday, August 21st, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET for a webinar on the preliminary results of the Urban Institute survey on donor advised funds.

As many of our readers already know, the Council commissioned the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy to conduct a survey about donor advised funds (DAFs) managed by community foundations. The Council is working in collaboration with Council of Michigan Foundations and with generous support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The survey results will help us and our members provide a full picture of donor advised funds and their importance to communities nationwide. They will also provide material to develop common messages to address the following questions that lawmakers often have about DAFs:

  • How do community foundations use DAFs to support charitable activity on an annual basis?
  • How do DAFs encourage new and non-traditional investors to become involved in organized philanthropy?
  • To what extent do families use DAFs to engage the next generation in philanthropy and community affairs?
  • Do DAFs increase the capacity of host organizations to respond to community emergencies and to play a leadership role in public-private partnerships?
  • Do DAFs allow host organizations to take a multi-year strategy in dealing with a tough issue that cannot be immediately solved?

Speakers include:

  • Vikki Spruill, President & CEO of Council on Foundations
  • Elizabeth Boris, Director of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute
  • Rob Collier, President & CEO of the Council of Michigan Foundations
  • Diana Anderson, Interim President & CEO, Southwest Initiative Foundation
  • Sue Santa, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Council on Foundations

Register now to reserve your spot. Space is limited due to high demand, so don’t delay!

Congress IconNews from the Hill

Four Senior Michigan Lawmakers Retiring at Once

Some Members of Congress are back in their districts for perhaps the last time as elected officials. In Michigan, the retirement of four senior lawmakers this year will be acutely felt. Representatives John Dingell (D-MI-12), Dave Camp (R-MI-4), Mike Rogers (R-MI-8), and Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) will retire after this congressional session ends in December. The New York Times wrote an interesting piece on the impact of these simultaneous retirements this week.

Professor Charles Ballard of Michigan State University explained that not only will the state of Michigan miss these lawmakers, but that these retirements are “a blow to the U.S. as a whole. In today’s Congress, with many young members with little experience or institutional memory, experienced old hands are more vital than ever.”

The author notes that “the retirement of the four is symbolic of the huge shifts in how Congress functions. The combination of a ban on earmarks, which once enabled members to help their communities, and the rabid partisan rancor of late, which was far less prevalent through most of the careers of the four men, gives their departure a sense of an ending era.”

The Michigan delegation has the third-longest average House tenure (behind West Virginia and Alaska). Representative Dingell is the longest-serving member of Congress, serving 29 terms. Senator Levin has served as a Senator since 1978—the longest serving Senator the state has ever had. In addition to length of tenure, these Michigan lawmakers hold coveted leadership posts. Representative Camp holds the powerful Ways and Means Committee Chairmanship, and Representative Rogers chairs the Intelligence Committee.

State Policy IconHappening in the States

Nonprofit Salary Cap Upheld in New York

A New York state regulation that requires nonprofits receiving state contracts to limit the amount of state dollars that go towards nonprofit executives’ salaries was upheld by a court this week. The regulation mandates that any organization that receives $500,000 or more in state dollars and 30 percent of their budget from the state can only use up to $199,000 in state funds to pay their executives’ salaries. Nonprofit social service providers filed a legal challenge against the rule.

While not a firm salary cap because organizations are free to use other dollars to pay executives more, the rule was an attempt by the state to reign in nonprofit executive compensation. It stems from a 2011 committee appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) to investigate allegations that some charities had used state dollars to pay executives exorbitant salaries.

Charity Gaming Restrictions Blocked in Michigan

A Michigan court has ruled in favor of Michigan nonprofits that receive revenue from gambling fundraisers, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports. State regulations were supposed to take effect on May 31st of this year that would have strictly curtailed charity poker operations.

The Michigan Charitable Gaming Association and other nonprofit organizations in the state filed for an injunction to block the rules on the grounds that they would severely weaken the organizations’ revenue streams.

Among other proposed restrictions, the regulation would reduce charity poker room operations to four days a week. Charity gaming has increased dramatically in Michigan since 2011, motivating the Gaming Association to pursue tighter regulations.

Events IconEvents of Interest

Council to Host Unaccompanied Minors Webinar

On Wednesday, August 27 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET, the Council is hosting a webinar to explore how funders can assist with undocumented minor children flowing across the Mexican border.

Thousands of children are making the dangerous journey north from Central America and Mexico alone. The number of unaccompanied immigrant children migrating to the United States has increased, and experts anticipate 80,000 to 120,000 new arrivals in 2014. A complex array of federal agencies handle the care and custody of the children once they arrive in the United States as well as the adjudication of their immigration claims. Join the Council and Grantmakers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) for a webinar on this humanitarian crisis and the role funders can play in responding.

Join this free webinar today!

NASCO Conference on October 6th

The National Association of Attorneys General/National Association of State Charity Officials' Annual Conference, “The Evolving Role of Charitable Regulation in the 21st Century,” will take place on October 6, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

This year’s conference discussions will focus on how charitable regulation is evolving and adapting to the ever-changing nonprofit landscape. Topics will include emerging issues under UPMIFA, regulator-sector opportunities for collaboration in addressing disaster relief, examining the way charities are evaluated by watchdog agencies, and questioning whether charities are, in the traditional sense, still charitable.

More details coming soon!

Rocky Mountain Tax Seminar: September 17th-19th

The El Pomar Foundation’s annual Rocky Mountain Tax Seminar will take place Wednesday, September 17th, through Friday, September 19th. The seminar is designed to update and inform managers and trustees of private foundations about the ever-changing tax laws that affect private foundations, and to encourage dialogue with the panel of speakers about practical problems foundation managers face in the day-to-day management of their foundations. Check out the website for a list of high-profile speakers and registration details!