2015 Highlights - Empowering Communities. Together.

This year’s Philanthropy Week in Washington was a tremendous success. Thank you to all of you who came or added your voice by connecting with your lawmakers back in your districts. Lawmakers need to hear from you, their constituents, about why this work is so vital.

Philanthropy Week in Washington is a week-long series of events and activities hosted by the Council on Foundations to highlight the role of philanthropy in our society. This year’s theme, “Empowering Communities. Together.” emphasized the critical role of community partnerships in advancing the common good.

From large independent foundations and corporate foundations, to family and community foundations, philanthropy empowers communities. Foundations offer the timely resources, local knowledge, and strategic leadership needed to ensure complex issues are addressed in ways tailored to suit local needs.

As Congress considers tax reform and the new budget, participants went to the hill and told them that communities depend on a full set of philanthropic tools to meet pressing needs.

The Council and our colleague organizations also actively engaged with lawmakers throughout the week. The Council, Independent Sector, Feeding America, Land Trust Alliance, United Way, YMCA, National Council of Nonprofits, and Jewish Federations of North America partnered on a letter urging the Senate Finance Committee to act swiftly to pass the America Gives More Act of 2015. As our readers know well, the America Gives More Act (H.R. 644), passed by the House on February 12th, would make permanent the IRA charitable rollover and the enhanced deductions for food inventory and conservation easement donations. It would also simplify the complicated private foundation excise tax to a flat rate of one percent. Foundation leaders in town for Foundations on the Hill echoed this message in dozens of Hill visits throughout the week.

We owe a great “thank you” to our partners who helped make this week such a great success, including the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and the Alliance for Charitable Reform, a project of The Philanthropy Roundtable.

We invite you to continue the important work and conversations from this week at our Annual Conference in San Francisco. We hope to see you there!

Recap of the Week's Events

Tuesday Lunch

During the first official event of the week, at lunch on Tuesday, 40 foundation and association leaders gathered to get to know one another and better understand the ways our work is complementary and not competitive. The group discussed how we all work for communities and like policymakers, we are deeply invested in place.

Eileen Ellsworth, President and CEO, Community Foundation of Northern Virginia, described investing in a community foundation as investing in home. The role and mission of community foundations highlight that they are the bedrock of community philanthropy, though community philanthropy is not just for one type of foundation. As Don Cooke, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, explained, the McCormick Foundation chose to take a closer look at the impact of their grants and moving away from many grants covering many issues to going deep on issues and looking to grant in communities with great leadership structures.

Participants ended by discussing the role of philanthropy in economic development and making the connection between investing in human capital and investing in the local economy.

White House Roundtable on Place-Based Initiatives

Later on Tuesday, dozens of foundation leaders in town forPhilanthropy Week attended a special roundtable conversation with White House leaders to discuss how government and philanthropy can collaborate on place-based initiatives.

In his remarks, Dave Wilkinson, Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation at the White House, said “foundations see how federal funding works on the ground, and can help course-correct where there are problems.” Shaun Donovan, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, explained that “the federal government needs to be a strong, humble partner [with foundations], focused on the vision of local communities.” A lively discussion followed in which the foundation leaders shared candid views with White House officials about the effects of federal place-based initiatives in their communities.

Council on Foundations Staff and Philanthropy Week Participants enjoying the view from the Welcome Reception.

Welcome Reception

Tuesday evening saw an opportunity for participants to join together, meet and greet, and kick off Philanthropy Week at a windy but beautiful reception overlooking the Capital. The Council’s Board Chair, Sherry Magill, President of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund delivered inspiring remarks alongside comments from Adam Meyerson, President of The Philanthropy Roundtable, and Dave Biemesderfer, President and CEO of the Florida Philanthropic Network and Forum Board Chair.

Alliance for Charitable Reform Summit for Leaders

Bright and early on Wednesday morning, foundation leaders convened to discuss the tax policy provisions that impact philanthropy and how the philanthropic community can talk about our value to lawmakers. There were lively discussions with the audience on strategies foundations can deploy during their Foundations on the Hill meetings with members of Congress and staff. The summit featured an engaging game show themed panel modelled after “What’s My Line?” Philanthropy leaders, including Sue Santa, the Council’s Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs, delivered messages about the charitable deduction and audience members voted for the most persuasive message. A panel of top Congressional staff followed, in which staff answered pointed questions from audience members about how their bosses will seek to reform the tax code.

Senate Reception

After many conversations with policymakers, foundation and regional association representatives mingled with Hill staff in a more casual environment. At the top of the Hart building, everyone enjoyed the view while discussing how policymakers and foundations have the same goal – to help communities with the issues they care about. Javier Soto, President and CEO of The Miami Foundation, and Janine Lee, President & CEO of the Southeastern Council of Foundations, thanked the attendees for their enthusiasm about philanthropy and highlighted the unity among philanthropic organizations in our policy efforts.

Breakfast with the Philanthropic Liaisons

On Thursday morning, regional associations and foundations met with government agencies including Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, and NASA. The informal networking breakfast allowed Philanthropy Week attendees to make connections with the executive branch.

A full house listens closely at the House Philanthropy Caucus Luncheon.

House Philanthropy Caucus Lunch

Thursday afternoon, at the Madison building at the Library of Congress, participants came together for a lunch hosted by the House Philanthropy Caucus. Council on Foundations President and CEO, Vikki Spruill, kicked off this event before turning the microphone over to Robin Hayes, former Congressman from North Carolina, President of the Board of Trustees of the Charles A. Cannon Charitable Trusts, Vice President of the Board of Directors of The Cannon Foundation, and trustee of the Hayes Family Charitable Trust. Hayes delivered inspiring remarks before turning it over to Jim Ferris, Ph.D., Director of the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy, Sol Price School of Public Policy at USC and Elizabeth Boris, Ph.D., director of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute. Ferris and Boris spoke about their important research and the significance of place-based philanthropy. Paul Daugherty, President and CEO of Philanthropy West Virginia, Janine Lee, President and CEO of the Southeastern Council on Foundations, and Claudia Herrold, Senior Vice President for Communications and Public Policy at Philanthropy Ohio delivered closing remarks.

Meeting with Mission Investors Exchange

Mission Investors Exchange and the Council of Development Finance Agencies, along with the Council on Foundations and Initiative for Responsible Investment, hosted a discussion on Thursday afternoon looking at how foundations can advance economic development finance. Development finance agencies issue bonds and other financing to build public infrastructure ranging from roads and bridges to parks and sewers.

Foundations looking to deploy their capital in innovative ways are beginning to look to these deals as a means to deploy capital towards place-based economic development initiatives. Speakers Robin Hacke and Kimberlee Cornett, from the Kresge Foundation, Debra Schwartz from the MacArthur Foundation, and Dana Pancrazi from the F.B. Heron Foundation discussed the funding mechanisms available and new models in development.

Nonprofit Media Panel: Towards a More Informed Public

Philanthropy Week wrapped up with a breakfast panel to explore challenges that nonprofit media organizations face in becoming tax-exempt. Legal experts Celia Roady and Kimberly Eney of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP brought the audience up to speed on the state of nonprofit media organizations today, and talked about persistent challenges these organizations face in achieving and maintaining tax exemption. Brian Carome, Executive Director of the nonprofit media organization Street Sense, shared his first-hand experience from the field and his thoughts on the valuable role that nonprofit media organizations play in society. Finally, former IRS attorney and Branch Manager Steven Grodnitzky shared his insights into navigating the exemption process and what the IRS has done to expedite application processing.

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