IPA Blog

IPA Joins National Peers for Virtual Meetings on Capitol Hill

Monday, April 26, 2021
IPA members meet with Senator Todd Young during Foundations on the Hill

Despite continued social distancing guidance, over 60 Indiana Philanthropy Alliance (IPA) members were on Capitol Hill in March, albeit virtually, talking about the issues impacting philanthropy and strengthening our relationship with Indiana’s representatives in the House and Senate. IPA’s delegation, including participants in the Mutz Philanthropic Leadership Institute, joined philanthropy colleagues across the country for the annual Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). Hosted by the United Philanthropy Forum and Council on Foundations, hundreds of impact-minded professionals scheduled meetings with their representatives over a two-week period to advocate for philanthropy’s ability to support their communities and respond to current and future crises.

“We were excited to share with our federal office holders how their public policy initiatives may affect the important work our grantmaking members conduct on behalf of nonprofits, donors, and others in the community,” shared IPA CEO Claudia Cummings. “There are a number of critical issues being debated in Washington, D.C., and we took this time to educate and provide feedback to our members of Congress.”

IPA met with every office of the Indiana delegation, including personal meetings with both Senators Todd Young and Mike Braun. In our meetings, IPA members shared how they had responded to the needs of their communities throughout the COVID-19 crisis and highlighted several concerning policy developments that threaten members’ abilities to respond to those needs in the future. In particular, IPA highlighted the need to make permanent a universal charitable deduction, voiced support for laws protecting donor privacy, and opposed unnecessary regulations or increased payout requirements on foundations and donor-advised funds. 

FOTH meetings are excellent opportunities to provide legislators with the information they need when considering bills that will impact philanthropic giving. Expanding access to charitable deductions enjoyed especially broad support during the two days of meetings. "I don't think many members of Congress would be against changes that would help encourage charitable giving,” said Representative Larry Bucshon. 

Cultivating support for issues important to IPA members is important to establish as early as possible as there are many interests at play when elected officials are considering their stances. During last year’s FOTH, which was held right before congressional offices closed due to COVID, Indiana congressional members got to hear from IPA members about the needs of philanthropy and nonprofits before writing and passing the CARES Act. 

“Indiana Philanthropy Alliance led the way in creating meaningful dialog and providing an opportunity for so many of us to have impactful conversations with our members of Congress.”
– Rich Haddad, K21 Health Foundation, IPA Board Chair
 

 

Mutz Institute Joins FOTH

To prepare for their first FOTH experience, the Mutz Philanthropic Leadership Institute cohort spent class time learning about foundation advocacy and the legalities of lobbying, key legislation important to the sector, and experiences from past attendees. 

IPA’s contract lobbyist, Sabra Northam of Barnes & Thornburg, spoke to the class about the fundamentals of how a bill becomes a law, then covered the do’s and don’ts of lobbying by 501(c)(3) organizations. Under IRS Guidance, a 501(c)(3) may engage in some lobbying, but a substantial amount of its activities may not fall under lobbying, otherwise they risk losing their charitable status. This does not mean organizations cannot involve themselves with public policy. For example, distributing educational materials on a policy would not be considered lobbying. Stating an opinion on a specific piece of legislation, however, is lobbying. Direct lobbying refers to attempts to influence a legislative body through communication with a member or employee of a legislative body, or with a government official who participates in formulating legislation.

Jeff Hamond from Van Scoyoc Associates presented to the Mutz Institute class on tax policy, giving trends, proposals to increase charitable giving by foundations, and an overview of the controversial Madoff/Arnold DAF proposal. This conversation provided background on key issues discussed with legislators in the FOTH meetings. In his overview of the Biden Administration’s individual tax proposals, Hammond shared these key aspects:

  1. Increasing the top individual income rate back to 39.6 percent (where it had been before 2017)
  2. Eliminating capital gains and dividends preferential rates for those earning over $1 million
  3. Limiting itemized deductions to 28 percent
  4. Imposing payroll tax over $400,000. Under the current tax code, only 11 percent of Americans are able to fully deduct their charitable contributions (down from over 30 percent prior to 2017).

IPA members who shared their advocacy experiences with the class included Tracy Souza (Heritage Fund), Dan Davis (Community Foundation of Jackson County), Stephanie Goodrid Lawson (McKinney Family Foundation), and Rachel Goodspeed (CareSource Foundation). The Mutz Institute class heard each organization’s perspective on the Madoff/Arnold DAF proposal, charitable deductions, IRA charitable rollover, and more. While our speakers have different giving focus areas and stakeholders, most had similar views on how the proposed changes would positively or negatively impact foundations across the state. 

“It’s important for all types of foundations to participate in events like Foundations on the Hill to advocate for the critical programs and issues we’re seeing in our communities. Investing our dollars into communities is only one part of the solution—we need policy to achieve true systematic change.”
– Rachel Goodspeed, CareSource Foundation

Overall, our FOTH meetings with members of Congress went well and continue to solidify relationships for information sharing and action. "What is important to me is to have a good and honest relationship with the philanthropic community going forward," said Representative Frank Mrvan (D-IN). 

IPA will continue to support opportunities that connect members with their elected officials. From July 26 to August 3, IPA will hold Legislative Roundtables throughout the state to provide additional opportunities for its members to connect with their state and federal legislators. 

 

“IPA gave me and the greater Indiana philanthropic community an opportunity to present important issues to our federal legislators in an organized, efficient and effective way so that our sector can continue the work of putting grant dollars to use in our communities to meet pressing needs.”
– Stephanie Overbey, Kosciusko County Community Foundation

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