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Stay informed on news and legislation affecting philanthropy and nonprofit organizations via ABAG's Public Policy Updates blog. Here ABAG also announces current position statements and policy work undertaken on behalf of members and the philanthropic sector.


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Top tags: tax  deduction  public policy  charitable deduction  Adventures in Philanthropy  IRA  excise-tax  Foundations on the Hill  general assembly  House Ways and Means  Maryland Nonprofits  Charitable Tax Deduction  Council on Foundations  position statement  Washington  Protect Giving  America Gives More Act  Charitable Giving  Charitable Giving Coalition  FOTH  IRS  September 2013 members' Memo  Sequestration  Shutdown  april 2014 Members' memo  April 2015 Members' Memo  community foundations  Cultural Programs  Education  forum 

Affinity Groups' Annapolis Wrap-Up

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Friday, April 26, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 29, 2013

The Maryland General Assembly meets annually for a regular session of just 90 calendar days to act on more than 2,500 pieces of legislation and the State's annual capital and operating budgets. Working with member affinity groups, the ABAG Public Policy Committee invited funders for an Annapolis legislative debriefing. We were foremost reminded that advocates work year round, especially in a state system of summer study sessions, work groups, and task forces. The work continues.

To learn more about issue areas that overlap with grantmaking programs, we are pleased to share these perspectives of the nonprofit advocates below:

Aging Summary
Donna DeLeno Neuworth
Legislative Liaison, Maryland Department of Aging

Education – Baltimore School Construction
Bebe Verdery
Director of ACLU of Maryland's Education Reform Project

Environment Summary
Jen Brock-Canciellieri
Deputy Director, Maryland League of Conservation Voters

Financial Stability Summary
Robin McKinney
Director, Maryland CASH Campaign

Workforce Summary
Jason Perkins-Cohen
Executive Director, Job Opportunities Task Force

Maryland Association of Nonprofits has also shared a Maryland Nonprofits Summary from Henry Bogdan, Public Policy Director at Maryland Association of Nonprofits.

Tags:  general assembly  Maryland Nonprofits 

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It's Game Time!

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25, 2013

By Adam Donaldson, ABAG Member Services Director 

Last week ABAG participated in Foundations on the Hill, joining nearly 300 foundation representatives to educate Members of Congress on the importance of charitable giving.

For those who have never walked the marbled halls of Congressional office buildings, you would be surprised by the beehive-energy that reverberates around Capitol Hill. Staffers zip from office to office heels clicking and ties swinging. The phones never stop ringing while heavy wood-doors snap open and bang shut with the procession of petitioners. Members of Congress lean thoughtfully into an endless series of ten minute meetings, stand, give thanks, shake hands, repeat.

I appeal to you to erase from your mind the myth of the "do nothing" Congress grid-locked in partisan debate. Action in Congress is not measurable by television press conferences. It is a constant stream of debates and negotiations on issues you care about and critical to the operations of the tax-exempt sector.

·On March 20, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Rep. David Reichert (R-WA) hosted a close-door roundtable to discuss how thetax code impacts private and community foundations, including payout rules and the excise tax. Congressmen Lewis and Reichert co-chair a tax reform working group on charitable organizations for the House Ways and Means Committee.

·On March 21, at the annual Washington Nonprofit Legal and Tax Conference congressional staff reported that the tax reform debate will move beyond incentives for giving to qualifications for exempt status, including organizations pursuing commercial activities, large endowments, the blurring of the lines between public charity and private foundation status, and political activities by exempt organizations (Source Independent Sector).

·On March 21, in an effort to preserve the charitable deduction in the budget process, Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced an amendment that protects the charitable deduction from being cut, capped, or eliminated to pay for new federal spending as part of an overall tax increase.

·Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) announced a series of 10 weekly meetings for Senators and senior staff only on various tax reform topics, including treatment of charities.

ABAG met this week with the offices of Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and John Sarbanes (D-MD) to inform them of current policy debates surrounding the charitable deduction and examples of our members’ impact through funder collaborations. Each office asked for the same thing. More input. They encouraged grantmakers to provide commentary on policy proposals, explaining how current projects underway in Maryland could be affected.

The ABAG Public Policy Committee will continue to monitor these issues in Congress and invites interested members to contact Adam ( or Committee Chair Kevin Griffin Moreno.

As a senior committee staff member stated in reference to college basketball, "it's game time." But the thing is, on Capitol Hill, it is March Madness all year long.

Tags:  Charitable Deduction  FOTH  Public Policy  Washington 

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House Ways and Means Hearing Follow-Up & Updated Charitable Deduction Resources

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 16, 2013

On February 14, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing to examine itemized deductions for charitable deductions as part of the Committee's work on comprehensive tax reform. Representatives from nonprofits and foundations testified at the hearing including the Council on Foundations, National Council of Nonprofits, Independent Sector, and Alliance for Charitable Reform. A full list of those who testified at the hearing and their testimonies is available.

Before the hearing, Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI) announced the formation of 11 separate Ways and Means Committee Tax Reform Working Groups. One of these groups will be focused charitable/exempt organizations and will be led by David Reichert (R-WA) and John Lewis (D-GA).

The Forum supports maintaining full deductibility of itemized charitable deductions (read our full position statement) and 16 regional associations have also taken an official position. A compilation of resources on this issue is available on the Forum of Regional Association's website.

Recent Articles in the Field

Information compiled by The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, ABAG's national membership organization.

Tags:  charitable deduction  March 2013 Members' Memo  public policy 

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Why the Charitable Deduction Is Unlikely to Change

Posted By Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Monday, March 11, 2013
February 24, 2013

By Suzanne Garment and Leslie Lenkowsky

To get a sense of the odds against the country’s seeing any substantial change in the charitable-deduction rules, you don’t have to look further than this month’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing.

For one thing, most of the witnesses—civil society was out in force—were not much interested in complex economic arguments about the comparative merits of competing plans to change the charitable deduction, along with the rest of the tax system. Instead, these witnesses had a virtually uniform and clear message: Charities need all the money that they get from the current system, and they need it now.

Second, even the witnesses who stepped back from the nonprofits’ testimony to try to evaluate the policy considerations behind the overhaul plans did not provide any definitive guidance. No simple answer, they told the committee, can achieve the competing goals of raising more government revenue while encouraging more giving.

As a result, the prospects for change seem slim because Congress is so divided on questions about what the roles of government and charity should be, and nobody seems willing to engage in tough questions about why charitable giving is a tax-subsidized activity in the first place.
Read the full article ... [Subscription Required]

Leslie Lenkowsky is a professor at Indiana University and a regular contributor to these pages. His e-mail is He and Suzanne Garment, a visiting fellow at Indiana University, are writing a book on philanthropy and public policy.

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The Importance of Speaking Up

Posted By Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz, Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The Importance of Speaking Up is written by ABAG colleague Nina Stack, President of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers and Chair of ABAG's national membership association, The Forum of Regional Association of Grantmakers 
February 13, 2013
By Nina Stack

Last month, I experienced a "rite of passage” for nonprofit executives in New Jersey. I attended the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce "Walk to Washington”. For those of you who don’t know, this is 50+ year tradition where the Chamber charters a train for elected officials, policymakers, lobbyists, business leaders, advocates and others for a ride to DC together. The "walk” is, in fact, everyone walking through the train, car by car, meeting as many folks and making as many connections as one can. We all arrive in the Capitol for a dinner and speeches – this year from Governor Christie.

You can’t work in Trenton or on anything that impacts the State and not know about the Chamber Train. I’ve been well aware of it since about 1988. When I first became President of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers in 2005 I wasn’t sure if it made sense for me to attend. The cost is a bit high and given the focus of our work at the time, I could make the case to avoid it. Every year since though I’ve gone back and forth about whether I should take the leap, or in this case…the ride. Well I did this year in large part because the focus was on recovery and rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. I wanted to be sure to hear what was being discussed, especially since our philanthropic community has been and will continue to be deeply involved.

Governor Christie was masterful at providing the audience with a heart-wrenching, sobering picture of what our friends and neighbors have and will continue to face. At the same time, he left everyone in the room feeling inspired and hopeful for what we will do, must do together. There was lots of talk about the contributions that people and businesses have been making. There was recognition of several true heroes who had personally done so much to provide relief.

However, what we didn’t hear was anything about the social sector’s response. In fact, as the speakers would count off all those different industries and groups that have been providing assistance, there was not one mention of philanthropy or nonprofits, the foundation community or the charitable sector. It was disappointing. But it wasn’t surprising. Why? Because we, as a sector, are terrible at communicating what it is we do. It is hard to boil down into a compelling sound bite the impact of philanthropy and why it matters. But if there were ever a time to rise to the challenge it is now.

At the same time policymakers in Washington are arguing about the impact of charitable giving, we know that the charitable community is and will be central to the rebuilding of our state. Part of the problem is cultural…few foundations are comfortable talking about what they are doing. Part of the problem is capacity…nonprofits rarely have the appropriate level of staff capacity to be effective in communications. What is at stake if we don’t start getting this right? The continued curse of government leaders believing philanthropy should be able to provide more money as government funding is being pulled away; at the same time they debate creating a new tax structure that does nothing to promote charitable giving because government leaders don’t truly understand its impact.

Next month, CNJG will once again join our colleagues in Washington for Foundations on the Hill. This is our opportunity to tell our government leaders in DC at least the story of what philanthropy is doing to provide relief and hope to the thousands of people and hundreds of communities in our state reeling from the storm – and at most – help them to have that "aha!” moment about how strongly philanthropy supports our communities. Many groups within the nonprofit sector have these types of "fly-ins” and I encourage folks to participate. They do make a difference…I’ve seen that first hand in the 8 years that I’ve been attending Foundations on the Hill.

As for the Chamber trip, I’m very glad I jumped on board this year. There were two strategies that I set up before committing though. First, I made sure I had one of my board members, a corporate executive who runs community relations for his company, lined up to be my escort. He then could introduce me to the many riders he knew from business and years on the train. Not only did I greatly appreciate the introductions but it also help avoid those awkward moments of "what do I do next”. Second, I knew very clearly what my objectives were – who did I want/need to meet and what did I need to communicate. Both strategies were key to the success of my experience. I don’t see myself making the trip every year but certainly every few years. At a minimum, it is a classic Jersey experience that every nonprofit leader who interacts in any way with the federal, state or local government should experience at least once. All aboard!

Nina Stack is President of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, the statewide association of more than 120 funding organizations working in New Jersey. She also serves as Chair of the Forum of Regional Association of Grantmakers, a 33-member network serving more than 4,000 foundations, corporations and other donors across the country.

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Hearing on the Charitable Deduction

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On February 14, 2013, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on the charitable deduction during which more than 40 witnesses testified that the deduction has a critical role in addressing community needs and improving our quality of life.

Watch video of the hearing:

In announcing the hearing, Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) had stated, "Because of the critical role that charities play, the committee must hear directly from the charitable community before considering any proposals as part of comprehensive tax reform that might impact their ability to obtain the resources they need to fulfill their missions.”

Common proposals have been:

  • Limiting the tax rate against which contributions may be deducted, as the President has repeatedly proposed;
  • A dollar cap on total itemized deductions:
  • A floor below which contributions may not be deducted; and
  • The replacement of the deduction with a tax credit available regardless of whether the taxpayer itemizes.

Members of Congress also showed interest in identifying how the tax code could direct charitable donations toward specific services and in ways to regulate some for-profit business dealings by nonprofit entities.

The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers has joined the Council on Foundations, National Council of Nonprofits, and thousands of other charitable groups in strongly opposing limits or caps to the charitable deduction. As Dave Wills, president of the National Christian Foundation, testified, "it is not the taxpayer who is harmed. It is those who need charitable services the most.” As an association, we will continue to promote the good work of our members and the tangible impact philanthropy has in all our nation’s communities.

Chairman Camp has made clear the next steps. There will be 11 working groups on tax reform created to review current law and conduct research that will inform a Joint Committee on Taxation’s report due April 15 to the full House Committee on Ways and Means. One of the 11 working groups will focus on the charitable sector, and ABAG will seek to understand how to provide input to the working group.

Suzanne Perry, reporting for the Chronicle of Philanthropy may have stated it best, – "today’s witnesses might want to keep copies of their testimony handy: Lawmakers made clear that the debate over whether to modify the charitable tax incentive did not die with the New Year’s Day budget deal over the "fiscal cliff.”

Electronic submissions of testimony are being accepted through Thursday, February 28. Any comments or other submissions for the record must meet the committee’s formatting requirements.

Tags:  deduction  House Ways and Means  tax 

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American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The 112th Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act at year’s end to address many expiring tax provisions including individual tax rates, the estate tax, and the IRA charitable rollover. Most notable Congress protected two powerful incentives for charitable giving – the IRA charitable rollover and the charitable deduction.

Congress extended until December 31, 2013 the IRA charitable rollover, which permits individuals to roll over up to $100,000 from an individual retirement account (IRA) directly to a qualifying charity without recognizing the assets transferred as income.

Congress took no action to cap or limit the charitable deduction program - evidence of the important efforts by nonprofit organizations and foundations, including the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers to educate Congress on the impact of charitable giving.

Below is a quick guide to the Relief Act. For more detailed information on the web, ABAG recommends the National Council of Nonprofits Key Elements of the Law.

  • Tax rate rises to 39.6 percent permanently from 35 percent for individuals earning $400,000 (couples $450,000)
  • Capital Gains tax for individuals and couples above 400/450K rises to 20 percent
  • Alternative Minimum Tax threshold increased and adjusts it for inflation
  • Payroll Tax Cut of 2 percent allowed to expire
  • Estate Tax individual exemption of $5.12 million ($10.24 million for a couple) an tax rate of 40 percent
  • Pease Limitation restored, which limits itemized deductions, including charitable deductions, by the lesser of three percent of adjusted gross income above a specified threshold or 80 percent of a person’s itemized deductions
  • IRA Charitable Rollover extended until December 31, 2013; not made permanent or substantively changed.

In our effort to promote generosity and its expression through charitable giving, the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers maintains a policy position to protect the full value of the charitable deduction. As Congress debates deficit reduction and tax policy, the association has contacted policymakers and urged them to prevent any limits or caps to the charitable deduction. We fully expect the President’s budget released in February to include changes to the charitable deduction and for the issue to maintain prominence as Congress considers comprehensive tax reform and efforts at deficit reduction.

Tags:  deduction  IRA  tax 

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January 1 Charitable Deduction Update

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The charitable deduction was not capped or limited by the end of year Congressional action to avoid the "fiscal cliff."  In addition, the IRA charitable rollover was extended through 2013.  

This is great news! This result is evidence of the important efforts by nonprofit organizations and foundations, including the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers to educate Congress on the impact of charitable giving.

The charitable deduction will continue to face pressure in federal budget and tax reform negotiations in 2013. 

[Click here for Baltimore Sun report, "'Fiscal cliff' deal approved, avoiding tax increases, spending cuts"]

Tags:  deduction  IRA  tax 

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Posted By Adam Donaldson, Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 13, 2012

Generosity is a core value of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.

Indeed we believe generosity is one of the most important values. It is essential to communal welfare and something everyone should practice in some form.

In our effort to promote generosity and its expression through charitable giving, the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers maintains a policy position to protect the full value of the charitable deduction. As Congress debates deficit reduction and tax policy, the association has contacted policymakers and urged them to prevent any limits or caps to the charitable deduction.

Under current law, taxpayers who itemize deductions may deduct the amount they donate to charities from their adjusted gross income (AGI) when determining how much they owe in federal income taxes. That deduction gives people who itemize an incentive to contribute to charities. It has been estimated that with no charitable deduction, annual giving would decrease by 25 to 36 percent.

Maryland is one of the most generous states in the country, ranking 10th in total charitable contributions. The top 10 percent of wealthiest Marylanders, likely to be affected most by limits or caps to the charitable deduction, contributed 31 percent of all reported contributions in 2010. And, Marylanders of all income levels take advantage of this important federal policy. Of the 1.1 million Maryland household reporting donations:

· 67 percent had income between $50,000 and $200,000 and contributed $2.7 billion;

· 23 percent had income less than $50,000 and contributed $621.6 million; and

· 10 percent had income over $200,000 and contributed $1.5 billion.

We are particularly concerned by proposals to set an aggregate limit on all itemized deductions, including charitable giving, which would effectively eliminate the incentive for donations. To illustrate, policymakers have discussed setting the cap at $15,000 or $20,000 as the maximum amount an individual could deduct. The fixed-cost deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes – which nationwide totaled an average $22,233 in 2010 – would already bump against proposed ceiling levels. The charitable deduction would be irrelevant. A Wall Street Journal analysis pointed out that a ceiling policy would have a disproportionate impact in states like Maryland with higher taxes and higher real estate costs.

Maryland’s economic recovery requires a strong philanthropic sector, whose role as a safety net and innovator is more important than ever for a faster, sustainable economic recovery. This is particularly true as local, state and federal budgets and nonprofits continue to suffer the consequences of America’s recession – increased demand for services with significantly fewer resources to get the job done.

Now is not the time to dismantle incentives to support the crucial work of the nonprofit sector –job training, improving education and health, housing and consumer counseling, and addressing the basic needs of Marylanders. Nonprofits and charitable organizations supported through the generosity of millions of Americans have been crucial during times of crisis, particularly in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.

Additionally, one in ten Americans work for a nonprofit, providing 13.5 million jobs. The same is true in Maryland where nonprofit organizations employ more than 260,000 people. As you can imagine, any cap or limitation on charitable deductions undermines charitable giving and would have long-lasting negative consequences.

Since writing these words there are already new developments in Congress on deficit reduction and tax policies that will have implications for charitable giving and federal spending that addresses community needs.  Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers staff participate in briefings from the White House, Congressional staff, and policy experts to stay up to date on these issues.

We urge our members to stay informed using the resources provided here or by contacting us at anytime. Members, including private foundations, can legally communicate to legislators, support for the charitable deduction.

ABAG members have a variety of grantmaking interests and differ in type from large, staffed foundations to corporate giving programs and to smaller, family-run funds. The association appreciates that members are independent entities who may act on their own or hold a variety of opinions regarding policies. Members may be impacted differently from each other by specific laws and regulations. Members have elected the Board of Directors to represent their interests and the Board has established specific guidelines to ensure that all members’ points of view are safeguarded.

Statements and Resources

Tags:  deduction  position statement  tax 

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Private Foundations Can Educate and Lobby on Charitable Deduction

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Thursday, December 13, 2012

Contacting your legislators and specifically urging them to oppose the proposal to cap the charitable deduction rate is permissible under the self-defense exception to the lobbying rules. Private foundations do not have to remain neutral on legislation if it affects their existence, tax-exempt status, powers and duties, or the deductibility of contributions. The exception allows private foundations to communicate with legislators and their staff on these issues and to express an opinion on such legislation. Note that this exception applies to communications with legislators and their staff and does not apply to communications with a broader audience. While ABAG is confident that communicating with legislators on this issue qualifies for the self-defense exception, the information in this notice is intended for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have any questions about how this general information applies to your specific situation, you should contact your legal counsel.


For additional information on advocacy and lobbying rules for private foundations click here.

Tags:  deduction  tax 

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