Nonprofit Coalition Creates New Charitable Deduction Website

As budget season in Washington, D.C. begins to heat up, a coalition of nonprofits has created a new website that advocates leaving the charitable deductions out of budget talks between the White House and lawmakers.

The new site, ProtectGiving.org, was created by the Charitable Giving Coalition, a group of 60 nonprofits — including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and Independent Sector — dedicated to protecting the charitable deduction. The goal of the new site, according to Coalition, is to “provide user-friendly, accessible information about the vital role of charitable giving in America’s communities.”

Protectgiving.org is an important resource in spreading the word about the inextricable link between charitable giving and thriving communities,” said Gloria Johnson-Cusack, executive director of Leadership 18, a member of the Charitable Giving Coalition. “Working together, we can make sure lawmakers clearly understand that the charitable deduction is unique and it works.”

According to a spokesperson for the Coalition, the idea for ProtectGiving.org came during negotiations surrounding the so-called fiscal cliff this past fall, when it appeared that an emerging deal would have serious implications for the deduction. The Coalition began increasing its activities by communicating with lawmakers and urging supporters to do the same. Through these activities, it came to the decision that a new website should be made to help people advocate for the deduction.

“We needed a better way to communicate with members of Congress and people working with the Coalition. It became apparent that we needed the website to make those resources available,” said Alison Hawkins, director of external affairs at Alliance for Charitable Reform, another member of the coalition.

Hawkins said that the site had its soft-launch last week, but today was the first day it was officially announced. The Coalition will be tracking traffic and activity on the site over the coming weeks and months.

Visitors to ProtectGiving.org will find a new Coalition logo and information that seeks to show how the charitable sector impacts communities through an infographic and a “story bank” that provides local examples of the impact of charities. The site also features a “Take Action” section that lets users join the effort. This includes ways to contact members of Congress or spreading the word via Twitter using #protectgiving.

As the sequester, automatic budget cuts that began in March, continue to chip away at funding for various social and domestic programs Jason Lee, general counsel for AFP, argued that this is no time to be making any changes to the deduction. “With communities continuing to feel the effects of a tough recession and governments and the private sector struggling to meet the demand for increased services, the charitable sector is more important than ever,” he said.

Next week, the White House plans to release its budget plan, and it is expected to place some sort of cap on the charitable deduction in an effort to raise revenue.  In the past, the Obama administration has proposed limits on the deduction for higher income earners but it has yet to survive the budget process. The Coalition recently published a letter to Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) urging her to reconsider implementing proposals in the FY2014 Senate Budget Resolution that would limit the value of itemized deductions for charitable contributions.

The Coalition argues that an actual dollar cap on the deduction would discourage people from giving because many would exceed a hard dollar cap before claiming a charitable deduction. Other estimated effects on charitable giving would be a $3 billion loss should a 2 percent adjusted gross income (AGI) floor be imposed, and more than $9 billion if a deduction were replaced with a 12 percent tax credit.

Sandra Swirski, executive director of the Alliance for Charitable Reform and another member of the Coalition, argues that the charitable deduction should be considered a lifeline, not a loophole. “It’s unique because it encourages individuals to give away a portion of their income for the benefit of others,” she said.

“Some folks believe it’s a time of hard choices and if the deduction is the victim, so be it,” said Hawkins. “That’s a dangerous way of thinking in our opinion. Balancing budget on backs of the people who use the charitable deduction will do very little to help the government and will hurt communities the most.”

The Charitable Coalition was founded in 2009, around the time President Obama first proposed placing a limit on the charitable deduction for wealthy itemizers. Its mission is to educate the public on the charitable deduction and how it positively impacts communities.