Senate Finance Proposals Require Chapter Grassroots Activity
(August 1, 2005) AFP encourages all U.S. chapters to organize grassroots events that will increase member and public awareness about the harm that upcoming Congressional proposals would do to charities and charitable giving.
The U.S. Senate Finance Committee is expected to formally introduce legislation in September that would make a number of changes to laws regarding tax deductions for charitable gifts. AFP is especially concerned that these reforms will dramatically limit deductions for noncash gifts, such as donations of land and other property.
Members of Congress will be back home in their legislative districts during the August recess. During this time, it is imperative that AFP chapters engage their legislators and work to educate them and the public about why and how these proposals would irreparably damage the charitable sector.
What Chapters Can Do
There are several activities that chapters can undertake both during the August recess and into the fall. While chapters should focus on their two U.S. Senators, lobbying efforts can also include members of the House of Representatives as well.
First, email the sample letter AFP has prepared to all chapter members and ask them to immediately personalize the letter, sign it and fax it (don't mail or email) to their two U.S. Senators. Include contact information and fax numbers with the email.
Second, during the next chapter meeting, chapter leaders can print out completed letters and ask all members in attendance to sign one. Members can then fax them when they return to their offices, or chapter leaders can collect the signed letters and fax them together. Be aware that this method may create more letters overall, but the letters will not be personalized.
Third, chapters can try to organize a meeting with their one or both of their U.S. Senators while they are in their home states during the August recess. The AFP Chapter Government Relations Manual has detailed information on how to arrange and prepare for such a meeting. If the legislator is not available, meetings with legislative staff will also be beneficial. No more than a handful (maximum of six or so) of members should attend the meeting. Chapters should ensure that participating members represent a variety of different charities.
Chapters can determine who their U.S. Senators are by clicking here.
Fourth, chapter leaders should visit with the editorial boards of local newspapers. The media continues to focus on a few bad stories and controversies while missing the large point that the vast majority of charities are legitimate and that these proposals will do far more harm than good. Encourage media outlets to run stories and editorials about the damage the proposals will do to local charities.
In any type of communication or meeting, there are several key messages that chapters should ensure they disseminate to the appropriate audience.
- The controversies and incidents reported in many media stories represent less than one-tenth of one percent of the million of charitable organizations in the United States.
- Many of these incidents could have been avoided if the Internal Revenue Service had the resources to better regulate the sector.
- The proposals coming out of the Senate Finance Committee represent a complete over-reaction to the incidents and will dramatically and detrimentally affect legitimate charities and charitable giving. Since a huge majority of charities are not engaged in any sort of wrongdoing, these proposals effectively 'throw the baby out with the bath water.'
- Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has indicated that part of the reason for these proposals is to increase federal revenues. While the charitable sector is happy to do its part, these proposals will only reduce giving to charities, thus requiring them to spend more on fundraising, government grants, etc. In addition, certain services and programs might have to be suspended, altered, delayed or terminated, so the overall impact of these proposals on charities is extensive.
- Charities are accountable, and a recent study has shown that charities are indeed responding to calls for additional accountability measures and safeguards.
- Many organizations abide by AFP's Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice, as well as by other documents such as A Donor Bill of Rights. AFP exists to advance ethical fundraising and maintain high ethical standards in the profession.
Chapters can find more information about some of the proposals being considered by the Senate Finance Committee on AFP's legislative alert web page. In addition, AFP has developed a written response to the recommendations of the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector. This panel, made up of nonprofit leaders, was created at the behest of Chairman Grassley to develop ways the sector could be made more accountable. The panel's recommendations are here and AFP's response is below in the Attachments section.
If you have any questions about the proposals and these suggested activities, contact Jason Lee, director, government relations (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Michael Nilsen, director, public affairs (email@example.com).
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