In Fiscal Cliff Negotiations, Look at the Whole Picture

U.S. Capitol

By Henry Berman, ASF

We are sharing the following letter with members of the Association of Small Foundations today. We welcome your thoughts and opinions in the comments section. As a diverse community of philanthropists, it is important we share our thinking with one another.

Dear Colleagues,

Whereas the television has quieted down post-election—the seemingly non-stop advertisements for candidates, ballot questions, and initiatives have ended—conversations about the “fiscal cliff” have, in the same way, started to overwhelm news channels, newspapers, and social media.

For many in the philanthropic sector, the charitable deduction has been the focus of the conversations. Lately I’ve participated in and listened to numerous discussions and debates about the charitable deduction and the pros and cons of it being reduced or capped. Well-informed and well-meaning people make cases for both sides of the argument.

There is an opportunity today at 3PM EST for you to hear from the White House in a Fiscal Cliff Conference Call With Foundation Leaders. Officials from the Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council, and Office of Public Engagement will discuss the charitable deduction in the context of the debate over how to find a balanced solution to the deficit challenges facing the nation.

How you feel is a decision only you can make, although I offer for your consideration the suggestion that the charitable deduction not be viewed in a vacuum. The debt crisis this country faces is composed of many interconnected parts. Only looking at one tree can lead to missing the impact of the forest.

In his 1990 book on baseball, Men At Work, columnist George Will likened the game to a mobile hanging from the ceiling. “Baseball,” he wrote, “is like a mobile: Jiggle something here and things move over there. Everything is related to everything.” I submit the same is true for figuring out a solution to the fiscal issues this country faces. If charitable deductions are tinkered with, for example, something else will move. All the issues must be viewed within the context of the whole.

ASF members include nearly 2500 foundations of all sizes found in all 50 states (and the US Virgin Islands). You come from every political persuasion, faith, and heritage you can imagine. What you share is a passion for your giving, a real commitment to the causes you choose to support, the desire to be thoughtful in your grantmaking, and a responsive attitude that lets your meet your community’s needs.

As your association, one of our responsibilities is to keep you informed so that you can, within our democratic republic, make your own decisions. As we learn of other opportunities from appropriate organizations, like today’s call, we will make you aware of them.

Fiscal Cliff Conference Call With Foundation Leaders
DATE: Friday, December 7, 2012
TIME: 3:00PM Eastern
DIAL: (800) 230-1096
CODE: Conference Call With Foundation Leaders
(Please provide this to the operator in lieu of a passcode.)

Henry BermanHenry Berman became ASF’s CEO in 2011, previously serving as acting CEO, board member, and committee member. Through his experience as a foundation co-trustee and ASF member since 2003, he brings a firsthand understanding of the needs of ASF members to his role. Berman’s early career included positions as an independent communications consultant and director, writer, and producer of film, video, and multimedia programs for education, motivation, and fundraising.

4 thoughts on “In Fiscal Cliff Negotiations, Look at the Whole Picture

  1. Charitable donations and then grants by the non-profit support areas of our society where taxpayer– government grants do not– medical research and areas of culture being 2

  2. Raising taxes on the top one or two percent is largely symbolic and does nothing to solve the deficit/debt issue. We do not have a revenue problem people!!! We have a spending problem!! Raise taxes on the rich and don’t severly cut spending on entitlements and the problem won’t change….in fact it’s likely to get worse. Please understand incentives matter.

  3. What is the fair share the rich ought to pay? The top 1% earn approx. 18% of AGI and pay approx. 37% of all federal income taxes. The bottom 50% earn approx. 11% of AGI and pay approx. 2% of federal income taxes. Whose not paying their fair share?

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