More than fifty staff from local nonprofits gathered on Set. 27 at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus to discuss whether nonprofits should challenge government proposals to limit the deductibility of contributions in order to raise money to reduce the nation's deficit and support programs to lower unemployment.
While their discussion revealed a unanimity against all limits on the tax deductibility of donations because they probably would lead to less contributions, there was a split with the majority believing this opposition should be on behalf of all charitable giving and a minority saying human services agencies had to have their deductions protected most at a time of high social needs in the country.
The meeting was sponsored by the Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leaders under a grant from DRG Consultants, a search firm in the nonprofit sector. "This is an historic time for our nation," said Allan Luks, Center Director, "as we try to stop our economy from worsening and respond to the social impacts of this deterioration. Charities are in the spotlight."
Individual nonprofits have been overwhelmingly quiet, agreed participants. In a survey at the meeting's end, answered by about 30 participants, the majority believed nonprofits should communicate their views on the tax treatment proposals, notifying elected officials, contributors and the general public. But one third disagreed, apparently, from the meeting's discussion, because of a reluctance to challenge elected officials whom they depend on as advocates for government grants
Asked if there surely was going to be a change in the deductibility which proposal would they choose, the majority favored limitations on individuals with incomes over $200,000. They said that smaller agencies, the majority of all nonprofits, depended on small gifts. But one-third favored the opposite, placing taxes on small contributions, such as the first $500, to protect the large donations that most often go to large institutions
About half of the participants did believe that nonprofits should stand up, in their role as the public's conscience, and speak out against the political polarization in Washington, explaining to elected officials that if there can't be a reasoned dialogue who usually gets harmed are those without expensive lobbyists continually representing them, which means the disadvantaged.
"The Center stresses in our training of nonprofit leaders that they shouldn't want to be just onlookers at a time of social change," said Luks.