Advocacy at Work: CMF Members on the Hill
More than 30 CMF members are back in Michigan this week after participating in nearly 20 meetings with our Michigan congressional delegation and senators. Members and CMF staff were in Washington, D.C. for Foundations on the Hill.
During their meetings on the Hill, members from all foundation types and every corner of Michigan shared stories of their work with our lawmakers to demonstrate the importance of Michigan philanthropy.
"The visits to Capitol Hill are such an important way for us to tell our stories and lift up the great work of the nonprofit sector and the philanthropy that supports it, but we need to remember the annual visits are only a part of an overall strategy to keep our messages going all year long," David Jones "DJ", chair, CMF Board of Trustees, and executive director, Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation said. "Walking the halls of Congress is an excellent reminder of the numerous voices competing for airtime. We need to remain persistent and positive."
CMF and its members shared several talking points with legislators that emerged from CMF’s 2019 Government Relations Goals.
Highlights of what we asked of lawmakers:
Support efforts to incentivize charitable giving by all Americans. CMF is asking lawmakers to support efforts that would incentivize charitable giving either through making it available above the line or through a tax credit. The 2017 Tax Act is still projected to reduce giving by up to $19 billion a year and result in the loss of 220,000-plus jobs. CMF is also requesting nonpartisan data on the impact of the 2017 Tax Act on charitable giving and jobs in the nonprofit sector.
Oppose legislation to repeal or amend the Johnson Amendment which would adversely affect the nonpartisanship and trust of the charitable sector. As CMF has reported, CMF, Michigan nonprofits and foundations are part of a nationwide effort opposing this effort. A repeal or weakening of the amendment would blur the lines between nonprofits and politics, harming the public’s trust in the sector.
Support legislation to either simplify the excise tax on private foundations to a flat 1 percent or to a revenue neutral tax. CMF commissioned research from Cambridge Associates which confirms the current formula is an administrative and financial burden to calculate and results in less giving, especially by smaller private foundations.
Support bipartisan legislation to repeal the new UBIT taxes imposed on foundation and nonprofits with a priority on the tax on parking and travel benefits. Accountants and financial advisors have documented the increased burden in calculating and paying this new tax.
Support efforts contributing to talent attraction and retention in distressed rural and urban communities. CMF asks that lawmakers support bipartisan legislation being cosponsored by Senator Gary Peters and in the House by Representative Dan Kildee to make scholarship payments for higher education completion nontaxable, thus reducing student debt. This relates to the reverse scholarship model which was first launched in 2016 by the Community Foundation of St. Clair County and Huron County Community Foundation.
Support Census 2020: Members shared the work of the Michigan Nonprofits Count Campaign led by the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) in partnership with CMF with legislators. CMF encouraged support of efforts to achieve a complete count in 2020. CMF continues to join philanthropy serving organizations throughout the country in requesting that the federal government not add the citizenship question to the Census 2020 form because it had not been field tested. All questions on the census form to-date have been tested. In November, the U.S. Census Bureau released the findings of its own study citing that “the citizenship question may be a major barrier” to participation, based on the research.
"It is an honor to represent members of CMF as we shared CMF’s legislative priorities with our elected officials and their staff," Jenee Velasquez, executive director, The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation said. "The future of philanthropy is shaped during FOTH."
“FOTH continues to provide us with a truly unique inside look at the workings of Congress and their perspective of philanthropy,” Randy Maiers, president and CEO, Community Foundation of St. Clair County said. “I’m already looking forward to 2020.”
Maiers was one of several CMF members who joined Kyle Caldwell, president and CEO of CMF, in a meeting with the U.S. Treasury Department.
"CMF members met with Elinor Ramey, in the Office of Tax Policy to provide data and insights on the impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) on charitable giving and the new UBIT regulations," Caldwell said. "Ms. Ramey has a unique understanding of philanthropy having served in a number of roles including at BoardSource working on research on governance issues in the sector."
"I’m so proud of our CMF members," Jones said. "Our group accounted for nearly 20 percent of the total participants from around the country. Our members represent the best that philanthropy has to offer and they continue to make CMF the premier grantmaker association in the country."
Join us for a special webinar on April 2 to hear more from your Michigan colleagues about what was shared and learned at FOTH: Foundations on the Hill: Debrief and Download.
Check out our photos from FOTH.
Engaging the Next Gen in Advocacy
This year at Foundations on the Hill (FOTH), the Michigan foundation delegation had four next generation attendees participating in advocacy work.
Kat Owsley, president, Bosch Community Fund and vice chair of corporate philanthropy, CMF Board of Trustees, attended with her 12-year-old son Finn.
“I believe in and fund hands-on learning experiences for kids and felt FOTH would really be an ideal opportunity to hear about the work of foundations and how we talk and partner with our elected officials on important issues,” Kat said.
Finn joined the meetings with CMF members and our Michigan Congressional delegation.
“I liked the meetings with legislators where we talked about issues and problems with them,” Finn said. “I especially was interested to learn about the importance of the census and all the issues surrounding it.”
Both of Neal Hegarty’s sons have now attended FOTH. Neal’s oldest attended as a sophomore in high school and this year his youngest, Patrick, 16, participated in the meetings.
“It is a great benefit for a young person to learn how to navigate Capitol Hill and to participate in policy discussions with legislators and their policy staff leaders,” Hegarty, vice president of programs, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation said. “Many of us don’t get this opportunity until later in our careers. So, to learn the process and demystify a bit of the complexity of our nation’s policy process is a great opportunity for a teenager. It is made even better by learning how to advocate for public policy that promotes giving, philanthropy and the charitable sector!”
CMF members Diana Tarpoff, president, R.E. Olds Foundation and Sherri Reid Grant, president, Reid Family Foundation and trustee, CMF Board were also joined by their adult children, Polo Tate, director, R.E. Olds Foundation and Nathan Grant, trustee, Reid Family Foundation.
“It is so very important that we both see and join in the advocacy with our legislature on the Hill. Often, we next-geners get a feel for and adapt the philanthropic spirit, the impetus to give, the passion for helping from our previous generation,” Tate said. “However, we rarely get to see the or be a real part of the governmental oversight and aid that is an essential part of the philanthropic process. In order to exponentially effect our philanthropic endeavors on a national scale, we must understand the inner-workings of our government, and form relationships with our policy makers and change-makers. It is an honor to be a part of it all.”