First, a quick introduction. My name is Beth Coughlin. I write grant applications for MYA and generally try to help out when possible. So here I am writing a blog post.It all started when I forwarded an email to Karen this morning. The email was from the Donor's Forum, an advocacy group for non-profits based in Chicago. It asked me to contact Senator Dick Durbin and urge him to protect the charitable deduction as a fair and important incentive for charitable giving. The tax deduction that donors receive for individual contributions to non-profits is up for grabs in the current budget debate. This tax benefit for charitable giving has been in place since 1917. The Donor's Forum included a Fact Sheet.
So anyway, I forwarded the email to Karen suggesting that she might want to mention this issue in the MYA blog. She wrote back asking if I had time to put a post together, since she is swamped with preparations for the big concerts this weekend. So here I am. No good deed goes unpunished.
While I do not think that people only contribute to organizations like MYA because they will get a charitable donation deduction on their taxes, I do think that it is a nice perk and makes some people, like myself, set aside a few hours every December 30 or 31 to make donations before the tax year is over. I also believe this deduction incentive is another way that our society can recognize the value of the work that non-profits do.
I recently completed the annual Illinois Arts Council grant application. Two years ago, Illinois joined the Cultural Data Project, an effort organized by the Pew Foundation to collect data on arts organizations in each state with the goal of documenting their role in the economy - in addition to their cultural role. The Illinois Arts Council has required all grant applicants to participate in the Cultural Data Project and it has been my little ongoing project to collect and enter reams and reams of data on MYA's operations over the years. One of the items of information I have had to track down is the annual amount of charitable contributions received from individuals and how many individuals gave them. This is an important marker of an organization's engagement with its community. Whenever I write a grant, I include information on what percentage of MYA families have made donations to the cause. A strong percentage shows a belief in and appreciation for what MYA tries to do for all its members and its community.
I do worry that without the tax deduction, donations might drop a bit. What do you think? How would losing the charitable tax deduction affect your donating habits?