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At the Crossroads of Public Policy and Fundraising

AFP-NYC Takes Part in Virtual Lobby Week

Last week, the AFP-NYC Chapter joined our peers around the state and the country in participating in Virtual Lobby Week, where we spoke with staffers representing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Richie Torres, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and Congressman Adriano Espaillat about three pressing issues for our sector’s success:


1. Extending and expanding the Universal Charitable Deduction. Recognizing the critical role nonprofits would play in COVID-19 recovery efforts, Congress included a temporary $300 universal charitable deduction (UCD) in the 2020 CARES Act. The legislation had the desired effect: In 2020, small-level gifts of $250 or less increased by more than 15% compared to 2019. Fast forward one year and a bipartisan bill seeking to increase the cap to roughly $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for joint filers, among other benefits, has a real chance of becoming law.

The bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act not only helps development professionals raise much-needed funds, but it also democratizes charitable giving by incentivizing all taxpayers – regardless of their income – to support the causes they care about, creating real implications for our work towards racial equity and inclusion. According to an article published by Cambridge University Press, high-income households have historically been the primary benefactor of the charitable contribution deduction. Given the large and persistent racial wealth gap in the U.S., it’s not a leap to assume those high-income households are probably (mostly) white households.

As AFP continues to advance Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA), the universal charitable deduction can be a powerful mechanism to help us shift our industry away from traditional fundraising practices that can perpetuate the sorts of injustices our sector seeks to end.

2. Expanding the IRA Charitable Rollover. Individuals over the age of 72 are required to take minimum distributions from their individual retirement accounts (IRAs), which are then fully taxed as income. In 2015, Congress passed legislation that allowed seniors to direct tax-free gifts from their IRAs to nonprofits, without counting the distributions as income. Since becoming law, the IRA Charitable Rollover has generated millions of dollars in new or increased gifts to local and national charities.

Earlier this year, Senators introduced the bipartisan Legacy IRA Act, which reduces the age seniors are eligible to make tax-free IRA rollovers to charities from 70 ½ to 65 years of age, and increases the amount of tax-free gifts they can make from $100,000 to $400,000 annually.  

When meeting with our elected officials, they were interested to learn senior citizens have an estimated $5 trillion in IRA assets. The fact that the bill had bipartisan support and minimal costs associated with it were additional perks.

3. Enacting postal reform and delaying postage rate increases. If your nonprofit’s 2020 end of year direct mail appeal didn’t perform as well as prior years, you’re not alone. The U.S. Postal Service has been beset by continuing delays and absent an intervention by Postmaster General DeJoy and the USPS Board of Governors, nonprofits will soon start paying higher prices despite the slower service.

Normally, postal rate increases keep pace with the rate of inflation, allowing for nonprofits to budget and plan accordingly. Rather than implementing a drastic rate, AFP asked our elected officials to reach out to the USPS and encourage its decision makers to postpone major rate increases in the short term while creating thoughtful and predictable rate increases for the long term.

The staffers we met with have heard similar concerns about the need for postal reform from multiple constituents and seemed particularly motivated to work towards solutions. If the changes at USPS have hampered your nonprofit’s ability to reach its constituents – and in effect, advance its mission – your elected officials want to know.

Even though AFP’s Capitol Hill Virtual Lobby Week has passed, it’s never too late to influence public policy and create lasting change for our industry and the communities we serve. You can learn more about volunteer opportunities with the AFP-NYC Chapter’s Government Relations Committee by contacting Kerry Watterson and Vikki Jones. Can’t commit to a committee right now? You can still contact your elected officials with AFP’s letter templates about the Universal Charitable Deduction, the IRA Legacy Act, and Postal Reform.

by Thomas E. Moore, III - AFP-NYC Board Member and Director, Individual Giving at New York Road Runners, and
Nichole Guerra, AFP-NYC Government Relations Committee Member and Director of Development & Communications at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

This article is part of a larger series of content produced by members of the AFP-NYC Mentorship Cohort. We thank the authors for their contribution to the Chapter. To learn more about the program, click here

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