Defending Philanthropy



Over this last week, billions of dollars have been generously donated by people, businesses and organizations from all across our nation to support our fellow Americans in need who are recovering, and will be for some time, from the disastrous effects of Hurricane Harvey. It’s no surprise. The idea of giving back and lending a helping hand is a tenet deeply ingrained into our spirit as Americans; it is a natural first instinct for many. However, one would not think that philanthropy is a concept that has to be actively defended.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is proud to be part of a consortium of more than 100 community foundations from around the country that make up the Community Foundation Public Awareness Initiative, voicing its support of tax reform that protects charitable giving. Over the last few years, the initiative has actively worked to brief elected officials and staff members on key philanthropic issues and the vital role community foundations play to strengthen communities through the power of philanthropy.

Earlier this year when I visited Washington, D.C, our lobbyist that leads the Community Foundation Public Interest Awareness Initiative, arranged 11 meetings on the “Hill” for me to meet with key staffers and representatives from the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means Committees. While it was a whirlwind day and a half of meetings, I loved telling the story of what generosity has accomplished in our own community and why it is imperative we protect charitable giving in the upcoming tax revisions.

An area that is also important to community foundations is the ability to accept gifts of appreciated property and closely held stocks, which is vital to investing charitable dollars back into the community. I urged those I met with from Congress not to dramatically alter these rules, which could deter people from giving back. With current legislature, community foundations are able to facilitate these gifts and then work closely with donors to support the numerous local nonprofits they care about. Maintaining the full scope and value of the charitable deduction is imperative.

In addition to defending philanthropy in its current state, it’s also vital to ensure that leaders correctly leverage philanthropy and steer it positively into the future. I am honored to represent the Community Foundation of Sarasota County as a Trustee for the Southeastern Council of Foundations, which serves more than 350 foundations of all types across the southeastern states. In November, the Council will convene hundreds of the top philanthropic leaders on the topic of “Forecasting Philanthropy’s Future,” bringing together foundations to collaborate on how to increase regional grant making impact and empower transformational community change moving forward. Stay tuned for what I’ll share with you over the coming months.

As we look to a future that may entail less government funding for community needs, philanthropy will be called upon to do even more. If charitable giving is negatively impacted by tax legislation, it could be a “perfect storm” of increased needs and decreased funding. With a “DNA” of amazing generosity in our community, we need to ensure philanthropy will continue to be strong and robust to meet community needs today and for generations to come. I thank those of you who are already being the ones to make a difference in our community, whether it’s with your time, talent, or treasure, and I welcome you to contact me to share your thoughts on how we can make more progress through philanthropy moving forward.

Roxie Jerde is president of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

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