Defending a Critical Lifeline

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Community Foundation: Vern Buchanan and Roxie Jerde.

As this community well knows—and demonstrates time and time again—philanthropy is a terrific way to show up for your community, creating opportunity, safeguarding treasured assets and restoring hope and progress in the wake of challenges.

At our Community Foundation and others across the nation, many generous donors begin their relationship with charitable giving through establishing a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF), which allows donors to direct funding to cause areas they are passionate about, utilizing the local expertise and concierge advisement of community foundations, whose missions are improving the quality of life within a specified region. 

This entry to charitable giving empowers positive change and we see this every day, as well as during times of need like hurricane response and especially during the pandemic. The DAF has offered a critical lifeline of support to vulnerable populations in normal times and during crises. The range of programs and services provided by local nonprofit organizations is impressive, and their work, supported through donors, is key to the well-being of all of us.  

Last fall, the US Treasury proposed regulations to the DAF model and nuances about how to manage those and other charitable giving vehicles that inhibit the utility of this important philanthropic tool to prevent possible abuse.

In response, I traveled last month to Washington, D.C., along with 17 other community foundation leaders from across the country alongside financial and legal professional representatives, to testify in-person about the proposed regulations under review by the US Treasury related to DAFs. 

Community foundations nationwide do not see donors attempting to abuse DAFs or other funds they establish; instead, partnering with a community foundation is an efficient way to carry out meaningful philanthropy, creating the means to invest locally in communities like ours to address acute and ongoing concerns and improve quality of life.

Community foundation leaders are not alone in this. Politicians from across the aisle have unified on this issue, voicing concern that proposed regulations could have a “chilling effect” on charitable giving and ultimately lead to weaker communities. We are grateful for Congressman Vern Buchanan’s leadership in co-sponsoring a bipartisan letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, signed by 33 members of the House Ways and Means Committee, outlining major concerns, noting that DAFs have democratized philanthropy in our nation.

We are hopeful that major revisions will be made to these proposed regulations, if they are not rescinded entirely. As they stand now, these proposed regulations would thwart local oversight of critical charitable gifts that are making a difference in communities across the country. We are proud to have been on the forefront of this issue and to have been able to share with local and national legislators and regulators the importance of community foundations to empower donors and help enhance our communities’ well-being now, and for generations to come. 

Roxie Jerde is President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Photo courtesy Community Foundation: Vern Buchanan and Roxie Jerde.

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