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Fiscal Cliff: What YOU Can Do About It

December 13, 2012
by

New Year’s Eve is almost here, and 2013 just may ring in with some real fiscal fireworks.  Without a deal between President Obama and Congress, $500 billion in tax increases and $200 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will be imposed.  In the midst of all that, some federal officials are advocating capping deductions, including deductions for charitable donations, rather than raising marginal tax rates for top-earning Americans.  Besides fastening your seatbelt for a very bumpy ride, is there anything you can do?  The answer: YES!!!!

Here are a few actions YOU can take:

I. FIGURE OUT YOUR STORY & GET READY TO TELL IT… According to Peter Orzag, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget during President Obama’s first term, “The charitable sector has the most to lose from a limitation on itemized deductions.” [Source: Orzag, P. Vague Plans to Limit Tax Breaks Will Soon Die, Bloomberg, November 27, 2012]  How much does your organization rely on philanthropy?  Will your organization be negatively affected if deductibility of charitable giving is reduced or eliminated?  Some studies indicate that charitable donations may decline by 25%-36% if deductions for charitable giving were eliminated.  What would losing a quarter or more of donations mean for your organization and its mission-driven services? 

II. CONTACT YOUR FEDERAL OFFICIALS.   Contact Your Congressional Delegation…Contact your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators.  It is easy to do, and there are so many ways to do so.  In addition to having website-based online contact forms, email addresses, and telephone numbers readily accessible for making contact, your federal elected officials also can be reached through their Twitter accounts (note: Sen. Kohl is the only member of the delegation who does not appear to use his account):

– @RepGwenMoore
– @RpSensenbrenner
– @RepPaulRyan
– @SenRonJohnson
– @HerbKohl

But don’t stop there.  There are a number of other elected officials with whom you can share to express your perspective.  Contact President Obama…Let the President hear from your organization.  As long as you are using Twitter, he can be reached at @BarackObama or @whitehouse.  Contact Speaker Boehner…Speaker Boehner is the primary negotiator on the fiscal cliff for the House of Representatives, and can be reached at @SpeakerBoehner.  Contact Mayor Barrett…Ask the Mayor to advocate on behalf of Milwaukee’s nonprofit sector.

III. MAKE WAVES…Inform your board members, volunteers, and other supporters of your organization’s story and the potential impact that limiting or eliminating deductibility of charitable giving may have.  Encourage them to share the story with their friends and colleagues, contact federal officials, and write letters to the editor.

What happens with federal fiscal policy now will affect the nation for years—decades—to come.  This is our time to step up, speak out, educate, and lead on philanthropy.  Let’s roll!

William Martin, Jericho Resources, Inc.
Board Director, AFP-Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter

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