Public Policy Principles for the 118th Congress (2023-2024)
As the largest and most diverse network in American philanthropy, United Philanthropy Forum (the Forum) holds a unique position in the social sector to help increase philanthropy’s impact in communities across the country.
We are a membership network of more than 90 regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs), representing more than 7,000 funders, who work to make philanthropy better.
With a mission to lead, strengthen, and inform a national network of organizations to advance their impact for the common good, the Forum recognizes the importance of substantial engagement in the public policy process. Influencing public policy, via legislation and regulation, is critical to achieving our mission.
Introduction + Background
The 2023-2024 Public Policy Principles establish an agenda that will serve as a guide for the Forum’s public policy engagement during the 118th Congress. With an intentional focus on racial equity, this work will promote a strong philanthropic sector and advocate for vibrant, equitable communities across the country.
The Forum is cognizant of the legislative history of America and how public policy has both intentionally and unintentionally negatively impacted Black communities and communities of color. These policies, over time, have only exacerbated disparities that have lasted generations.
To that end, using the following principles combined with an organized, sustained approach to public policy will help the Forum lead and advocate on behalf of the sector, address systemic inequities, and identify practical public policy solutions that catalyze a just and equitable society where all can participate and prosper.
- Champion Racial Equity & Justice
- Support Fair Tax Policy & Regulation
- Enhance Charitable Giving
- Defend & Strengthen Democracy
- Promote Civic Engagement
- Strengthen the Nonprofit Sector’s Impact
Champion Racial Equity and Justice
The Forum supports meaningful legislative and regulatory changes that lead to the dismantling of public policy that perpetuates racial/systematic inequities and social injustice.
The Forum will support policies that are fair, just, create equitable opportunities and outcomes, and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities, by leading and participating in advocacy efforts that seek solutions that eliminate economic, social, health, educational, and climate injustices.
Support Fair Tax Policy & Regulation
The Forum supports the role that tax policy plays in encouraging and structuring gifts that support nonprofit organizations and communities and maintain a vibrant philanthropic sector. This includes tax incentives, credits, and other vehicles that help spur more charitable giving.
The Forum opposes legislative mandates and regulations that would negatively impact the sector’s ability to help communities in need, decrease charitable giving, erode donor privacy, and hinder equitable outcomes.
The Forum also recognizes the important role that donor-advised funds (DAFs) play in charitable giving and understands the significance of having substantive discussions about how to best enhance giving. The Forum believes that any consideration or discussion of proposed policy changes that would impact DAFs should include the involvement and voice of organizations that would be directly impacted by those changes.
Enhance Charitable Giving
The Forum supports public policy that encourages charitable giving. The Forum supports policies that expand charitable giving, including tax policies that incentivize giving.
The Forum supports legislation that protects the charitable deduction, makes the charitable deduction available to all taxpayers, and does not limit incentives needed to support the critical work of the broader nonprofit sector and communities across the country.
Defend & Strengthen Democracy
The Forum supports a strong and vibrant democracy in America. A democracy that encourages participation in the democratic process, protects citizens’ right to be counted, the right to vote, and provides fair representation, without restriction and interference.
The Forum opposes all forms of threats to democracy, foreign and domestic; and supports legislative efforts that ensure democracy, civil rights, and American democratic institutions remain intact.
Promote Civic Engagement
The Forum supports the rights of charitable organizations to continue their involvement in public policy debates and advocacy education in accordance with the current rules and regulations, and oppose additional limitations on the ability of nonprofit organizations to participate in the advocacy process.
The Forum opposes any attempts to weaken or repeal the current federal law that prohibits nonprofits from engaging in partisan campaign activities.
Strengthen the Nonprofit Sector’s Impact
The Forum supports the nonprofit sector’s ability to help government and the broader social sector work together more effectively in pursuit of shared goals that uplift communities across the country.
The Forum supports legislation that gives the sector a permanent voice in the federal government, makes the sector stronger, and enables nonprofits to better serve communities, including during disaster relief efforts, by implementing effective and equitable solutions and prioritizing the needs of nonprofits and communities.
Key Public Policy Issues
Here are public policy issues and topics identified by the Forum as essential opportunities to strengthen the philanthropic sector and ensure that all communities are thriving and equitable.
The Legacy IRA Act
The bipartisan Legacy IRA Act (S. 243/H.R. 2909) would expand the IRA Charitable Rollover by incentivizing seniors to make donations from traditional IRAs though life-income plans, such as charitable gift annuities or charitable remainder trusts, and increase rollover cap above $100,000 for the first time in more than 15 years. With many Americans unable to afford to give away their retirement income during their lifetimes, this would give prospective donors one more critical way to support the philanthropic sector in a way that works for them. After the donor passes away, the remaining amount is used by the charity for their mission.
Consistent with the Forum’s mission to enhance and expand philanthropy, the Forum supports public policy that encourages charitable giving. The Forum supports the role that tax policy plays in encouraging and structuring gifts that support nonprofit organizations and communities and has endorsed the Legacy IRA Act.
Read more about the Legacy IRA Act.
Donor Advised Funds
According to the National Philanthropic Trust, a Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) is a charitable account held by a public 501(c)3 entity which receives donations from an individual. Donors can receive an immediate tax deduction based on their donation and then advise on how the funds are granted going forward.
The Forum recognizes the important role that DAFs play in charitable giving, and also understands the significance of having a discussion about various ways to best enhance giving. The 92 PSOs in the Forum’s network represent more than 7,000 foundations and other philanthropic organizations across the country, and their voices and involvement are vital in these discussions.
Read more about Donor Advised Funds.
Universal Charitable Deduction
Since 1917, the federal charitable tax deduction has provided a tax deduction for donations made to nonprofit organizations by taxpayers who itemize their tax returns. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made several changes that hurt the effectiveness of the charitable deduction. By increasing the standard deduction, it greatly reduced the number of taxpayers who itemize and therefore have access to the charitable deduction. Under current law, about 88% of taxpayers don’t itemize, meaning only about 12% of taxpayers have a tax incentive to increase their donations to important causes.
The Forum supports the Universal Charitable Deduction, which would extend the tax incentive to all non-itemizers and make the incentive equitable for all taxpayers.
Read more about the Universal Charitable Deduction.
The Forum recognizes that the well-being of all Americans, and all communities, is inextricably linked to their ability to exercise their right to vote. The late Congressman John Lewis once stated, “The right to vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool or instrument in a democratic society. We must use it.” For its part, the charitable sector has played a key role in encouraging and helping communities participate in the voting process, uplifting the importance of active civic engagement.
A strong democracy thrives when all can participate in this sacred act, unencumbered. And while participation in voting has increased, we have also seen systemic inequities in electoral processes and in laws passed making it more difficult for some Americans, specifically voters of color, to vote. While America has made strides in the past to rectify racial discrimination, these intentionally restrictive voting laws represent a shift backward in our quest for equity and justice for all.
Read more about the Forum's support for Voting Rights.