Russian non-profits are in for a heap of trouble. A new law from Putin’s government says that all civic organizations receiving funding from abroad and involved in politics (vaguely defined) must register as “foreign agents”—a term that to many means “spies.” “We call it a shock and audit strategy,” said Douglas Rutzen, president of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. “They’re literally auditing hundreds of organizations in an attempt to close them down.”
Russia’s restrictions on giving merited the country a score of 2.5 out of 5.0 in a pilot analysis of philanthropic freedom from the Hudson Institute. Its scholars examined 13 nations and the way they treated civil organizations, tax deductions, tax exemptions, and the ease of giving to and from overseas. The United States scored 4.6 overall, with strong non-profit laws and relatively generous tax deductions for giving. The Netherlands earned the top spot at 4.8, and Sweden, Japan, and Australia tied for third at 4.3. Russia, Egypt, and China scored the worst. But even in the best countries for giving, there is room for improvement. Americans can’t get tax deductions if they give to a charity overseas. In Sweden, only gifts between $300 and $900 can earn a tax break. The Hudson Institute’s analysis is preliminary—more information needs to be collected from other countries—but its Center for Global Prosperity, which also created the invaluable Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances, should be commended for another research innovation. As Lord Kelvin said, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.