Elise Westhoff Featured in Colorado Springs Gazette on Threats to Philanthropy

Recently, Philanthropy Roundtable CEO and President Elise Westhoff spoke with Colorado Springs Gazette Editorial Page Editor Wayne Laugesen about threats to charitable giving. While Westhoff highlighted the importance of philanthropy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the myriad ways Americans have stepped up to help others, she also spoke candidly about efforts that would harm charitable giving, including the King-Grassley bill in the Senate and calls for donor disclosure measures.

Below are excerpts from The Gazette article titled “Perspective: The left poses new threats to charitable giving”:

Laugesen: “Describe the threats.”

Westhoff: “So there are efforts to force donors to give more quickly or to be more transparent about their giving. There are efforts to out and shame donors for not giving to the cause du jour and efforts impose ideas that there is a right way to give and a right community to give to. And then there are communities that you shouldn’t invest in and give to. It is the picking of winners and losers. We see this both in the private sector speaking about these things and trying to push them on people. We also see it in legislation that’s being pushed at the federal level and the state level to impose certain mandates and restrictions on philanthropists and charities.”

Laugesen: “There is legislation in the works to make it harder to be charitable. I’m thinking in terms of the King-Grassley bill in the Senate. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what the ramifications are should it become law?”

Westhoff: “The King-Grassley bill is really a solution in search of a problem. America is the most generous country in the world and Americans are more generous than we ever have been in history. So, to have legislation that targets or stymies giving at a time like this doesn’t make sense.”

Westhoff: “The bill was initiated by Ray Madoff, who is a liberal Boston College law professor — a long-time critic of donor-advised funds and intergenerational wealth — and billionaire John Arnold. They want to accelerate the amount of money going into communities. But we view this as imposing their view of charity on everyone else. And unfortunately, I think one of the things that made philanthropy so successful is its voluntary nature. It has never been a coerced activity and to start mandating and coercing people runs the risk that they’re going to be less generous. The more it’s ignited from their own passion, people will be more generous. So leaving that flexibility, we think, will encourage more giving. This bill overlooks the value of investing in a community for the long term. There are a lot of people who give over decades to their community, and they like to do that on a steady basis. Why would we criticize that? It is a wonderful thing. And if they want to give it all away in one year, they should be able to do that, too. But let people decide on their own. The government shouldn’t be telling us how to be charitable.”

Please continue reading “Perspective: The left poses new threats to charitable giving” in The Gazette.