Last week, Philanthropy Roundtable CEO and President Elise Westhoff spoke with The Bradley Foundation’s Rick Graber on its “We the People” podcast. This wide-ranging conversation centered around threats to charitable giving, culture wars and philanthropy, and how donors can be most effective during this season of giving. Westhoff also affirmed that last year’s record-shattering giving numbers were a testament to the generosity of Americans, who, despite a global pandemic and economic downturn, donated a record $471 billion to charity.
Threats to giving
Despite that, Graber pointed to legislative efforts currently underway that would undermine charitable giving, including the King-Grassley bill in the Senate — a piece of legislation Westhoff said is both harmful and unwarranted.
“Unfortunately, the ACE Act is really just a solution in search of a problem that isn’t there,” she said. “What we’re most concerned about here is that it’s going to hurt the people in need on the ground.”
Westhoff called the proposals in the bill “unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions,” including a 15-year timeline on payouts from donor-advised funds (DAFs) that could discourage philanthropists from using a flexible giving vehicle.
“This would really limit people’s ability to use those tools,” she said. “We believe that donors should have the right to give how, when and where they choose, and the restrictions that are in this bill would really limit generosity and stifle giving at a time when we really need it most.”
Cultural issues and philanthropy
Westhoff and Graber also discussed how broader societal issues are impacting philanthropy, including an illiberal culture that is stifling conversation about how to help people through charitable giving.
“We’re really choosing winners and losers, which communities are okay to serve and which communities are not,” Westhoff said. “In addition to creating division, that hurts people that are struggling regardless of their skin color or gender or sexual orientation.”
Instead, Westhoff emphasized that the philanthropic sector should help everyone in need, rather than focus on specific communities.
She highlighted Philanthropy Roundtable’s efforts to improve lives and advocate for values-based giving.
“We believe in strengthening communities, creating pathways of opportunity for every American and really focusing on America’s founding principles … that make this country exceptional.”
Advice for donors during season of giving
In addition to this, Westhoff offered tips for donors as they seek to make charitable contributions during this season of giving.
“Giving should be a mutually beneficial arrangement between the organization and the person making the gift,” she said.
“Think about what your passion is, what your values are, and find those organizations that are on the ground doing the work that helps you advance them. Finding that great partnership there, I think, is the key.”