Elizabeth McGuigan in DC Journal: Giving for Policy Change Isn’t the Same as Political Giving

In an article recently published in DC Journal entitled “Giving for Policy Change Isn’t the Same as Political Giving,” Philanthropy Roundtable Senior Director of Policy and Government Affairs Elizabeth McGuigan wrote about the threat posed to philanthropic freedom by policymakers who are wrongly conflating political giving and donations to public policy nonprofits. She outlined the difference between these two types of giving and proposed steps the IRS can take to improve donor privacy and the freedom to give.

Below are excerpts from the article entitled “Giving for Policy Change Isn’t the Same as Political Giving”:

“Recently, some activists and policymakers have pushed to restrict donors’ rights regarding public policy giving. Privacy opponents claim there’s not enough clear division between giving to policy nonprofits versus donating to political parties and candidates.

But the truth is, when we conflate politics with policy, it can negatively affect communities that rely on philanthropy. When donors’ privacy is not protected under the law and their giving to 501(c)(3) organizations is viewed as equal to their political giving, it can stifle that effective giving.

Political giving is a short-term donor investment to support a specific candidate or party. These are donations aimed at directly bolstering a candidate or party in the short term, with the goal being a successful campaign. While donors may support a specific candidate because of the policies they want to put forward, the donation itself is not directed toward any long-term agenda beyond the current political cycle.

On the other hand, policy philanthropy takes a long view. Donations to policy-related activities aren’t political in nature, instead, they support ideas, research and education that will inform policymakers and policy. As required by the IRS, 501(c)(3) charities can legally allocate a part of their budget to lobbying efforts, but it can’t take up a large amount of their overall activities.

Charities’ ability to engage in policy debates is at the core of our civil society. Funding the tax-exempt charitable organization of their choice is part of Americans’ right to free speech. Any gift to a 501(c)(3) organization is a charitable gift — including policy philanthropy — and donor privacy must be protected.”

Please continue reading “Giving for Policy Change Isn’t the Same as Political Giving” at DC Journal.

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