Policy Session Recaps

Part of the mission of The Philanthropy Roundtable is the protection of philanthropic freedom—the right of Americans to choose how and where to spend their charitable assets. The Roundtable educates legislators and policymakers about the central role of private charitable giving in American life and the dangers of legislative or political measures that would weaken or constrain the philanthropic freedom that makes such giving possible.

Policy Update: The Latest Attacks on Philanthropic Freedom

You’ve heard the phrase “Never let a crisis go to waste.” This year, lawmakers and critics of all political stripes have taken this gallows humor to heart, and philanthropic issues that have long been settled are now ripe for renewed discussion. Questions like, “Shouldn’t donor-advised funds have a mandated payout in times of crisis?” and “Can’t the government be more effective than philanthropists?” have been up for debate.

Moderated by Tom Riley, president of the Connelly Foundation, a discussion between three panelists weighed how to answer these questions. Mason Rummel, president of the James Graham Brown Foundation; Howard Husock, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute; and Lawson Bader, president of Donors Trust, discussed the latest attacks on philanthropic freedom, particularly regulation of donor-advised funds (DAF).

Concerning the recent push to increase DAF payout rates, Rummel argues that depleting DAFs only makes sense in the moment: “We’ve got to think about the long term.” Husock argues that keeping DAFs less regulated is also important to encourage giving: “To the extent that one requires fast payouts, one discourages donations to a donor-advised fund.” Bader says regulation of philanthropy is nothing new, but it is a problem for civil society.

Donor Privacy on the Move

Donor privacy is fundamental to philanthropic freedom, protecting the right of those who choose to give anonymously to do so without fear of harassment. In this session, David Keating, president of the Institute for Free Speech, joined Heather Lauer of People United for Privacy and Philanthropy Roundtable Senior Fellow Patrice Lee Onwuka to discuss the current state-level legislation threatening donor privacy while other proposals are enhancing donor-privacy laws.

Christie Herrera, vice president of Policy and Government Affairs at The Philanthropy Roundtable, explained that a broad coalition of groups spanning the ideological spectrum have been working to oppose bills that would undermine donor privacy. Herrera explained why this work is important, saying, “We know how donor disclosure produces a chilling effect on philanthropic giving, and sadly we’re seeing the worst effects of it today.”

Onwuka pointed to court rulings and precedent that supports donor privacy and anonymous private giving. With the strong and growing social unrest in our nation, donor privacy is more important than ever. Onwuka explains, “As people drive for social change in this country, it is important that people can give to whatever causes you support, do so anonymously, and without fear of reprisal.” No matter what a person’s political leanings, donor privacy offers protection from radicalized opponents.


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