Last week, Suzanne Garment and Leslie Lenkowsky, a visiting scholar and a professor at Indiana University released an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, aptly titled “Stop Focusing on the Charitable Deduction. Tax Policy Isn’t Causing the Long-Term Slide in Giving.”
This is an important article from Garment and Lenkowsky contesting the notion that the new charitable tax deduction is to blame for a decrease in giving (or plutocratic philanthropy). Moreover, while acknowledging that more charitable dollars are indeed coming from fewer households, they suggest that the rising concern about this trend “is likely to prove exaggerated.”
What’s the real thrust of the article, then? That “the data provide a larger lesson about the limits on the ability of short-term public-policy changes to alter long-term trends in philanthropy.” So, while “a smaller number of donors [are] making larger gifts … the basic distribution of gifts to various causes hasn’t changed.” Their insight is apt, given a recent and much debated Wall Street Journal article: charitable giving is not suddenly swinging to advance “the agenda of plutocrats.”
There is more in this piece—including a study about how different tax deductions “might” affect giving. It’s an important piece for anyone interested in trends in philanthropy and the effect of the tax deduction on charity.
Then again, if you’re a fundraiser, the real takeaway from the article is that long-term trends are not shifting day-to-day. And, more importantly, the fundamentals aren’t changing: cultivate your current donors and find new donors. In other words, your time may be better spent calling your donors and saying thanks or asking how they are doing. Keep them engaged and taxes be damned—your donors will support you.