Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Election in the Spotlight, But Policy Discussions Continue

The traditional thinking is that a U.S. presidential election typically slows down work in Congress, especially with all Representatives and one-third of Senators up for re-election as well. This week in particular, all eyes in Washington were on the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

But that doesn’t mean a lot of work isn’t going on behind the scenes, and AFP has been keeping in touch with Congressional staff throughout the summer and into the fall. We’ve met with Members’ personal offices, as well as with staff from the House Ways and Means Committee. We discussed preserving the existing charitable deduction, and perhaps expanding it by allowing individuals and families who do not itemize their taxes to still take a deduction for charitable gifts (the non-itemizer deduction).

The response was generally positive. Most offices are very supportive of the charitable deduction and don’t want to do anything to harm charitable giving. And from our conversations, it looks as if most of the conversation about tax matters in 2017 will focus on corporate and international taxes.

But there are also a lot of ideas circulating around about changes to the tax code, including potential modifications to itemized deductions and the treatment of non-cash gifts. Congress is examining all sorts of proposals, and as we look forward to next year, we must be ready to assess these new ideas and determine their impact on giving and the charitable sector.

Other issues continue to percolate as well. The House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee recently held a hearing looking at how colleges and universities use their endowment funds, and if institutions with large endowments should be required to use a certain portion of them on tuition reimbursements or other items. Legislation is expected later this year.

And with the government possibly headed towards a shutdown unless Congress and the President can agree on a spending bill soon, AFP is being extra careful in monitoring these negotiations in case last-minute provisions get added that might affect philanthropy.

Meanwhile, our legislative work continues unabated in Canada, Mexico and other countries. In Canada, for example, fresh off the success of the first Charities Day on the Hill event in April last year, we’ll be participating in another similar event on October 18, this one being led by our partners at Imagine Canada. I’ll let you know how that goes and what we hear from legislators in Ottawa.

We’ll keep members posted as new issues and proposals arise, and please contact Michael Nilsen, our vice president for public affairs, if policy on the chapter and state/provincial level becomes critical.

And finally, I encourage all U.S. members, regardless of party affiliation, to vote in this year’s election. It’s an important civic duty of every citizen, and a critical way we keep our public office holders accountable to us, the people.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Broadening Who We Are...And Our Impact

This was an unusual summer for me – and for all of us at AFP International. With all the change AFP has been undergoing, we had a unique opportunity to use the more deliberate pace of the summer months to think critically about the AFP we are today, and to plan creatively for the AFP we want to be in the future.

We have initiated conversations with new friends and loyal mentors to talk about AFP’s position—and potential—in an evolving philanthropic sector. Members, peers and sector influencers had important things to tell us about our relevance and our influence. These candid conversations helped us refine our strategic priorities for the next three years in categories such as Education, Ethics and Advocacy, Capacity-Building and Diversity and Inclusion.  They even influence the language we’ll adopt later in the fall for our mission and vision statements, as well as our guiding principles.

One of the key principles we’ve gathered from these conversations is the sense that the AFP community has to be broader than what we are right now—both in terms of people and ideas. There is a heightened sense of urgency in our community to keep pace with social innovators who are upending traditional philanthropy by infusing unprecedented funds into charitable issues. The words “fundraising” and “fundraiser” carry connotations that don’t necessarily represent the knowledge, ethics and impact of the work our members do.  It doesn’t represent the sense of personal responsibility many AFP members and others feel about acquiring more knowledge, more experience and exercising more creativity to advance the promise of Good the world over.

That principle is already being integrated into some of our programs—like our annual Leadership Academy happening next month in October. We’ll continue our tradition of meetings to support chapter leaders in their important work, but we’re also transitioning the Academy into an experience that addresses contemporary leadership and professional career development challenges sector-wide. We want to help newcomers to the profession with education and empowerment to pursue an ambitious career path, while also supporting seasoned professionals in building the kinds of skills that position them to advance into CEO and board leadership posts.

It’s not just about members raising more money—it’s about being able to serve as fundraising literacy ambassadors who can influence cultures of philanthropy within their own organizations.

It’s not too late to register for our 2016 Leadership Academy in Portland, Oregon, October 20-22.  You don’t have to be an AFP member to register (but members receive a substantial discount…think about it!)

You’re going to see more of this sort of thinking in the coming months. After several months of research, we have now tremendously valuable insights about the way members see AFP’s unique value proposition.  I want to thank all of you who participated in our focus groups and online surveys. This new data on the DNA of AFP informs the way we will build on our brand equity and represent the true contributions we make to the profession and to philanthropy in general.  You’ll hear more on this in the months ahead as we cultivate a brand promise that speaks to our role as catalysts for philanthropy.

Let’s keep the dialogue going, and I look forward to seeing you in October.