It is, many say, the season of giving. Filled with goodwill and grace from the wide array of winter holidays, and eager to meet the year-end deadline for tax purposes, people across the country use the final days of the year to dedicate financial resources to their favorite nonprofit arts and community organizations. And those organizations rely on that year-end push, focusing fundraising resources on catching hold of the eyeballs, heartstrings and, ultimately, wallets of potential donors.
But the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law on Dec. 22, makes this giving season even more significant. This is the last year that many individuals will see a benefit from charitable giving. By increasing the standard deduction for tax years 2018 through 2025, from $4,400 for head of household and $3,000 for individuals to $18,000 and $12,000, respectively, the new law dramatically decreases the number of Americans who would benefit from itemizing. Since charitable giving can only be written off as an itemized deduction, one of the major incentives driving many to give generously will be removed.
Katie Roche, development director at the Englert Theatre, notes that organizations such as Americans for the Arts and the United Way project that giving to nonprofits will take a significant hit in the wake of this.
“Going forward we’re going to be communicating closely with our supporters about the importance of supporting our community cultural assets, regardless of the benefit of the write-off,” Roche said in an email. “Nonprofit organizations are going to need their supporters to be even more engaged, informed and vocal about the value that nonprofit organizations bring to our community.”
Communication is key, as some Americans may not yet be aware of the new law’s impact. Sara Sedlacek, communications and development director of the Crisis Center of Johnson County, said in an email that the center will be reaching out to donors to inform them about the ways the changes might affect them.
The Englert has chosen not to adjust its year-end messaging, but Roche said that some donors have reached out to them for help in understanding and wanting to give more in 2017 to offset the impact. “In those cases,” Roche said, “we extend their Friends of the Englert and Friends of Mission Creek benefits into future years, but record the gift in 2017 so that they can benefit from the tax incentive for their 2017 taxes.”
In addition to those expressing concern, however, the Englert has seen positive responses that might go a long way towards balancing things out in future years.
“Some top donors have promised to give more as result of how other parts of the tax bill will benefit them,” Roche said. “Ultimately, we remain hopeful that the donors will continue to support the work of area nonprofits like the Englert, because they value what we bring to our community.”
Sedlacek expressed similar positivity. “We’re optimistic that those who give to the Crisis Center do so because they are passionate about our mission and this bill will not have an affect on their giving. This community has supported the work we do for almost 50 years. I don’t see that support diminishing.”
“When that letter comes from an organization you think is doing great work in the community, I don’t think the first question people ask themselves is, ‘How will this affect my tax deduction?’,” Roche said. “I think the first thing we ask ourselves is about how we value work of that organization. If you value creating access to arts and culture, if you believe that our festival stages should be presenting diverse voices and perspectives, if you believe that our beautiful historic theater should be preserved for future generations, then you believe in our work and give a gift that is significant for you.”
If you’re looking for places to focus your year-end giving, whether it’s to sneak it in before the new law takes effect or just to celebrate what you find significant, we’ve listed a dozen links below for local nonprofits to get you started. Share your own favorites with the community in the comments.
The Englert Theatre
The Crisis Center of Johnson County
Linn County Historical Society/The History Center
Legion Arts/CSPS Hall
Catherine McAuley Center
Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation
Public Space One
Coralville Community Food Pantry
United Action for Youth