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Open letter to Ohio’s Congressional delegation

The Honorable Joyce Beatty
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC

Dear Representative Beatty,

As we watch the U.S. Congress move with all due haste toward passing a tax reform bill, Philanthropy Ohio urges you to carefully evaluate proposed reforms’ impact on philanthropy and on the lives of our most vulnerable citizens, those whom our philanthropic dollars serve through our nonprofit partners.

The pending tax debate is critical for the philanthropic sector, as we have witnessed during conversations with Trump Administration officials and congressional staff. Those conversations revealed the widely-held, misguided understanding that Congress can enact severe tax cuts because philanthropy can step in to meet the resulting needs of the underserved. We in philanthropy know this is a fallacy of supreme proportions and we continue to push back on that statement.

For the first time, Philanthropy Ohio is weighing in on tax policies beyond the typical items related to charitable giving; as you well know, we have visited with you and others to advocate for expanding the IRA Charitable Rollover; reducing the private foundation excise tax; and maintaining the full scope and value of the charitable deduction. Those are all important for philanthropy’s continued strength and vitality – but this time we turn our attention as well to a number of other items that help those served by philanthropy, lower- and middle-income individuals and families.

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You are familiar with Ohio’s current economic circumstances, where townships and small- to mid-sized legacy cities are experiencing unprecedented financial insecurity. The Ohio United Way’s ALICE® Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) found that in 2015, 14% of Ohio’s households faced financial hardship and an additional 26% (1.2 million households) were identified in the ALICE category. It is this population of Ohioans about whom we are most concerned when we read the tax reform proposals, concluding that they could very well do more harm than good on the lives of those we in the philanthropic sector have the privilege to serve.

Consider, for instance, two tax credits for low- and middle-income workers under debate: the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), both of which help individuals and families make ends meet by keeping more of what they earn. The EITC refundable tax credit incentivizes work and depends on a worker’s income, marital status and number of children. In Ohio, 939,000 workers claimed the EITC last year, putting $2.3 billion into Ohio and lifting people out of poverty. The EITC’s power could be increased by extending it to younger adults, parents not living with their children and veterans. Similarly, the CTC should be protected as a refundable credit and considered for expansion to older adults, especially given the number of seniors raising grandchildren as a result of the opiate addiction crisis.

For a working family in Elyria, Ohio, that earns $12 an hour in a local manufacturing plant, living paycheck to paycheck requires vigilance and planning that few of us with privilege understand. Life for many families is wrought with uncertainty, and a tax refund check can mean the difference between eviction or being able to pay for medicine. Both Republicans and Democrats have supported the EITC and current proposals to change these effective policies would push more people in lower- to middle-income brackets into full-blown poverty that will increase demands on philanthropy and nonprofits.

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Another set of credits at risk in current debates is also of concern to those of us who look at education as a step out of poverty: the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LTC), designed to help low and middle class taxpayers afford higher education expenses. The AOTC is the more lucrative of the two as it can provide a family with about $2,500 a year for each eligible student. Foundations know that for many families a $5,000 top-off to a financial aid package can mean a world of difference for a student embarking on a four-year college education or community college. The LTC provides up to $2,000 for qualifying tuition and fees for those who may be older and returning to school to pursue a new career at higher pay. We know from our colleagues in the education sector, the lifetime earnings of a person holding a four-year degree is about $1.9 million, about twice what the typical high school graduate earns, and $335,000 more than what the typical associate degree program graduate earns. Despite this evidence, a 2014 Congressional Budget Office report suggested elimination of these and similar credits to help reduce the deficit. Philanthropic dollars will never be able to make up the difference this reduction would have on this important form of college financial aid.

We are also concerned about the proposal to double the standard deduction, intended to simplify the tax code by reducing the number of itemizers by 95%. In Ohio, that would mean 1.25 million fewer itemized returns reporting charitable contributions in a given year. Of the 1.31 million Ohioans who itemized charitable contributions on their federal returns, 24 percent had incomes less than $50,000 and made $612 million in contributions to local charities. Further, middle-income taxpayers (income between $50,000 and $200,000) gave $2.6 billion dollars and made up two-thirds of all itemizers.  The remaining 7 percent – the wealthy donors with income over $200,000 – presumably would be the only ones left itemizing. Research suggests that overall charitable giving in the U.S. would drop dramatically if this provisions passes. The nonprofit sector, which in Ohio constitutes 10% of the work force, would be significantly impacted by reduced charitable contributions and services would be dramatically cut – all leading to increased demands on philanthropic dollars. And, some models have shown that doubling the deduction would actually increase the tax burden on low to middle-income taxpayers, when all itemized deductions are foregone. What looks like an admirable simplification could result in a larger tax burden for many.

Here In Ohio, philanthropy leaders realize that as co-investors with government on a wide array of critical issue areas – including education, health, human services and economic development – the federal tax code is a tool that allows this partnership to flourish and that supports the common good of a vibrant and informed democracy filled with opportunity for all to achieve the American dream. We hope that reform discussions occur within a framework that considers how the tax code can: promote and sustain a robust tradition of generous charitable giving by Americans helping their neighbors; ensure the vibrancy of the nonprofit sector, where its citizens voluntarily engage in their democracy; advance economic security for all Americans; and invest in educational opportunities that prepare Americans for the dramatic changes facing us in this 21st century.

We urge you to use these goals as you consider the tax reform proposals being debated and we stand ready to provide additional information and insights as would be helpful.

Sincerely,

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.                                  Claudia Y.W. Herrold
President & CEO                                               Senior Vice President

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October 30, 2017 at 4:59 pm Leave a comment

Four philanthropists honored in Cleveland

2016-jessica-blog-photoEarlier this month, four individuals received awards for outstanding achievements in philanthropy. This year is the 13th consecutive year our board of trustees has awarded the Ohio Philanthropy Award, which went to Hank Doll. Read more about the four awards and awardees below.

Innovation Award – Don Ambrose

The Innovation Award honors a philanthropic catalyst – someone who has moved philanthropy forward from an original idea through implementation to results, and the 2017 winner is Don Ambrose.

Don Ambrose awardMar Healthcare Inc.’s President Don Ambrose established the Del Mar Social Innovation Award at the Dayton Foundation with the goal of challenging local organizations to think deeply and creatively about how they can serve older adults. Since 2010, the Social Innovation Award has granted more than $2 million to enhance the lives of Greater Dayton’s older adults. The award funds proposals that demonstrate groundbreaking, unique and highly collaborative projects. Without the encouragement of the Del Mar Social Innovation Award, some of these important community projects may have not come to fruition.

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Aiyana Marcus, program officer at The Dayton Foundation, accepted the Innovation Award on Don’s behalf and is pictured with Robert Jaquay, The George Gund Foundation associate director.

Emerging Ohio Philanthropist – Anthony Richardson

The award for an Emerging Ohio Philanthropist honors someone who, regardless of age, has engaged in philanthropy for the first time in the last few years, either as a volunteer or as staff. Nominees should demonstrate exemplary leadership in advancing philanthropy, engagement beyond a single community, creativity in a philanthropic endeavor or project and significant accomplishment over a short period.

The 2017 winner is Anthony Richardson, described by his nominators as someone “who has exemplified the spirit of quiet leadership and innovative approaches to problem solving.” Another nominator noted that he has “emerged as a strong voice and active member of Philanthropy Ohio’s DEI Committee.”

Anthony currently serves as the Civic Affairs and Education Program Officer for The Nord Family Foundation. He is involved with Philanthropy Ohio’s DEI Committee, Education Advisory Committee, Public Policy Committee and the Tax Reform Working Group. He recently was named chair of the Academic Distress Commission for Lorain City Schools, appointed by State Superintendent of Schools Paolo DiMaria.

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The 2017 Emerging Philanthropist is Tony Richardson (center) pictured with Connie Hawk (left), Licking County Foundation director and Robert Jaquay (right), George Gund Foundation associate director.

Michael G. Shinn Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy – Treye Johnson

The Philanthropy Ohio Board of Trustees created this award after Mike’s death in March 2015. He was the founder of the Shinn Family Foundation and served as secretary of Philanthropy Ohio’s Board of Trustees; he also chaired the board’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, taking on primary responsibility for guiding Philanthropy Ohio’s efforts in that arena. In addition to the philanthropy he did through the Shinn Family Foundation, Mike was an active and respected community volunteer who gave generously of his time, talent and treasure.

Award nominees should have made outstanding contributions to philanthropy by demonstrating that he or she builds bridges, connecting people dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion; champions the acceptance, respect and inclusion of all; promotes justice and fairness; forges genuine partnerships with diverse communities; and implements DEI practices in organizational operations, grantmaking and other areas.

Treye Johnson, program officer at The Burton D. Morgan Foundation, is the 2017 winner. He helped bring the Racial Equity Institute’s Groundwater training to Northeast Ohio over the past two years and is planning future activities that follow up on the training. He also coordinated the 2016 Forward Cities national convening that focused on initiatives advancing inclusive entrepreneurship and innovation. Treye has also been a driving force on our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, bringing his passion and voice to this important work.

One of his nominators described Trey’s impact, saying, “Treye has emerged as a strong voice and active member of Philanthropy Ohio’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. As I learn of all the things he’s involved with, I continue to be impressed. It’s people like Treye who give me hope for the future. He is passionate, articulate and involved in both his community and philanthropy.”

Deborah Hoover, president and CEO of Burton D. Morgan Foundation, noted, “Treye has served as an inspirational role model in helping to create a ‘culture of inclusion’ in our Northeast Ohio entrepreneurial ecosystem. Trustees and staff are extremely proud of this meaningful recognition of Treye.”

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Treye Johnson (right) won the 2017 Michael G. Shinn Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Philanthropy. He’s pictured with Athens County Foundation Executive Director Susan Urano (left) and Deborah Aubert Thomas, Philanthropy Ohio vice president for programs and learning.

Ohio Philanthropy Award – Hank Doll

The Ohio Philanthropy Award is the award for lifetime achievement. It recognizes an individual or organization for outstanding achievements over a long period, demonstrating long-standing leadership in advancing philanthropy, creativity in responding to societal problems and significant positive impact on philanthropy.

This year’s award winner is Hank Doll of the Doll Family Foundation. Many thoughtful letters extolling Hanks’ accomplishments and passion for philanthropy spoke of his generosity of spirit, his longstanding leadership and his integrity. Hank’s contributions to philanthropy span five decades and have influenced foundations, nonprofit organizations and communities across Ohio. He has worked as an executive, an individual philanthropist, civic leader and advisor. His creation of the “Giving Back Gang” not only inspired giving, but also engaged more than 70 individual philanthropists, generating $275,000 in grants over 15 years. Philanthropy in Ohio would not be the same without Hank.

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Hank Doll of the Doll Family Foundation won the 2017 Ohio Philanthropy Award.

Congratulations to our 2017 Philanthropy Award winners!

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Jessica Howard

October 23, 2017 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

The importance of public space

2016-nelson-beckford-blog-photoThis week we welcome Nelson Beckford, Senior Program Officer for Strong Communities at Saint Luke’s Foundation, as guest blogger.

By definition, a public space is a social space that is open and accessible to people. Streets, public squares, plazas, parks and beaches are examples of public spaces. These spaces are a social utility or public good because they:

  • Promote democracy, inclusion and social cohesion allowing people from various socio-economic backgrounds to share common ground to celebrate, recreate, to remember, to reflect or protest.
  • Define a city or neighborhood, think Golden Gate Park, Public Square, Washington Square Park – the spaces are reflections of the values, culture and history of a place. Ditto with the simple neighborhood park.
  • Promote active living; when people live close to a park or trail, they walk more.

park2These are just a few of reasons that drove the Saint Luke’s Foundation along with Philanthropy Ohio to form the Public Space Community of Practice. The members represent the full spectrum of public space work from funding, research, land disposition, land acquisition, planning, design and programming. The goal of the group is broad but simple: to reflect and learn from the multiple efforts happening in Cleveland around public spaces.

park6We opened our first gathering with this check in question: “Public Spaces are important because____.”  From there we did some context setting, framing and highlighted public space efforts happening at various scales and across sectors, from a memorial pocket in honor of a police officer – Derrick Owens – killed in the line of duty, to a large-scale intergenerational playscape. We also gave a sneak preview of the landmark research effort – National Park Study – conducted by City Parks Alliance, the National Institute for Health and the RAND Corporation.

Stay tuned for more information and/or opt in for one of the few remaining seats available on the Philanthropy Forward ‘17 “Why Parks Matter” learning tour where we will explore parks and public spaces that work and those that could better serve their nearby residents. If you haven’t registered, click here to sign up.

I challenge foundation staff and board to reflect on how our work (regardless of type of funding priorities/focus) touches on or is influenced by public spaces. As a member of society, take a moment to think about the value you, your family or neighbors get from the public spaces. Discuss.

Nelson Beckford

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Register for the Philanthropy Forward ’17 conference at http://www.philanthropyforward.org.

 

 

September 11, 2017 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

Welcome Emily to Philanthropy Ohio

2016-jessica-blog-photoWe are pleased to introduce Emily Gneiser to the Philanthropy Ohio team! Emily will serve as the executive assistant to President & CEO Suzanne Allen and Executive Vice President for Communications and Public Policy Claudia Herrold, as well as manage calls and meetings in the Columbus office.

She’ll be posting questions to the listservs on behalf of members, supporting board and committee work, helping with registration for Health Initiative meetings and ensuring the Columbus office runs efficiently and effectively. Emily comes to Philanthropy Ohio with a background that includes nonprofit work and event planning.

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Emily Gneiser joins Philanthropy Ohio as the executive assistant.

I asked Emily to tell us a bit more about her.

What’s the best part of your job?
Being connected to change agents in Ohio!

Career background/education?
I studied organizational communications at university. Since graduating, I’ve worked at a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., a family forum in Wisconsin, a resort in Vermont and an event company in Columbus.

What do you love about where you live?
I love all the coffee shops, breweries and great places to eat in Columbus.

 Favorite brand or flavor of ice cream?
Ben & Jerry’s strawberry cheesecake ice cream

What do you do outside of work?
In my free time, I like to hang with my sister and her family, hunt for the best donut and volunteer with Rock City Church.

Welcome Emily!

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Jessica Howard

May 22, 2017 at 2:55 pm 2 comments

U.S. House vote ends Medicaid Expansion

headshot of claudia smilingI’m disappointed in last week’s U.S. House vote repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ending the Medicaid Expansion that we have supported since Governor Kasich first introduced it. Over 700,000 Ohioans have health insurance because of the expansion, insurance that is critical to getting care – whether it’s care that addresses pre-existing and chronic conditions or wellness and prevention – that improves their health, keeps them in school or lets them get and keep jobs. Ohio philanthropies – private and community foundations, United Ways, health conversion foundations and more – are strong co-investors in improving the health of Ohioans, and, because of Medicaid Expansion’s coverage of so many who were previously uninsured, have been able to redirect their resources to intractable problems like infant mortality and opiate addiction crises in the state. Philanthropy can’t possibly fill the gap that will be left by the bill’s elimination of the expansion group and the restructuring and decreased funding for Medicaid.

shutterstock_445553I’m glad that Reps. Joyce and Turner stood firm in their objection to the American Health Care Act and disheartened that so many of their colleagues chose to support the bill: Reps. Chabot, Davidson, Gibbs, Johnson, Jordan, Latta, Renacci, Stivers, Tiberi and Wenstrup. About half – 323,000 – of the Medicaid Expansion population lives in the districts of those who supported the repeal.

The bill now moves on to the Senate and faces two distinct barriers. First, the Senate parliamentarian must determine that the various provisions are appropriately in a budget bill. Second, as I’ve been hearing for months, the Senate (including our own Senator Portman) has its own ideas about repealing and replacing the ACA and will likely introduce its own version. Once any bill moves through the Senate, congress will need to iron out the differences.

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Our advocacy efforts will continue in coming months with members of Ohio’s delegation, educating them about the negative consequences of the AHCA bill as passed and urging them to keep Medicaid Expansion and the current structure and funding of the Medicaid program in place.

Claudia Y.W. Herrold

May 8, 2017 at 4:27 pm Leave a comment

Philanthropy Ohio and members speak out in Washington

headshot of claudia smilingIn mid-March, I headed to Washington, D.C. for my 18th time leading a delegation of Ohio’s philanthropy leaders at Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). Sponsored by the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers (on whose board I serve, co-chairing the Government Relations Committee), the annual FOTH event engaged 300 people from 28 states in meaningful conversations with elected officials and their staff. Ohio was well represented, with 16 of us from across the state making the trip to D.C.

Wearing comfortable walking shoes for traipsing the marble halls of the House and Senate office buildings, with one-pagers and packets in hand, we started our day with an 8:30 a.m. coffee with Senator Portman and ended it talking with Rep. Tiberi’s chief of staff, having met with eight other offices during the intervening hours.

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Ohio philanthropy leaders met with Senator Portman during Foundations on the Hill 2017.

Among the thousands of visitors to congressional offices that day, philanthropy’s voice was strong and collective; although every state’s delegation focused on its own particular issues, many of us delivered two key messages:

  • Don’t repeal the Johnson Amendment; and
  • Preserve and protect the full scope and value of the charitable deduction.

The Johnson Amendment, adopted over 60 years ago, prohibits tax-exempt organizations from political campaigning. While nonprofits can lobby (within limits) on policy topics, they cannot support or endorse political candidates. We at Philanthropy Ohio, along with more than 2,300 other organizations, think that’s a good thing (and a recent poll shows that most Americans agree with us.) But President Trump promised at the National Prayer Breakfast to get rid of the prohibition and several members of Congress agree: HR 172 would repeal the provision, while S 264  and HR 781 would substantially weaken it (it has 53 co-sponsors including Reps. Jordan and Renacci). We’ll be reaching out to Ohio’s congressional delegation in coming weeks to urge them to vote against weakening or repealing this amendment that keeps nonprofits above the political fray and charitable dollars directed to addressing critical local needs and not filling campaign coffers.

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Cory Schmidt (far left), Claudia Herrold (center) and Garth Weithman (far right) met with Rep. Stivers (center) during Foundations on the Hill 2017.

We also asked our elected policymakers to preserve the charitable deduction, which allows taxpayers to deduct their charitable donations from their federal tax liability. About one-quarter of Ohioans do so, and collectively they gave over $6 billion to charities in one year alone. Current suggestions to double the standard deduction and eliminate the deduction for all but the top 5% of donors would, we believe, have a significant negative impact on giving.

Philanthropy is a strong, effective co-investor in communities and it was clear during our visits last month that our senators and representatives value the sector. But again and again, as we see the intent to pull back government funding from safety net services, we must make it clear that philanthropy cannot fill the resulting gap: there simply aren’t enough charitable dollars to replace public funding in education, health care, human services, the environment and so many other areas. We’ll be meeting with our delegation in their district offices in coming months to discuss these and other issues and I invite you to join us or to reach out individually to those who represent you in the 115th Congress.

Claudia Y.W. Herrold

April 3, 2017 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Open Letter to Senator Portman

March 8, 2017Nurse Checks Young Patient

Senator Rob Portman
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C.

 
Dear Senator Portman,

As the effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act moves forward in the Senate we appreciate the thoughtful consideration you are giving to the provisions and potential changes – along with the significant related implications. Thank you for your letter to Senator McConnell affirming the need that any reform protect those who are most vulnerable and in need of health care.

We have supported Governor Kasich’s Medicaid Expansion and are heartened to see its positive impacts, as presented in the recent report by the Ohio Department of Medicaid. Many of our members who fund in health (over $200 million a year goes to the health area in Ohio by foundations), as a result of Medicaid Expansion, have been able to re-direct their grant dollars to other pressing problems, including the opiate/heroin addiction crisis. We urge you to stand firm in your support of the expansion and the Medicaid program, keeping both in the bill that comes before the Senate; we strongly support keeping the current structure and federal payment stream in place and ask you to support them.

Capitol Hill2More specifically, among the proposals we urge you to oppose are the shifting of Medicaid to block grants and instituting per capita caps: both of these would cut Medicaid funding and reduce coverage for millions of Americans. Either of those revisions also would shift huge costs to Ohio, forcing us to ration coverage and care and philanthropy cannot possibly fill the resulting gap. We stand ready to help in any way we can and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.                  Claudia Y. W. Herrold
President & CEO                               Senior Vice President

March 13, 2017 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

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