Thursday, February 22, 2018

Opinion

Tax change unlikely to curb donations

We are the fifth-kindest country in the world, according to the most recent annual report from the Charities Aid Foundation.

The “CAF World Giving Index 2017,” released in September and a report we’ve referenced before, details international giving trends from the prevous year. At the heart of the report are three questions:

In the past month, have you:

• Helped a stranger or somone you didn’t know who needed help?

• Donated money to a charity?

• Volunteered your time to an organization?

Nations are ranked based on the percentage of people who said yes to one or more of these questions. The U.S. ranked fifth at 56 percent. Myanmar (65 percent) topped the rankings, while Indonesia (60 percent), Kenya (60 percent) and New Zealand (57 percent) rounded out the top five. Canada was seventh at 54 percent and Mexico was 106th at 26 percent.

Breaking down the survey into each of the three categories found the U.S. ranked seventh in the number of people who helped a stranger (73 percent), 13th in donating money (56 percent) and seventh in volunteering time (41 percent).

The survey took into account 139 countries, ranging alphabetically from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

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Of particular concern currently in the U.S. are the number of people donating money to charities.

A Leader-Telegram story by Lauren French featured observations from local nonprofit leaders regarding the new federal tax law. President Trump recently signed the $1.5 trillion overhaul, which doubles the standard deduction. The fear is that itemizing won’t push many people past that threshold, which means they wouldn’t be getting deductions for charitable contributions.

“We’re looking at fewer dollars for private food pantries, premedical clinics, youth-serving clinics, things like that,” Jan Porath, United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley executive director, told French. “It could potentially affect the ability to deliver services at the same level they’re being delivered now.”

Said Michelle Koehn, executive director of The Community Table: “I’ve spoken to some donors individually to see if they see this impacting future donations, and some have said ‘No,’ and others have said, ‘We’ll see.’ It’s really a mixed bag for us.”

When scores over the past five years were averaged in the CAF report, the U.S. ranked second only to Myanmar. The study found that 144 million Americans donate money to charities and 106 million volunteer their time.

From what we know of the Chippewa Valley, local rates in these categories likely exceed those of the nation as a whole. Even an unwelcome twist in the tax code can’t change that.

“If you’re philanthropic, you’re going to want to support your favorite organizations,” Sue Bornick, Eau Claire Community Foundation executive director, told French. “If they want to give, they’re going to give.”


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