By Alicia Philipp, president, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
The New Year is traditionally a time for reflection, for looking at lessons from the past and making goals for the future. This year, I see two huge issues looming that mark both challenge and opportunity for our region.
The first issue is how nonprofits will navigate a new landscape with changing tax laws. With a higher standard deduction, analysts have suggested that many taxpayers who used to itemize deductions will no longer do so. Charitable donations have historically been one of the more common itemized deductions and these changes could lead to fewer individuals making charitable gifts.
Estimates of the potential drop in charitable giving vary but are eye opening and projected to exceed $10 billion annually. This marks a huge challenge for nonprofit organizations that rely on the generosity of donors. However, a study from U.S. Trust and the Lilly Family School of Family Philanthropy at the University of Indiana states that earning a tax deduction is a consideration, but not the sole factor, for personal giving. People are still driven by the potential to make an impact on issues and causes they care about. This means great opportunity for nonprofits to appeal to that softer side of what motivates people to give.
With that in mind, nonprofits need to look carefully at their fundraising mechanisms to determine how they can continue to attract the critical funds needed to serve their constituents. Putting their mission at the forefront will maintain visibility and awareness among those donors motivated by creating impact.
The second issue that I see as critical is the upcoming 2020 census. Yes, it’s two years away, but we need to start thinking about it and planning for it now. As a region, it’s important that we start developing a strong ground game to mobilize our residents to participate. The Community Foundation and our partners at the Atlanta Regional Commission, Metro Atlanta Chamber and United Way are already planning. We need to engage business, government and nonprofits to get out the word that everyone should participate and to put processes in place that ensure everyone does participate.
The census is not just a snapshot of our population, it translates to dollars injected in our region. Census data impacts local levels of federal funding. Our representatives in Congress are determined by population. We all play a role to ensure our region’s data is accurate, and that much needed funds are directed to our region.
Atlanta remains one of the top giving cities in the U.S. and my wish for us all in 2018 is that we all continue that trend and lift up our region through philanthropy. Now, more than ever, is the time to rise up to our challenges.
Note: This piece originally appeared in the Saporta Report.