Engage - The SECF Blog


SECF's Blog

Engage, SECF’s blog, is a space for SECF members, staff and partners to share their thoughts on the latest trends and best practices in philanthropy. Engage is also used for important announcements about upcoming SECF events and programs.

Do you have a story or insight you’d like to share with our members on Engage? Contact David Miller, director of marketing and communications, at david@secf.org or at (404) 524-0911 to discuss your idea.

Five Reasons My Foundation Will Be On the Hill

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Russell Carey


It was a moment from an Aaron Sorkin script. “Walk with me,” Rep. French Hill said as we entered the Members Only elevator. Hill, a Republican who represents central Arkansas, including Little Rock, had been buzzed for a floor vote but wanted to learn more about Expect More, our foundation’s new economic equity initiative. As we speedwalked the halls of Congress, I talked about our vision for Arkansas. Through echoing tunnels we discussed how it connected with his workforce agenda. As we arrived at security, I offered some ways we could be a resource in the future. Cue the music.

Moments like this are more common than not at Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). FOTH is a two-day event that brings foundation leaders to Washington, D.C., for meetings with Congress about key issues for foundations and philanthropy. The time my organization, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, spends at FOTH each year is intense, exciting, and incredibly valuable. There’s a multitude of reasons you should be there. I’ve tried to narrow it down to my top five:

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The Community Foundation Case for Attending Foundations on the Hill

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Sutton Mora Hayes


Hopefully by now you have received an email (or two or three) from SECF encouraging you to attend this year’s Foundations on the Hill (March 11-13). I have a feeling that a lot of you are in the “kind of interested” camp or the “maybe I will go next year” camp. Anyone from any type of foundation would benefit from attending, but I specifically want to encourage my community foundation colleagues to consider joining us in Washington, D.C. this year. Community-driven philanthropy is facing some special challenges, and it is important that we have a strong showing on Capitol Hill.

So, why should you attend? Let me break it down into four points:

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New UBIT Guidance May Offer Relief for Foundations, Grantees

Tags: SECF Staff 
Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Matthew L. Evans


SECF has been closely tracking developments related to changes affecting the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) – you may have joined the webinar we hosted last week on this topic. Today, we wanted to share with you some good news that may help your foundation and its grantees.

Since the start of 2018, organizations that offer employees transportation or parking benefits are subject to a 21 percent Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) on those benefits – this is a significant change that would increase the UBIT owed by many organizations and lead other nonprofits to pay UBIT for the first time. Nonprofits would have to determine the value of any provided transportation and parking benefit. This is especially problematic for organizations in rural or suburban areas that, for example, have an employee parking lot.

New rules issued by the Treasury Department this week, however, allow for organizations to net their parking and transportation expenses against any other income subject to UBIT, which could wipe out any tax.

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Reading Between the Lines: 2018 House Leadership Elections

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


This week, lawmakers returned to Washington after a two-week Easter recess, and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) rattled Capitol Hill when he announced he won’t seek reelection this November. In this week’s column, we’ll dig deeper into the race for power in Congress.

Paul Ryan Out

On Wednesday, Speaker Ryan told colleagues he’ll retire at the end of his term, opening up the top leadership post in the Republican party. Now, Ryan faces a decision between being a “lame duck” speaker into January 2019 or holding leadership elections in the coming weeks. Staying on as speaker would avoid a party-splitting leadership race during a critical campaign year, but it also means he holds less leverage among his colleagues.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) are the two most likely candidates for the position. Keep in mind, McCarthy made a bid for speaker in 2015, but ultimately fell short. Scalise said he won’t challenge McCarthy for the job, but he is expected to step in if McCarthy falls short again.

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Reading Between the Lines: Opportunity Zones

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Ali Davidson


Tucked into the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was a provision that may have slipped past you: the creation of Opportunity Zones. The Opportunity Zone provision, now drawing greater attention, creates a community economic development program that uses tax incentives to encourage long-term private investments in low-income communities nationwide. This week we’ll dig further into the new program and the potential upside and downside to you. 

What Does It Do?

The Opportunity Zone program is the first new substantial federal attempt to aid communities that continue to struggle with extreme poverty and low economic growth separate and apart from charitable giving.

Opportunity Zones were designed to drive private sector dollars, in the form of long-term investments, into these distressed areas. 

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Reading Between the Lines: Congress' Big Budget Deal

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


You may recall a few weeks ago we speculated about the three buckets of tax items, prompted by last year’s tax bill, that could be addressed this year. The timing and opportunities were unclear as of that writing, but a bipartisan budget deal this week made it a lot clearer. In this week’s column, we’ll dig into the recently introduced budget deal that includes 65 pages of tax provisions, which of these three buckets those tax provisions came from, and what it could mean for the rest of the year.

What Budget Deal?

Lawmakers have been riding on short-term government funding measures since last September. As of this writing, they’re expected to pass the fifth consecutive short-term measure today in order to avoid a government shutdown. However, included in that package is a broader deal to raise budget caps for the next two years. This will pave the way for lawmakers to agree on a long-term spending deal by the new March 23 deadline.  

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Reading Between the Lines: President Trump's First State of the Union

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


On Tuesday, January 30, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address to Congress. Folks in D.C. waited with bated breath to see if the president would strike a unifying tone and stay on-script, and he did for the most part. This week, we’ll dig into the substance of and reaction to the SOTU, and how the priorities the president presented could involve foundations.

The Speech

As far as State of the Union addresses go, President Trump’s speech was fairly standard. He touted accomplishments – most notably tax reform and judicial nominations – and charted the year ahead. He recognized special guests, whose presence emphasized his goals for the year, and he called for bipartisan solutions when it comes to infrastructure and immigration.

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Reading Between the Lines: More Tax Changes in 2018

Tags: Tax Reform 
Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


Republican lawmakers notched a much-needed win at the end of 2017 – a tax overhaul that had been in the works for many years. There was a quick feeling of relief among Republican lawmakers – who had failed to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and still wanted a victory for President Trump’s first year in office – followed by a lot of speculation about the tax bill being rife with loopholes, omissions and mistakes.

Given this, we expect the 2018 legislative agenda to include a tax bill which will pull from three buckets of items.   

Bucket 1: Cleanup and Corrections 

The tax overhaul bill is 503 pages long, which means there was plenty of room for errors. That’s what technical corrections are for – they make tweaks to the bill to bring it in line with the intent of Congress. However, it’s a politically heavy lift considering the Senate will need the support of Democrats, who were notably missing from the tax reform negotiations, to get the tweaks over the finish line. 

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Reading Between the Lines: “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act 2017”

Tags: Tax Reform 
Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Sandra Swirski & Sara Barba


Just today, the House Ways and Means Committee released their tax reform legislation, dubbed the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” Republican tax writers have been working for years on a tax overhaul, and it seems this year is their best chance to get something passed. In light of the recently concluded World Series, this week we’ll provide a Win-Loss assessment of key SECF priorities included in the bill, as well as highlight other provisions that the nonprofit sector has been watching.

Universal Charitable Deduction

Several tax reform proposals floated over the past couple years included a significant increase to the standard deduction. However, that would result in fewer taxpayers itemizing and, therefore, fewer would be eligible to take the charitable deduction. In response to that problem, many have been advocating for a charitable deduction to be available to all taxpayers, regardless of whether they itemize.

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Multiplying Our Impact: Why Foundations Should Care about Policy Research

Category: Public Policy, 
Author: Kristen Keely-Dinger & Jennifer Oldham


Creating a public policy research center was not a part of our original plan.

The Healing Trust’s grantmaking initially focused on programs that demonstrated measurable health outcomes for vulnerable Middle Tennesseans. Over time, we realized that public policy affects everything our grantee partners do to improve the health of our community. This realization led us to support health-focused advocacy work alongside direct services. We created an advocacy grant program to provide support for nonprofit partners advocating for policy changes and program improvements that advance health outcomes by either increasing access to health services or preventing childhood trauma.

What Changed?

In 2014, we asked our partners what additional support we could give to organizations engaged in policy and advocacy work. One priority quickly rose to the top: timely, quality, nonpartisan research and analysis on public policy issues critical to our community.

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