Public Policy Update - December 2020

Each month, SECF provides members with monthly updates on the latest public policy developments in Washington and state capitols around the region, analyzing their possible impact on the charitable sector. If you would like to see an issue featured in a future Public Policy Update, contact Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at


Expanded Charitable Deduction Could be Part of Year-End COVID Relief Bill

Renewed hopes for a COVID relief package in Congress have also improved the prospects of an expanded charitable deduction.

Prospects for legislation gained significant momentum last week after a bipartisan group of lawmakers revealed a $908 billion plan mostly comprised of extended unemployment benefits, aid for state and local governments and small business loans. The proposal quickly won support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

The bill’s price tag places it between the $2.2 trillion package House Democrats passed earlier this year and a $500 billion package Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has called for in recent weeks. 

McConnell’s counterproposal, notably, would expand the temporary universal charitable deduction that was included in the CARES Act, which became law in the early weeks of the pandemic and established a $300 deduction for non-itemizers. That provision expires at the end of this year – McConnell’s latest proposal would establish a new universal charitable deduction of $600 for single filers and $1,200 for married couples filing jointly. 

Lawmakers are also staring down a December 11 deadline to prevent a government shutdown. Yesterday, McConnell said he expects to pass a one-week stopgap bill which would keep the government funded until December 18. That would give lawmakers negotiating a COVID relief bill an additional week to come to an agreement – the relief bill is widely expected to be attached to a year-end omnibus funding measure.

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Save the Dates for Foundations on the Hill: March 16-18 and March 23-25

Next year, Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) is going virtual! SECF members will have the opportunity to meet with lawmakers and staff over six days in March.

Registration for Foundations on the Hill 2021 will open in January. FOTH is the best opportunity all year for philanthropic leaders to meet with members of Congress and promote policies that encourage charitable giving and enhance philanthropy’s impact in our communities.

The SECF staff will help schedule and facilitate virtual meetings for FOTH attendees. You can also help ensure your state is strongly represented at FOTH by volunteering to be a State Captain! If you’re interested in serving as a captain, contact Jaci Bertrand at

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Coalition Proposes Policy Changes Aimed at Boosting Giving

Last week, on Giving Tuesday, a group led by philanthropist John Arnold and Boston College professor Ray Madoff introduced a plan that calls on Congress to enact comprehensive reforms to the tax treatment of private foundations and donor-advised funds in an effort to speed up payouts to charity.

Billed as the Initiative to Accelerate Charitable Giving, the plan is supported by several supporting donors and large foundations, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

“Right now, more than $1 trillion is sitting in private foundations and donor-advised funds (DAFs),” the coalition says in its statement of principles. “Existing laws deliver significant tax breaks upon initial funding, but do not provide sufficient incentives or requirements to ensure that these funds will ever be distributed to working charities.”

The coalition is calling for several policy changes affecting private foundations, donor-advised funds and tax policy that would significantly alter the laws and regulations governing charitable giving. 

It is not clear at this point how much support the proposal enjoys from lawmakers or others in the philanthropic sector. However, SECF will be monitoring this issue closely and will provide updates on any significant developments.

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2021 Public Policy Agenda Approved

This week, the SECF Board of Trustees approved the 2021 Public Policy Agenda recommended by the Public Policy Committee.

The agenda is similar to last year’s and remains focused on supporting policies that promote a strong and growing philanthropic sector that is able to effectively address long-standing disparities and other issues facing communities in our region. Its major provisions include:

  • Encouraging charitable giving
  • Supporting community-driven philanthropy
  • Supporting endowed philanthropy
  • Supporting an IRA rollover to donor-advised funds
  • Engaging and informing regulatory activity affecting the charitable sector
  • Maintaining provisions that keep electoral politics out of philanthropy

You can learn more about our policy agenda now at!

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A New Policy Tool: The SECF Mobile App

In October, we announced the new SECF Mobile App – available only to SECF members, the Mobile App allows you to engage with SECF and colleagues throughout the region year-round!

If you haven’t already, you can download the Mobile App today for your iOS or Android device. You can login to the app using your login and password.

The Mobile App will be a key part of our public policy outreach going forward. Download the app today and enable notifications to receive Policy Alerts and other updates as soon as they become available!

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Survey on Philanthropic Regulation: Share Your Thoughts!

Our friends at the United Philanthropy Forum want to hear from SECF members on recent proposals that would place payout mandates on private foundations and donor-advised funds, much like the Initiative to Accelerate Charitable Giving proposal described above. Click here to take the Forum's Philanthropic Regulation Opinion Survey -- your responses will help the sector as it continues to monitor these ideas and work with lawmakers on policies affecting charitable giving.

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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Mission: SECF strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.