Our proud Oklahoma heritage includes a solid tradition of helping our neighbors in need, of “doing for ourselves,” and of bravely stepping forward when called to sacrificial giving. Sadly, the proposed federal tax reform framework threatens this heritage.
Under the proposed framework, only the nation’s top 5 percent of earners would be able to claim tax deductions for their charitable contributions, including tithes and offerings.
When we open our wallets on Sunday morning, make an annual gift to our favorite charity or sign up for monthly contributions to public broadcasting, most of us aren’t calculating a tax break: because we’ve always known that tax break would be there. It may not be the top reason we give, but it is certainly an important one.
Recently, a coalition of 175 charities and nonprofits from across the nation estimated this proposed tax framework could cost nonprofit organizations, including local ministries, school PTAs and neighborhood parks, about $13 billion in contributions every year. This represents about 3 percent of the total giving to nonprofit organizations. Although 3 percent sounds like a modest amount, most nonprofits would have to cut programs and services significantly to our state’s most vulnerable populations. Most of our state’s nonprofit organizations survive on a shoestring budget and already stretch every dollar as far as possible in response to growing demands for services.
At a time when the state of Oklahoma’s ability to provide for the general welfare of its citizens is in jeopardy, the role of charitable work has never been more important. Charities reduce the burden on government services and operate nimbly enough to meet urgent, changing community needs in timely, efficient and creative ways. But nonprofits simply cannot do this work without charitable investments.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals, Eastern Oklahoma Chapter is recognized as the regional experts in charitable fundraising. As a group, we have studied this issue and assert that our nation’s leaders must continue to make the tradition of charitable giving a priority. The Charitable Giving Act offers all citizens equal opportunity to invest in our communities through our giving.
We gratefully acknowledge Sen. James Lankford as he champions a universal charitable deduction. We call on the rest of the Oklahoma delegation to support this effort, and ask all citizens to call their representatives and senators in Washington, D.C., to let them know it is not OK to end charitable tax deductions.
Steffanie Bonner is president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Eastern Oklahoma Chapter. Dana Schuler Drummond is the chapter’s governance chair. Both authors live in Tulsa.