Congress Must Do Its Part on Giving Tuesday | Commentary

Posted December 1, 2014 at 3:28pm

Today is Giving Tuesday, a day when charities, businesses and Americans from all walks of life join together to celebrate the spirit of the season and give generously to the causes and organizations most important to them.

Giving Tuesday refocuses the unbridled enthusiasm of American consumer culture, embodied in part by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, into a day of philanthropic benevolence. Now in its third year, it has blossomed into a global movement engaging more than 10,000 organizations worldwide and unleashing a tidal wave of charitable donations.

As our fellow Americans across the country take action today to support the work of national and community-based nonprofits, we are calling on Washington to do its part as well. While individual gifts are the most meaningful, the power of government policy to affect change is beyond comparison. Since 2006, bipartisan tax incentives that encourage charitable giving have had an incredible multiplier effect on the individual donations nonprofit organizations receive. These incentives have provided an essential boost, allowing more charitable missions to be fulfilled and enabling greater impacts in the communities they serve.

Sadly, despite overwhelming public support, Congress allowed these charitable tax incentives to expire, leaving donors and philanthropies alike in limbo. This has negated what was a powerful giving incentive for nonprofits, limiting the ability of nonprofits to achieve their missions — whether feeding people who are hungry, conserving land for future generations, or addressing countless other needs in communities across America.

The nonprofit sector touches the lives of millions of Americans every day, in every state in the union. The tax incentives that reward charitable giving enjoy nearly universal backing because they have been proven to help people make a difference.

The opportunity now exists to restore these critical community support tools. Bipartisan legislation is pending that would make permanent the expired charitable giving incentives to promote donations of nutritious food to food banks and the conservation of irreplaceable land. Both incentives are common-sense approaches that help feed Americans while safeguarding the special places that define our heritage, character and people.

Making these incentives permanent is critical to avoid the on-again, off-again cycle that makes reliable planning impossible for those who want to donate. This year-after-year uncertainty has decreased donations to charities across the country.

Giving Tuesday challenges all of us to do more, to act selflessly and to help others. As the season of giving gets underway in earnest, it is our sincere hope that the millions of individual acts of generosity happening today will inspire our leaders in Washington to do more as well.

On behalf of volunteers, board members, staff, donors and individuals who give of their time, labor and resources to advance the common good, we call on Congress to restore and make permanent the bipartisan charitable tax incentives that multiply good works across these United States every day.

Bob Aiken is the CEO of Feeding America. Rand Wentworth is president of the Land Trust Alliance.