Pushing Charities Off the Fiscal Cliff?

Posted by Gladstone Payton On December - 18 - 2012

Gladstone Payton

Last week, I had the privilege of leading a diverse group of advocates from across the spectrum of the charitable sector to congressional offices in support of the Charitable Giving Coalition’s “Protect Giving – D.C. Days.”

You cannot escape talk of the oft-mentioned “fiscal cliff” and the looming lethal combination of major federal spending reductions (sequester) and expiring tax cuts (Bush-Obama tax extensions) set to take effect in January 2013.

“Protect Giving – D.C.” is an ongoing attempt to raise the direct policy concerns of the nation’s charitable sector and the possible devastating effect that last-minute negotiations to thwart the cliff may have on the tax policies around contributions to charity.

Needed: Federal Revenue

I warned in a previous post last June that the resulting mess that occurred after the failed “supercommittee” and debt limit deals of 2011 would probably complicate the bargaining positions of President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress as they struggle to forge an agreement to spare us some of the pain.

I hate to be right on this one…currently, they are at loggerheads on how to get more money returning to the federal coffers and avert the cliff. Read the rest of this entry »

Detroit Voters Save the Day for 125-Year-Old Museum

Posted by Kim Kober On August - 8 - 2012

Kim Kober

Last night, the three largest counties in Michigan passed a ballot measure to help sustain the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). Two of the counties, Oakland and Wayne, passed it by more than 60 percent, while the third county, Macomb, came down to the wire at 51 percent.

The museum was founded over 125 years ago, but began to suffer financially when public funding dried up in the nineties, followed by the Great Recession over the past several years. The measure was included on the ballot for the primary elections held in Michigan yesterday and its passage adds a property tax, also known as a millage, that will cost homeowners an average of $15–$20 annually.

The resulting funds will provide approximately $23 million in annual funding for the museum for each of the next ten years, covering their annual operations. During that time, the museum will focus on building their endowment to ensure the museum’s sustainability after the ten years have passed.

Detroit arts advocates employed some creative tactics in the weeks leading up to the primaries.

Free Art Friday, led by Skidmore Studio, invites artists and arts supporters to create art and leave it around the city with a note, for others to find and keep. Last Friday, the event began with a rally at the DIA in support of the museum. Just days before that, Art is for Everyone sponsored a rally in a nearby park. Between the two events, hundreds showed up in support of the museum, and the visibility made a difference.

Mike Latvis, director of public policy at ArtServe Michigan and chair of the State Arts Action Network noted, “This is a great win for arts and culture in Michigan. Yes, it is only one organization out of hundreds, but voters representing counties totaling 40 percent of the state’s population just said yes to funding the arts.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Frog, Toad, & a Bold Solution to the Private Sector/Arts Divide

Posted by Michael Wilkerson On November - 16 - 2011

Michael Wilkerson

Sometimes big ideas grow from small experiences.

One of my first encounters with corporate sponsorship was at an artists’ retreat, Ragdale, near Chicago. Located in a wealthy suburb, Ragdale occupied beautiful grounds that everyone wanted to see. We had standards. We didn’t do weddings and we didn’t allow private parties.

But at one point, I thought I had convinced a bank to sponsor an artistic event for us. As the planning grew more and more out of control and became the kind of loud corporate overdressed networking thing that would prevent artists and poets from ever believing they could create quietly at our “retreat,” I told the bank to scale it back, that it would not help us. “We need to sponsor organizations that will help our clients,” was the response.

The partnership ended.

Years later, as chair of a theatre company, I knew we had great plays, in the hands of a remarkable artistic director, on the horizon. Already we had been invited to take our one-acts to a Vaclav Havel Festival in New York; other literary and dramatic powerhouses were in the works, including a new play by a famous contemporary writer. Read the rest of this entry »

Charitable Giving Reform Becoming a Taxing Issue

Posted by Gladstone Payton On November - 2 - 2011

Gladstone Payton

On October 18, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held a hearing titled “Tax Reform Options: Incentives for Charitable Giving” partially in response to the ever-changing dynamics regarding proposals for tax reform, job creation, and deficit reduction swirling around the Nation’s Capital.

Lowering and capping the value of tax deduction to charities for the top wage earners under the tax code has been proposed by the Obama Administration in recent years to help raise revenue to help curb national deficits, pay for the health care reform and fund the now scaled-down American Jobs Act.

Since being removed from the jobs bill, treatment of itemized deductions such as the charitable deduction has become part of the growing dialogue about tax reform, sparking heated debates on whether a cap on such deductions would have a negative effect on the giving patterns of donors to charity and giving rise to the committee hearing.

The nonprofit arts sector (including Americans for the Arts) has been working closely with such organizations as Independent Sector, the Alliance for Charitable Reform and the Council of Nonprofits to ensure that any changes to charitable giving not be negatively impacted especially during the economic downturn. Read the rest of this entry »

What Would Business Investment in Arts Education Look Like?

Posted by Stan Rosenberg On September - 13 - 2011

MA Senate President Pro Tem Stan Rosenberg

This blog continues my conversation with Harvey White that took place during the “Heating Up STEM to STEAM” session at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention earlier this summer. Read Mr. White’s initial comments here.

Sen. Stan Rosenberg:
“No, it’s not dumb, but I also want to do a little counterpoint here to see where you might go with this…OK, so I think the key role for the business leaders is to provide the leadership to push the government in the direction to make the investment and make the investment in a wiser way.

We spend $5 billion on education K-12 in Massachusetts. I don’t think it’s fair to go to the business community and tell them to give us another $1-2 billion to run that system. But I would sure love to use the leadership and capacity that they have to push the governor and other people to use some of that money more wisely.

Harvey White:
But you have no qualms at all in saying to the business that you ought to spend another billion on factories? Read the rest of this entry »

Public Support for the Arts – A Success Story

Posted by Karen Gahl-Mills On June - 29 - 2011

Karen Gahl-Mills

With each day’s news, we read about further reductions in public arts funding at the state and federal level. We are all challenged to, yet again, help our public officials see the value in supporting institutions such as our state arts councils, under threat as our states look for solutions to budget gaps.

Permit me to provide a glimmer of hope in this otherwise dark time, and let me tell you about the success story that is Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

In 2006, after ten years of hard work, a broad and diverse group of community leaders came together to pass a dedicated, 10-year cigarette tax for arts and culture in the county that includes and surrounds Cleveland.

Overnight, our region moved from having one of the lowest per capital local investments in arts and culture–64 cents–to having one of the highest–$13.50 at last count. Read the rest of this entry »

Low-Profit But How Much Potential? (Part 1)

Posted by Adam Huttler On May - 26 - 2011

Adam Huttler

The L3C (low-profit limited liability company) construct has been getting a ton of virtual ink lately. As a way of establishing my dubious credentials, I’ll note that I was among the first in our field to note the arrival of the L3C, and I’ve written and debated about it quite a bit since then. Fractured Atlas formed an L3C subsidiary for our insurance program back in 2008.

All of that is just to establish why I’m having trouble thinking of something new and inspiring to say about the L3C. I suppose it also explains why I’m interviewed on the subject frequently enough that I can confidently lump the questioners into two categories: (1) big thinkers – often grad students or consultants – who see tremendous potential in the L3C but have only a vague concept of its real legal and financial contours, and (2) jaded skeptics – often professors or attorneys – who know just enough about the L3C to have serious doubts about its applicability to the arts.  Read the rest of this entry »

Justin Knabb

While the recession may be officially over, its effects are still lingering throughout the economies of cities and towns across the nation. Congress, the White House, and governors (who want to be in Congress or the White House) constantly steal the headlines with ways they are going to save the people, and the government, money.

However, mayors are also being forced to deal with budget shortages, proposing municipal budgets that tap previously untouched sources of revenue: nonprofits.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel offered the bluntest statement regarding the need for nonprofits to provide more tax revenue to the city. In remarks given to a group of arts advocates at the Goodman Theatre, Emanuel said, “Nobody is in a sacrifice-free zone. I love you all. You’re really important. But you’re not more important than anybody else.’’

Emanuel, who indicated during the mayoral campaign that he would start billing nonprofits for their water usage, backtracked on an implication that he would remove property tax exemptions for such groups.  Read the rest of this entry »