Charitable Deduction Debate:

Will Basic Human Needs Charities Compete With the Arts

At the bottom of yesterday’s article on this topic, we showed you a set of graphics that indicated that wealthy donors tended to be the ones skewing large giving to charities outside the domain of basic human needs – charities such as hospitals, colleges and arts organizations most notably. And since we are a site devoted to humanitarian issues – in a town noted for its many arts organization – we thought this new video from the Chronicle of Philanthropy was an interesting one for the debate on the charitable deduction. Particularly seeing as it entirely focused on arts officials who were lobbying against the proposed changes.

While the executives profiled here are not typical of the vast arts and culture sector, it would be nice to see the national media (and certainly the philanthropic media) looking more deeply into the giving patterns within these sub-sector itself, as well as the lobbying issues they are each interested and engaged in. Because, all though the proposal to adjust these rates now seems stalled, it certainly will be raised again.

And when it does, a question could be raised during these hard economic times:

  • Should a continued federal subsidy – in the form of our largest charitable tax deductions to wealthy benefactor – really come to our fine arts organization (ex: museums, opera, symphonies, etc) at the same level as it would to other charities serving basic human services to the poor, or children?
  • Or even a charity that straddles those two worlds; such as an children’s arts nonprofit that inspires and trains young artists, writers, or performers in an at-risk school or neighborhood?

Given the national debates and protests about our current political and economic situation, we think this could become an eventual debate within the charitable and philanthropic worlds too.

We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below.

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