by Greg Keener, PLC Development Director –
Let’s get this out of the way first:
I’m not an accountant, though I’m thrilled to have several in my extended family.
I’m not a legal expert, I trust my PLC colleagues with legal degrees on such topics.
When you consider the above you might determine I’m not the most qualified person to share insights on the recently approved changes in the tax law. And you would be correct. But, as a nonprofit professional for close to 15 years, I can share my reflections on what it will mean for our industry and your donation.
Let’s start with your donation. It’s true, depending on your situation, that your donation to PLC (or any other worthy nonprofit) may no longer qualify for a deduction on your taxes. According to an article from the New York Times, “The final legislation roughly doubles the standard tax deduction, to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples. A higher standard deduction means fewer taxpayers will itemize their deductions on their tax returns, reducing the incentive to give to charities. Currently, only taxpayers who itemize — meaning, they detail gifts to charity and other spending on their returns — may deduct contributions.”
The benefits of a tax deduction can be a motivator for charitable giving. In fact, for some it is probably the primary motivator. So does this change mean nonprofits will see less in donations? It is possible. From an article on NPR’s web site, “Una Osili, of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, estimates that change would lead to a reduction of up to $13 billion a year in charitable giving, and 28 million fewer Americans itemizing their returns. She says it doesn’t mean these people would stop giving, just that they’re likely to give less.”
As a result, nonprofits like PLC are bracing for some changes in the coming year. Only time will tell what degree of decline, if any, your local land trust will see in donations from our members. I do know this much: PLC is fortunate to have many loyal and passionate supporters. I also know that this organization continues to exemplify admirable and industry-leading dedication to good stewardship and use of donor dollars. Like everyone else on our staff and board, I’m also a donor to PLC (and was before I worked here) and I know my donation results in good things for our community, tax benefits aside.
But let’s get back to your donation. I hope your annual membership will be among the many we can continue to count on. If these changes in tax law necessitate a change in your giving, we understand. I would just close with this thought: the strength of this organization, and the land trust movement, is rooted in our partnerships. I hope you’ll continue to view your annual donation to PLC as a partnership, regardless of the tax implications. The simple fact is we can only protect clean water sources, provide opportunities for people of all ages to connect with nature, preserve family-owned farms and otherwise protect the nature of the Piedmont with support from those who believe in those causes enough to support them financially. While these new changes in tax law and the associated predictions for our industry might be discouraging, the loyal support of our members is encouraging and certainly provides a good balance. I thank you for your partnership.