The Council on Foundations 2017 Annual Conference (Leading Together) was held in Dallas on April 23-26. The Opening Plenary, Philanthropy’s Role in Vibrant Communities, kicked off with President George W. Bush discussing his recently published book, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, and the work of the George W. Bush Institute with American veterans and their families. Council on Foundations (CoF) President and CEO Vikki Spruill built on President Bush’s discussion, stating:
Right now, more than ever, we need to dream up the unexpected—especially for those who need it most.
Whether that’s the men and women who’ve sacrificed for our country or the everyday people who work hard to make ends meet.
Whether it’s the voiceless or the ones whose struggles haven’t made the headlines until now.
For all of them and all of us: We must build bridges bigger than the divisions among us.
We must find fellowship in our common values and humanity. We must search boldly for reasons for hope, and as some of you heard in our Reasons for Hope anthem last night, we must remember—“that faith can move mountains.” We must stand for dialogue and inclusion and search for the underlying values that bind us together.
And there isn’t a minute to waste.
Spruill also emphasized CoF’s active policy initiatives related to tax reform, the charitable deduction, and the Johnson Amendment:
As you probably already know, we’ve bolstered our government relations team to make sure the voice of our sector, your voices, are heard loud and clear in Washington’s halls of power. We’ve always considered ourselves as the megaphone for the voice of philanthropy. And in the last year, we’ve turned the volume way up.
We’ve done so because with tax reform discussions in full swing, there are those in Washington who’ve proposed limiting or even eliminating the charitable deduction, while others are casting glances at endowments as they look for new sources of revenue.
And we’ve also been working hard to keep electoral politics out of the nonprofit sector. Many of you have already heard about efforts to weaken or repeal the Johnson Amendment. This is the law that keeps nonprofit, tax-deductible organizations out of electoral politics.
In fact, over 4,500 of you, organizations of all sizes, signed onto a letter—bridging any philosophical divides—to protect the work being done by the sector from a Johnson Amendment repeal. And, I might add, defend the good work of a great Texan, Lyndon B. Johnson. I’d like to thank Tim Delaney and the National Council of Nonprofits for their leadership and partnership on this effort.
“We know all of our differences and we celebrate them. But how are we alike?” – Ava DuVernay (filmmaker)
“Excellence exists in every community; our job in philanthropy is to scout and support and resource that” – Darren Walker (Ford Foundation)
“If you have power, we have the responsibility to circulate it rather than hoard it” – Eric Liu (Citizen University)
“Nothing bad that we thought might happen has ever happened.” re: foundation transparency – Larry Kramer (Hewlett Foundation)
“We have to invest in women’s voices, not just their economic power.” – Zainab Salbi (author/activist)
“I hate to tell you this, but they have one person in the entire administration who has any tax-policy experience.” re: why it’s a “virtual certainty” that no tax bill will be passed by the August recess – Ken Kies (former chief of staff of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation)