Giving Compass' Take:

• United Philanthropy Forum advocates for a stronger voice for the philanthropy sector in Washington. Working within lobbying constraints for private foundations, the Forum hopes to educate and inform lawmakers on issues important to the sector (beyond tax reforms).

• Will philanthropists unite around common causes? In a politically divisive time, it's worth wondering whether such efforts will fall on deaf ears, but an example given in this piece was the 2020 census. While philanthropy leaders could not lobby for specific bills related to the census, they were able to educate officials in Washington on the importance of the issue — and Congress ended up allocating $2.814 billion to the Census Bureau.

• Another big issue when it comes to policymaking is, of course, education. Here's how we can start to discuss change.

2017 was not the best year for the philanthropic sector in the federal policy arena. One of our sector’s top legislative priorities — a universal charitable deduction — seemed to gain little traction in Congress. The sector’s fight to prevent a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which for more than 60 years has kept partisan politics out of the charitable sector, almost went down to defeat when the repeal was added to the House version of the tax bill (but thankfully ended up getting removed during the reconciliation process).

In my view, a key challenge for philanthropy on the policy front is that historically we have tended to focus almost solely on federal tax policy and related “self-defense” issues, which has resulted in presenting a rather narrow picture of philanthropy to lawmakers. Although philanthropy supports a vast range of critical community and national issues, when we get to Capitol Hill we find ourselves only talking about simplifying the private foundation excise tax and expanding the IRA charitable rollover to donor advised funds. These are certainly important issues for the field and ones for which we should be advocating strongly. But when we talk to federal legislators about these issues to the exclusion of almost everything else, I fear that we end up appearing like just another special interest group. Our sector is so much more than that, as we all know.

While it is true that the law does not allow private foundations to lobby, except for narrow self-defense issues like the private foundation excise tax and the IRA charitable rollover, private foundations (along with all other nonprofit organizations) can educate, inform and advocate for a vast range of policy issues.

Read more about presenting a stronger voice for philanthropy by Courtney Moore at United Philanthropy Forum