Home > Archive > Johnson Amendment Changes May Blur Line Between Charity and Advocacy.

Philanthropists donate charitable dollars to good causes. Donors depend upon charities to do good works, and by doing good works, charities earn the trust of donors. This is all a good thing and a major force in the United States. We are perhaps the most philanthropic country in the world.

I use the word charity because although there are dozens of types of non-profit, only the coveted 501(c)(3) is considered charitable by our government, and gifts made to these charitable nonprofits are the only gifts that are tax-deductible.

At the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, we safeguard our charitable status and go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that donors gifts are used exactly as intended and that the results, or impact, of giving is real and reported. There is a purity of charity that helps maintain our donors’ trust, partly because we steer clear of partisan political activities. Years ago, the Johnson Amendment was passed to help differentiate charity for advocacy. The Johnson Amendment prohibits charitable nonprofit from engaging in partisan political activity. Basically, we don’t lobby, support specific measures or candidates… we don’t tell people how to vote.

One of the reasons there are so many types of nonprofit designations is that some types do allow for political activities. Advocacy organizations are legally nonprofit, but you don’t get a tax deduction when you give to those organizations. A recent executive order makes the lines between nonprofit designations much fuzzier because it increases the allowable political activities of charitable nonprofits.

This is the kind of political activity and legislative change that the Community Foundation follows closely. It doesn’t just impact us, it impacts every charity in our community. Attaining and maintaining the public trust is critical to being able to help both donors and grantees. It is likely the Community Foundation will soon host an educational program for local charities about the changes to the Johnson Amendment.

I don’t want to see charity mixed with politics. The Community Foundation will continue our work just as before, steering clear of partisan political activities, and working every day to earn and maintain your trust. And, as always, we will be transparent in our work. Work which continues to expand as we engage with more partners in projects to build a stronger healthier region.

If you have questions about the impact of the Johnson Act changes, please give me a call. Your gifts and support of the community are what drive us, and we are here to help you care, connect, and engage.

Chris Askin, President, and CEO
Connecting people who care with causes that matter

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