Q-and-a: Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation CEO hopes Snyder's tax credit proposal is scaled back
The Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation reported Tuesday that it has recovered from the market losses that put a big dent in the nonprofit’s total assets.
File photo | AnnArbor.com
But Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation CEO Cheryl Elliott said she’s hopeful that half of the 50 percent credit for community foundation can be preserved. Currently, the credit is worth up to $100 for an individual making a $200 donation, $200 for a married couple making a $400 donation, $5,000 on a $10,000 gift from an estate or trust, and up to $5,000 for businesses.
Here are excerpts of her conversation at the meeting with AnnArbor.com.
AnnArbor.com: Have you been able to assess how his proposal on the tax credits for foundation giving could affect you?
Cheryl Elliott: The community foundation world in the state of Michigan has been in conversations with the other nonprofits, the public institutions and the food banks and shelters. We’ve been working with some legislators.
Our real concern is if it goes away, it won’t ever come back. So, understanding that we all need to make shared sacrifice and we’re looking for economies of scale and efficiencies, we’re proposing that they keep the tax credit. What we’re proposing is that donors would have to choose one of three categories but instead of the 50 percent credit, it would be a 25 percent credit.
So that will save the government money, it will keep the tax credit, it will still allow for people to continue to take advantage of that.
We’re hoping that is something that will be amenable to the legislature and to the governor.
AnnArbor.com: With your donors, do you get a sense that there are people who may make different decisions if it goes away? They may not give as much?
Elliott: We have donors who have given every year, couples give that $400 every year since the tax credit started. If it went away totally, hopefully they would support the mission of the community foundation, but you don’t know.
We have over a hundred nonprofit organizations that have endowments with us that benefit from that. People give through us to support a lot of different things.
So I think it’s a question that nobody can answer for sure. We certainly promote the heck out of the tax credit. And certainly people take advantage of it. Every year it brings us in $100,000 or $200,000 in gifts.
AnnArbor.com: That’s about your estimate of the benefit to you?
Elliott: Yeah, and that can vary from year to year. (That’s) people who respond to our year-end solicitation where we talk about the tax credit. And that’s the only solicitation that we do because we don’t want to compete with the nonprofits.
We don’t have fundraisers, we don’t have raffles, we don’t have golf outings. But we do promote that because we’re one of very few states in the country that have a tax credit. For a long time there were only two states. It might be up to four now.
AnnArbor.com: On the topic of public-private partnerships, what role do you think that needs to play in terms of revitalizing Michigan?
Elliott: Philanthropy can never make up government funding totally. But what philanthropy can do is we have access.
We have access to people, we have access to information. We understand the interplay between the sectors. We can help suggest people and voices that need to be at the table.
The governor, early in his administration, brought together about 25 of us from public-private community foundations and wanted to hear what was important to us and how we were working with others.
We’re doing it here in Washtenaw County with the Intermediate School District, and Washtenaw County United Way on coordinating funding in the community.
There’s only so much money. We need to get smarter about how we give it away. Donors increasingly want to understand their return on investment, how are we moving the needle?
And in partnership with others, we can answer all those questions. None of us can do that alone. And so I firmly believe in it.
We’re lucky. In Washtenaw County over the years there have been a lot of trusted relationships that have been built and we understand how each other work, and I think we’re doing some real meaningful stuff that none of us could ever do alone.