I was curious about the effect on charitable giving nationally as a result of the 2018 changes in tax law. The truth is, private support of organizations and causes existed long before there was any federal tax law. Private support of worthy projects pre-dates the United States, much less the IRS, by centuries. Philanthropic choices can be found in the heart and mind, not in the millions of words in tax statutes and regulations. Donors’ true motivations are sometimes held deeply and quietly, but often times they will share in conversations with laughter and tears why they make contributions.
The word philanthropy means “loving mankind” from Greek and Latin roots, and was first used in English in the early 1600s. Love is nuanced and complicated, so it makes perfect sense that the reasons that inspire people to share in order to help others are, too.
Tax advantages provide benefits to making donations, but they are not the reason for giving. Here are some reasons that people have shared with me regarding their reasons to donate to the NCSML. One or more of these probably apply to you.
To honor ancestors. Many individuals and families are moved, inspired, and appreciative of their ancestors for a multitude of reasons. The reasons for their appreciation often changes over time; a 30-year-old’s appreciation of parents and grandparents will be different when they are in their 50s, 60s, 70s, or beyond.
To celebrate memories of childhood or culture. I love hearing stories and watching expressions as people share their memories of growing up in or near Czech or Slovak families and culture. Examples of work ethic, sense of family, connectedness, supportiveness, and much more are illustrated with descriptions of foods and the types of items found in our online collection. Donors often want to make sure that others have a chance to relive their own memories and/or learn about what those memories and cultures were like.
To assure the sharing of lessons learned from Czech and Slovak history and/or their own related experiences. Of course, culture is much more than food, dance, work, and art, though history, according to Emerson, is largely simply biography. To learn the lessons about leadership, education, art, music, independence, freedom, commerce … there must be stories saved and shared.
To address the fact that time is short. The power to assure that the stories, lessons, culture, and history remain relevant and valued in the future is largely in the hands of donors today; they understand the urgency and importance.
To promote freedom and independence. As long as people yearn to be free and independent, the lessons about Czech and Slovak struggles, of throwing off tyranny without war, and maintaining independence of thought will remain important: forever.
As long as donors’ hearts and values are matched by nonprofits’ visions, they will continue to be inspired to make a difference through their philanthropy.