Tax laws change; society’s charitable needs do not

My brother-in-law can’t come for dinner this weekend (I’m crushed) because he’s “getting his tax stuff together.”  Amid his annual drudgery, he lamented, “At least next year we’ll have the tax cut.”

The tax cut is reality, to the glee of many.  The grand bet is that more money in more pockets will catapult the economy, benefiting everyone.  More investment, more jobs, more opportunity.

Opportunity is great – but only if you’re in a position to act on it.  To actually seize the opportunity for a better life, people need education.  They need health.  They need job training, day care, secure housing, reliable transportation, a safe neighborhood, a clean environment – all the things our community’s nonprofit organizations work to provide.

Cutting taxes is only half the solution — like stocking the pond and expecting a fish dinner to leap forth. The intended outcome only happens if you equip the hungry to fish.  Giving would-be anglers the skills, tools and support they need is why our community’s nonprofits are in business (okay, the metaphor’s a stretch, but you know what I mean — even if my brother-in-law does not…).

Hometown Milwaukee understands this.  Our local business leaders continually howl at how difficult it is to find talent for available jobs.  The wise ones see the importance of investing in the community to feed the talent pipeline.

The government is putting some society-building money in our pockets; let’s invest it wisely.  While you’re plowing your tax savings into a new durable good or hot stock, don’t forget to invest part of it in our community, via generous contributions to your favorite nonprofits.  Tax laws change, but our community’s needs for education, health, shelter – for hope — do not.

In 2018, lots will change.

With luck, taxes will be less.

With luck, my brother-in-law won’t be such a mope.

What won’t change:  our responsibility to help nonprofits build the better society we all hope to see.


On Philanthropy appears monthly in the Milwaukee Business Journal and is contributed by Doug Diefenbach for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter.

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