The most powerful argument in this LA Times op-ed piece opposing the charitable tax deduction is that it’s a poor trade-off. Retired foundation executive Jack Shakely points out that charities have permitted themselves to be shorn of their ability to influence policy and politics in return for a mess of pottage. Of course the restrictions on charitable participation in the public arena aren’t as draconian as nonprofit executives (and especially Boards) think they are—but the point is that nonprofits understand themselves to be constrained, and rather than bothering with the details remain quiescent politically.
As strong a proponent as I am of the pursuit of individual gifts, in the real world virtually every social service agency needs seriously more government money if it’s going to make any dent in the social problems it faces. The more social service agencies feel free to advocate for this particular budget bill or that particular provision in a piece of legislation—both prohibited by the current tax-code provisions—the more likely it is that those bills and provisions will pass, which would serve way more of the agencies’ clients than the most blue-sky estimates of their potential for growth in individual giving.
And for someone with foundation cred to say this! All hail Jack Shakely.