Reframing newsletter

Sector Leaders Leverage Reframing in Call for Universal Charitable Tax Deduction

July 25, 2019

Before the August Congressional recess, we thought it was a good time to share a nicely framed advocacy piece that you might wish to use during district visits with your Members. “Ensuring that Charitable Giving is Accessible to All Americans” asserts that all taxpayers should be eligible for the charitable tax deduction. The July 1, 2019 column, written by Susan N. Dreyfus, President and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, a National Reframing Initiative partner, and Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way Worldwide, appeared in the Philanthropy Journal News.

The authors explain that, historically, the charitable tax deduction has promoted giving by Americans to community-based nonprofit organizations. Due to the recent tax law’s increased standard deduction, however, there is concern that the itemized charitable deduction’s incentive to give will be limited because fewer people will itemize deductions on their tax returns. In fact, research by the Giving USA Foundation discovered that from 2017 to 2018 there was a 3.4 percent decrease in donations by individuals.

Dreyfus and Gallagher use reframing language and strategies to make the case for legislation that would create a “universal tax deduction” to address this sector-wide problem so that all donors to nonprofit organizations could claim the charitable tax deduction. For instance, the authors:

  • Use the value of human potential (e.g., “community-based, nonprofit organizations that work across the nation to provide the support that enable all children, families and individuals to reach their full potential”)
  • Incorporate inclusive language and refer to factors outside of our control as reasons for people needing support (e.g., “our willingness to come together as a nation when any of us are facing life’s challenges” and “enable families and individuals to move through difficult times”)
  • Reference the life cycle in listing supports from early childhood development centers to senior services
  • Adopt an explanatory tone
  • Use giving data in context and comparatively over time
  • Provide a solution in the form of introduced legislation
  • Link people’s well-being to larger societal benefits (e.g., “When people thrive, our economy thrives”)

These reframing techniques contribute to the convincing appeal of the column.

SPOTLIGHT: BMe Community Makes Compelling Case for Asset-Framing

In “‘You Can’t Lift People Up by Putting Them Down’: How to Talk About Tough Issues of Race, Poverty, and More” in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Trabian Shorters, Founder of BMe Community, introduces “asset-framing for equity,” or “defining people by their aspirations and contributions,” as opposed to linking the “problems with the people who experience them.” It is the difference between the descriptions of “A black student striving to overcome a threatening environment and graduate” and an “at-risk youth.”

The June 26, 2019 article, the fourth in the series “Looking Ahead: the Future of Communications for Good,” produced in collaboration with the Communications Network, explains that the asset approach exposes systemic causes of problems while the deficit one ignores them. Asset framing “prevents ‘dehumanization’ and impairs stigmatization” of people, while prompting us to “fix the system.” Asset framing is in line with the Building Well-Being Narrative’s shift of the public’s default thinking from a focus on individuals as being responsible for the challenges or successes in their lives to an understanding of the structural issues that contribute to, or undermine, well-being. Citing the example of, Shorters concludes that, “Nonprofits are proving that focusing on people’s aspirations raises more money — and improves programs.”