Working together to encourage charitable giving

As originally published in the Our Towns section of The State Journal-Register on Sunday, December 27, 2015.

John KelkerThis past weekend and coming week, many of us gathered with our families, friends and neighbors to celebrate the relationships that bring so much value to our lives and to renew our hope for a more prosperous future. Yet, as we usher in a new year full of hope and opportunity, I would be remiss not to pass on a few thoughts and thanks.

United Way has had an exciting year as we increased our community engagement and established a new community fund process focused on addressing our greatest challenges. As always, United Way will continue to fund services vital to the immediate basic needs of individuals and families in our community. However, for the first time in our long history, we will be equally focused on addressing the issues which lead to poverty and the need for these types of emergency assistance programs. By working together with local nonprofits, health and human service agencies, community leaders and individuals, we have identified needs and established priorities in the areas of education, health and financial stability – the building blocks for a good quality of life. By working together with community partners, we believe we can improve the lives of everyone living in our community by making results-driven investments in these areas.

On behalf of United Way, thank you to the hundreds of individuals who have contributed their time, experience and knowledge in helping us better identify and address the health and human service needs of our community.

The services and solutions we and our partners provide are valuable. However, our ability to carry out our mission is only possible through the support and generosity of the thousands of people in our community who choose to invest in our organizations. Please accept our heartfelt thanks for your continued faith and support.

On a similar note, I would like to pass along our thanks to those volunteers who have stepped forward to lead the fundraising efforts of both United Way and other nonprofit organizations throughout our community. Without your generosity and commitment, we could never hope to create positive change in our community.

In addition, thank you to the employees of our local nonprofits. Your commitment, even when facing uncertainty due to the lack of a state budget, should be commended. Without individuals like these, our community and economy would be worse off.

Finally, I would like to pass along one last, but perhaps unusual, thanks. I would like to thank our congressional leaders for working together to pass the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act. Although not perfect, the bi-partisan legislation made permanent several important charitable giving tax incentives which the nonprofit industry has spent years advocating for.

Most important of the charitable tax incentives is the permanent extension allowing individuals at least 70.5 years of age, to donate up to $100,000 to charitable organizations directly from their Individual Retirement Account (IRA), without treating the distribution as taxable income. The tax benefits of the IRA Charitable Rollover are available to taxpayers regardless of whether they itemize their returns and may help older Americans who may have paid off their home mortgage and no longer file itemized tax returns. The passage of the bill makes the extension retroactive to January 1, 2015; meaning that there is still time to take advantage of the extension this year. Of course, anyone considering an IRA charitable rollover should consult their tax advisor. More details on the charitable benefits of the PATH act are available at our website, www.springfieldunitedway.org.

As we look into the New Year, it is my hope that our state leaders will follow the example set by our congressional leaders and work together to enact a state budget and end the uncertainty affecting our social service agencies and communities.

On behalf of United Way, I wish each of you a happy and healthy new year.

John Kelker is the president of United Way of Central Illinois. Look for United Way columns weekly in Our Towns.