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posted: 1/1/2018 4:21 PM

Editorial: Think now about what you'll donate this year

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  • CEO of the Elgin YWCA Julia McClendon talks to a guest of the Sustainability Maker Faire in 2015 at Elgin Community College.

      CEO of the Elgin YWCA Julia McClendon talks to a guest of the Sustainability Maker Faire in 2015 at Elgin Community College.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Before Christmas -- but after the new tax bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump -- Elgin YWCA CEO Julia McClendon "nearly fainted" when her agency got a $10,000 gift.

The local couple making the generous donation told her they didn't know what was going to happen next year and wanted to give the money in 2017.

What the couple didn't know -- and what many of us also don't know yet -- is whether we will itemize deductions on our 2018 income taxes, or take the increased standard deduction now available under the new tax bill.

Taking the increased deduction means charitable donations can no longer be written off.

Charities that rely significantly on individual donations instead of corporate donations, which includes most houses of worship, are waiting with trepidation for our decision.

At least one national estimate suggests $13 billion could be lost this year in monetary donations.

Without the tax incentive of charitable deductions, for many people their contributions are going to come from the heart like never before.

We're fairly certain that's where most charitable giving starts, anyway, but people with limited means will have to make some hard choices.

How people treat the less fortunate defines a community, and as a class, we suburbanites have shown ourselves to be generous people, putting our time and money where it is needed.

Charities, especially those with a long history, to some extent figure it out. As the economy ebbs and flows so does charitable giving, and the best-run organizations have learned to adapt and survive.

And while they are bracing for a hit this year (YWCA USA, for one, has alerted local chapters to prepare for fewer contributions), organizations know that there are many reasons why people give, tax deductions being just one.

"Our donors give because of other reasons besides just looking to receive a write-off," said Cesilie Price, CEO of Boys and Girls Club of Lake County.

"We are very much hoping that continues."

Giving makes us part of something bigger. Some of us are simply compelled to share what we have. Others want to be an example for our children or grandchildren.

And so on.

Now, in early January, is the time to be thinking about what charitable giving we can make in 2018, and to plan for it.

Some of us will have less reason financially to do so. But the humanitarian needs may be greater than ever.

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