Quantifying change

Imagine you could look into the future and see a time when a sum equal to the total amount of your work and that of all of your peers, would be eliminated by the stroke of a pen. Fanciful idea, eh? And depressing, too.

Yet that is precisely what institutional philanthropy faces five years from now with the estate tax repeal.

Philanthropy is very good at discussing how hard it is to quantify change. But this is an act we can measure quite accurately. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that if the law which goes into full effect in 2009 had been in effect in 2000, charitable giving would have dropped by $13-25 billion. The lower number in that range is very close to the total amount of corporate contributions in 2003; the higher number is actually greater than the total Foundation giving in 2003. You can read the full report here.

In other words, an amount equivalent to all of the gifts of all American foundations will disappear from the revenue stream for nonprofits in 5 years.

So now that we can see into the future, what are we going to do about it? I'll post a few of my thoughts over the next few days, as well ideas I know others are pursuiing. I'd welcome your input also.

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