Each year, Philanthropy Ohio staff and foundation leaders take on Capitol Hill for Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) to educate policymakers about the important role philanthropy plays in communities and to advocate for issues important to our sector. This spring, given the virtual spaces through Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other platforms, we decided to do things a little differently to give more opportunities to our members who may not ordinarily be able to travel to Washington, D.C. to connect with their local congressional members and share their stories.
Over the course of two months, we held virtual meetings with robust agendas with the staff and offices of Representatives Davidson, Stivers, Chabot, Kaptur and Wenstrup, Johnson, Joyce, Ryan, Gonzalez, Balderson, Beatty and Rep. Ryan. Our meetings with Senator Portman and Senator Brown’s office were highly attended. For our congressional meetings, we invited local community foundation leaders in the respective districts to share their work on COVID-19 response and relief, highlight upcoming initiatives and create an ongoing dialogue that can continue to create more public/private partnerships.
During our meetings with Ohio’s Congressional Delegation, we discussed the many ways that Ohio’s philanthropies and government both invest in critical areas such as education, health, human services and economic development. We explained how philanthropy is uniquely positioned to take risks in social policy experimentation and innovation, which government and the marketplace cannot. This is because funders have a longer time horizon in which they work and because of their apolitical nature.
During the meetings, we educated policymakers and staff on the importance of making the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) permanent to lift folks out of poverty and maintain a lifestyle for themselves and their families as we look to the recovery stage of the pandemic. We also highlighted our concerns with the Accelerating Charitable Efforts Act (ACE Act, S 1981); while the intention to increase charitable contributions to our sector is great, the provisions regarding Donor Advised Funds, as one member stated, “is a solution looking for a problem.” We left time in our agenda to hear from congressional members and staff to share their priorities and to identify ways in which philanthropy can help advance key issues and find areas of synergy.
As I reflect on this different model of congressional engagement outside of FOTH, I did miss running back and forth from Rayburn and Longworth buildings for those quick 15-minute meetings in the hallway, office or even in a cafeteria, but recognize that having members in the room who haven’t normally engaged with their respective members of Congress and were able to share their work and create relationships was exactly the point. FOTH 2022 is scheduled for March 21 – 23, and I hope we can go back to the nation’s capital, but if not, I very much look forward to our virtual 2022 Congressional Roundtable Discussions. And by then, the phrase “you’re on mute” won’t be as common as today.
Philanthropy has an important role to play in supporting communities, and hosting virtual roundtables is one way we help connect funders to elected officials through advocacy work. Please reach out to me if you would like us to connect to your elected officials – we’re here to help.
Director, Public Policy