Guest Editorial Week Of 4/10/2023

Carolyn Bolton

Taking a different approach to philanthropy

Don’t itemize your taxes but still want to streamline your H&R Block experience this tax season? You’re in luck. A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., introduced a bill earlier this month that would let you do just that.
If enacted, the Charitable Act would allow charitable givers who don’t itemize – so, don't deduct things like mortgage interest and medical expenses from their taxable income – to nonetheless claim a charitable deduction and get money back on their taxes beginning in the 2023 tax year.
Lawmakers should support this common-sense legislation. As the bill’s primary sponsor, Lankford said in a statement earlier this month, “Our nonprofits provide our neighborhoods and families vital job training, compassionate homeless assistance, food in times of crisis, and spiritual counsel during our best and worst days.”
The Charitable Act rewards philanthropic givers with a tax incentive and, ultimately, guarantees a broader array of givers a voice in our country’s philanthropic future, creating a nonprofit ecosystem that is more inclusive and that better reflects the charitable vision of all Americans.
American philanthropy is increasingly a thing reserved for the wealthy – a top-down system for mega-donors to direct and execute their charitable vision. Creating a universal deduction would create more of a bottom-up system of philanthropy that better represents American values.
This bill does just that, freeing all people to give to the nonprofits that tackle issues in their own community like, for example, DV8 Kitchen Vocational Training Foundation, a Kentucky charity that provides job training for those struggling with addiction.
The charity helps those actively recovering from drug and alcohol abuse earn food-service certifications and learn valuable skills that make them the perfect candidates for jobs at DV8 Kitchen, a for-profit eatery that employs graduates of the nonprofit vocational-training program.
The kitchen and its nonprofit were founded after restaurateurs Diane and Rob Perez identified a troubling pattern of recovering employees falling back into the cycle of drug abuse after only a couple of weeks on the job.
Perez said last year in his testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship that he and his wife “lost 10 of [their] employees to fatal overdoses” in the eight years preceding the start of their charitable enterprise.
The couple knew something had to change. Lives were on the line. That’s when people – not profits – became Diane and Rob’s focus. So, the couple reimagined their business model and started their nonprofit.
DV8 helps those struggling with addiction communicate honestly about their vice, which opens the door to building a support system, something Harvard University researchers say is key to climbing out of drug dependency.
Already, the eatery employs nearly 30 people, 95 percent of whom are in recovery and graduates of the DV8 nonprofit. Its turnover rate is 70 percent – a seemingly big number but one that’s actually low for the industry. The average fast-food turnover rate, for example, was a whopping 144 percent in 2021.
DV8’s success shows the importance of equipping locals with enhanced charitable-giving powers because locals are most likely to uncover and address the unique needs of their community. Outsiders from states not plagued by the drug crisis aren’t as motivated to reverse the problem.
And, though the drug epidemic is a problem nationwide, overdose deaths are of particular concern to those in the Bluegrass State, as residents struggle with addiction to prescription drugs, heroin, fentanyl, and other controlled substances at a greater rate than residents of other states.
In 2020, the most recent year for which CDC numbers are available, Kentucky’s drug overdose mortality rate – 49 deaths per 100,000 people – was second only to West Virginia, making this issue deeply personal to those in the state whose loved ones struggle with addiction.
Lawmakers must empower Americans to fund nonprofits like DV8 and, ultimately, craft a philanthropic infrastructure nimble enough so everyone, regardless of itemization status, has a voice in the direction of our charitable programming and can address needs in their backyard.

Carolyn Bolton is the communications and marketing manager for DonorsTrust, a giving-account provider in Alexandria, Virginia. Her views are her own and not necessarily that of her employer.


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