United Way

Investing in Jackson County

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By Ken Toll UWJC President and CEO

With the whirlwind passage of tax reform by the federal government, nonprofit agencies are looking anxiously at 2018.

The new law increases the standard deduction for taxpayers, which means fewer people will need to itemize. That removes an incentive for people to make charitable gifts; in fact, the National Tax Policy Center estimates charitable giving nationwide will drop up to 6.5 percent, or $20 billion.

Of course, among the most important lessons I learned in my youth—one that determined my life’s work—is that we give to those in need because it’s the right thing to do, not because we get a tax break.

In fact, I’ll take it a step further: Charitable giving is more than a help for people in need; it’s an investment in a better community for everyone.

Once upon a time, that’s what our tax dollars were supposed to do. We paid taxes so that we could count on safe neighborhoods, strong schools, good roads and safety nets for those in crisis. But over the years lawmakers found ways to syphon those taxes to other, less important things. Taxpayers saw that happening, and got fed up; hence, we got tax reform. While people’s paychecks might soon be a little fatter, it’s likely the budgets for crucial community services will be a lot leaner—and that’s bad news for the most vulnerable people in our society.

Here’s where things get a little murky. Nonprofits will need to step in to fill the gaps where those services falter. Will people support that work without the incentive of a tax deduction?

As far as Jackson County goes, my heart says “yes.” 

Our community has seen its share of tough times, yet we always rise to meet them. We aren’t afraid to invest our time, talent and treasure to change the conditions for all.

At United Way, we’re tackling one of the biggest challenges of all: poverty. We envision a Jackson County rich in opportunities to eliminate poverty and allow all people to achieve financial stability and success.

To get there, we’re investing. We find the right programs and partnerships that can build a stronger quality of life for everyone. We’ve been studying these issues for decades, and we know that families are far more likely to succeed in today’s economy only when certain conditions are met.  So United Way invests in specific, measurable efforts that strengthen education, that get people healthy, and that help people meet their basic needs; and we are building partnerships that will help propel these families forward on pathways to prosperity.

“Partnership” is the operative word, because those investments don’t happen unless generous, determined people come together to lend their support.

The choice is simple. We can worry about how tax reform will change the charitable landscape. Or each of us can look at giving in a different light—as an investment in Jackson County, in building a better quality of life, in advancing our community’s values and changing lives for the better.

That’s the life lesson I cherish today: giving not because we benefit individually, but because we benefit as a community. Giving as an investment, and because it’s the right thing to do.

That’s what I think.  United Way wants to know what you think. Please select an answer below.

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