[Editor’s note: The following statement was issued by the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector.]
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector extends its deep appreciation to the American people for their generous outpouring of contributions for disaster relief and to the thousands of charitable organizations across the country that stepped in without delay to provide critical support and assistance to the people affected by this devastating event.
The panel also appreciates our government’s stepped-up efforts to bring aid, drain the floodwaters, and move people to shelter and safety.
The Congress is appropriately looking at ways that the federal government can provide relief to victims of this disaster and help to ensure that the generosity of the American people can be sustained over the long term.
The short-term tax relief package announced [Sept. 12] by Senators Grassley and Baucus represents an important first step toward these goals, but as the senators noted, Congress must also provide longer-term solutions to support a sustained effort by government at every level, by charitable organizations, and by businesses and individuals to address the ongoing needs of victims of this hurricane, as well as the millions of Americans who rely on the services of charitable organizations throughout the country.
Responding to this tragedy will require the American people and our government to dig deeper than ever before to provide services to all those affected by the hurricane for many months and, in some cases, years.
At the same time, the needs of individuals in other communities throughout the country have not diminished.
Our charitable organizations have been making every possible effort to deliver a wide range of services in the face of challenges on the ground in the affected areas, rising fuel costs and other economic strains that affect many Americans.
It is time to invest in these organizations that have long standing experience, knowledge and systems to respond effectively to all of these challenges.
It is essential that all charitable organizations have the necessary resources to ensure the effective delivery of services and to be accountable to government and the public.
Some organizations may need to rebuild facilities damaged by the hurricane, purchase equipment, and pay unusual travel and housing costs to enable staff and volunteers to do their work.
All organizations that accept donations will need effective administrative and fundraising systems to record and acknowledge contributions, and report in a clear and transparent way to donors, the public and government authorities.
As Congress considers the expansion of tax incentives for charitable giving, it is important to focus on incentives that will encourage increased giving and volunteering not just for immediate disaster relief, but also to support the ongoing services and programs of charitable organizations that are an essential part of all communities.