The Value of a Handshake

By Sue Cunningham, CASE President & CEO

One of the joys of being based in Washington, D.C., is being able to traverse to the U.S. Capitol in a matter of minutes—which is why I was delighted with and impressed by the representatives from CASE member institutions who went to much greater lengths to participate in the Charitable Giving Coalition’s Advocacy Day on Thursday, Feb. 16.

I was privileged to meet with Greg Willems and Shane Jacobson—just two of the many who invested their valuable time and resources to travel and be part of this important effort. Greg, president & CEO of the Kansas State University Foundation, and Shane, vice president for development and alumni relations at Grinnell College (and a CASE District V Board member) were among the 200 nonprofit leaders who came to Capitol Hill.


With Congress about to begin discussions about possible changes to the U.S. tax code, we must underscore the need to preserve the full scope and value of the charitable deduction, a century-old U.S. tradition that encourages giving.

I had the privilege of being part of the Connecticut delegation that met with the offices of Sen. Christopher Murphy and Reps. Elizabeth Esty, John Larson and James Himes.

We explained how efforts to change the tax code could effectively eliminate the charitable deduction for 95 percent of U.S. taxpayers, hampering the ability of valued and valuable charitable institutions to raise private support. Instead, we urged lawmakers to support a universal charitable deduction—a proposal that would provide all U.S. taxpayers, regardless of income, an incentive to give to educational institutions and other charitable organizations.

In addition to having our concerns well received, we also built relationships that will serve us—and therefore our members—well in the coming months.

For U.S. residents, if you have not yet contacted your elected representatives in Congress to express the need to preserve the full scope and value of the charitable deduction, please do so today.

Regardless of where you live, though, Thursday’s activity was an important reminder of the value of building relationships—and that usually the best way to do that is for us to get out of our offices and extend a warm handshake and smile.

Some helpful links:

CASE U.S. Public Policy Pages

Charitable Giving Coalition Talking Points

Contact information for U.S. lawmakers in the House and Senate.

Charitable Giving Coalition

Special thanks to these CASE member institutions that sent representatives to participate in the Charitable Giving Coalition’s Advocacy Day:

  • Boston University
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • George Washington University
  • Grinnell College
  • Iowa State University Foundation
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kansas State University
  • Miami University
  • Michigan State University
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Oregon State University
  • Princeton University
  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • New York University
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of California
  • University of Colorado
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Maryland School of Nursing (Baltimore)
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Missouri System
  • University of North Carolina System
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
  • Waynesburg University

Pictured L-R: Sue Cunningham, Paula Van Ness of the Connecticut Community Foundation, Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT).

Sue Cunningham is CASE’s president & CEO. Learn more about her here


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