Ukelele Students2

Elementary students practice with ukeleles purchased this fall through a grant from the Albany Public Schools Foundation. The nonprofit is among those concerned that private donations may shrink under the nation's new tax code.

Photo provided by Aimee Addison

Mid-valley nonprofits say they don't know what to expect from pending changes to the nation's tax code. However, they're hoping donors won't forsake them in the new year.

Officials with many of the valley's largest nonprofit agencies, including college and university foundations and the United Way of Linn County, were out for the holidays this week and not immediately able to be reached. 

But Fish of Albany, the ABC House and the Albany Public Schools Foundation all said they expect their boards of directors to be studying changes to the tax code and starting discussions on what they might mean to their agencies.

"I’m sure that’s a conversation we will having in January," said Bobby Williams, development coordinator for the ABC House. "We’re going to look at how that’s going to work for us."

The tax code overhaul doesn't eliminate deductions for taxpayers who chose to give to charitable organizations, but it doubles the tax deduction for residents who use the standard deduction: to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. 

That could mean fewer people will itemize deductions they normally would take for charitable giving, would could mean a steep reduction in overall donations. 

For the ABC House, which stands for All Because of Children, any effect has the potential to be large because so much of the organization's budget relies on contributions.

The ABC House is a child abuse intervention center, serving Linn and Benton counties since 1997. Eighty-five percent of its approximately $1 million annual budget comes from grants, fundraisers and donations, Williams said. 

The agency served more than 630 children in 2016 and is poised to top that this year, although figures are not yet final, Williams said. 

"Only 15 percent of funding we have is insurance — and that’s only if they have it. No one is turned away. And we receive no state funding at all," Williams said. 

Numbers of abuse reports continue to grow, at least in part because people are becoming better educated about recognizing the signs, he continued. "This is our 20th year and we will continue to be here, but we still need that community support."

The Albany Public Schools Foundation, which provides scholarships, classroom grants and elementary enrichment programs, receives 100 percent of its revenue from donations and grants, said Aimee Addison, executive director.

"Our ability to operate and to make an impact for our public school students and teachers is heavily reliant on community support. We are concerned that with this new law, people will lose their incentive to make charitable gifts," she said.

"In addition, we recognize that with the estate tax law exemption going up to $11.2 million there is less incentive to leave bequests to charity. Both annual gifts and bequests are vital to insuring that we continue to have an impact in our public schools."

Last spring, the foundation awarded 19 scholarships totaling $44,250 to graduating high school seniors from West Albany, South Albany and Albany Options schools. This spring, the total is poised to crack $50,000, Addison said.

This fall, 67 teachers shared in $37,683 for classroom grants, which covered projects and wish lists that included Chromebooks, garden tools, frog specimens, sewing machines, jewelry and crafting supplies and a portable disc golf course.

A grant of $7,500 for a suicide prevention program went to Albany's high schools and middle schools this last fall.

The foundation also contributed $20,000 to 15 elementary schools to purchase ukuleles and xylophones for music programs. Another nearly $20,000 became part of a $63,899 Elementary Enrichment Grant to provide schoolwide enrichment programs in art, music, and science and health.

"The Albany Public Schools Foundation provides opportunities for our public school students that would otherwise not be possible," Addison said.

At Fish of Albany, people tend to think of donations in terms of physical items, especially canned food and spare clothing. But cash donations are just as important, because with them the agency can help people struggling to pay their utilities, Fish Executive Director Holly Ryan said.

Fish is a 44-year-old cooperative effort that assists people in need with clothing, transportation, medicine, food and shelter. It's run by volunteers and funded by local churches, United Way of Linn County, private donations and foundation grants.

Like the ABC House, Ryan said her board of directors is in wait-and-see mode when it comes to the tax overhaul. No major changes are planned in services, she said, although the organization does have some New Year's resolutions, such as adding an online "donate" option to its website.

"We are still here, our doors are still open, our services are going to go forward as usual, but we’re going to welcome donations," Ryan said. "Cash donations especially, because that’s what keeps some of the other programs (going) and the lights on."

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