Kari McCann, President of the Iowa Council of Foundations
On April 12 and 13, ICoF members and I participated in Foundations on the Hill. Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) is an annual two-day opportunity for grantmakers and regional associations to meet with their federal lawmakers face-to-face in Washington, D.C. to personally discuss their work with members of Congress. While not my first time on Capitol Hill, this was the first time I was there in dress clothes and without a camera and tour guide in my hand. Here is what I learned that I think will be helpful to you as a community foundation board member or staff:
- Get to the know the staff. Legislators are busy and sometimes the only way to reach them is through their dedicated staff. Developing relationships with the staff is just as important as building relationships with the legislators.
- Legislators are busy. Have I said this already? I was amazed at the number of meetings they take each day to hear from constituents. This, in addition to committee meetings, being on the floor, voting, and somehow managing to eat and sleep keeps them on the go, go, go. So, when you do get a chance to talk with them – be brief.
- Iowa’s legislators care about transparency. In almost all of our meetings legislators asked about transparency and accountability in philanthropy – specifically as it relates to donor-advised funds. Be sure to stress when contacting legislators that there are processes in place at community foundations to ensure payouts are being distributed to charities. We also shared with legislators that all Iowa Community Foundations adhere to National Standards. Specifically Congressman Young was interested in these standards to ensure oversight and proper administration. These standards are what sets out CFs apart in philanthropy!
- Be persistent. There is no way for legislators to remember everything. We have to keep our issues in front of legislators – consistently. Keep writing, keep calling. These issues are important to your community foundation work and the good work you do with donors in your communities across Iowa.
Everyone can advocate and I encourage you to get involved in policy work on behalf of your organizations, donors and communities. Need support or resources, just ask!