Giving Tuesday is upon us: You’ve probably seen, and perhaps already responded to, appeals from all sorts of nonprofit organizations representing a broad array of social benefits that rely on public support.
The annual day, earmarked internationally for donations to causes ranging from healthcare to science and education to alleviating poverty and hunger to arts & culture to climate and environmental issues to disaster relief and more, is November 28.
And as vital as Giving Tuesday can be, it’s only part of a concentrated push for support that will continue in high gear through December 31. In Oregon, one of the most significant opportunities for arts and cultural support is the state-run Cultural Tax Credit, administered by the Oregon Cultural Trust and established by the Legislature in 2001 to help offset, at least in Oregon, a national gap in government support of arts and culture.
The program is a vital link in nonprofits’ budgeting: In its 21 years so far the tax credit has accounted for almost $40 million in awards to arts and cultural groups.
Oregon’s highly unusual cultural credit essentially allows you to apply a healthy portion of your state taxes to any of more than 1,600 arts, heritage, or humanities nonprofit groups covering all corners of the state. (See the full list of qualified organizations here.)
The rules are simple: Donate money to the nonprofit groups of your choice, and match that amount by the end of December with a donation to the Cultural Trust. Come tax time the Trust donation will return to your pocket, not as a deduction on total income, but as a dollar-for-dollar credit on taxes owed.
If you give one group or a combination of groups $500, for instance, and then match that with a donation in the same amount to the Trust, what you owe on your state taxes is reduced by $500 – meaning that in essence you’ll have doubled your donation, spending $500 but giving $1,000 to arts and cultural groups.
You can, of course, donate as much as you want to as many nonprofit groups as you’d like, and as much as you want to the Cultural Trust, but there are limits to the tax benefit: Maximum tax credit limits are $500 for individuals, $1,000 for couples filing jointly, and $2,500 for C-class corporations.
The state’s tax credit program is a key part of the complex and delicately balanced economic foundation for Oregon’s nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, from large groups such as the Portland Art Museum, Portland Center Stage, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Oregon Bach Festival to local museums, choirs, dance and theater companies, cultural centers, and other groups in every county in the state.
Oregon ArtsWatch, for instance, is one of those 1,600-plus eligibile organizations, and without the combination of foundation and government grants, sponsorships, and individual donations that form our funding you wouldn’t be able to read our stories for free — or at all.
The same goes for other nonprofit groups. In a very real sense, the health of Oregon’s arts and cultural scene relies on the people who are willing and able to keep it going. Give what you can, where you want — and don’t forget: December 31 is this year’s deadline to receive the Culture Tax Credit for this tax year.