May 14, 2024

Young, Lankford Introduce Bill to Protect the Privacy of Charitable Donors

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the Protecting Charitable Giving Act to address the unlawful disclosure of data identifying donors who contribute to nonprofit organizations. This legislation would help nonprofit organizations better protect the identities of their donors by reinforcing existing privacy protections and increasing the penalties for disclosure of sensitive taxpayer data.

“Anonymous giving has long been a way for Americans to support philanthropic organizations that rely on generous charitable contributions. In recent years, donor privacy has been threatened on too many occasions,” said Senator Young. “This legislation will address the disclosure of donor data to better protect both charitable organizations and their donors.”

“Nonprofits and their donors are an essential safety net for our communities—providing food, housing, and care to those who need it most. Oklahomans shouldn’t worry about their identities being made public after they provide a donation to a charitable organization. Millions of donors want to do something good without being recognized. We should honor their privacy as they care for others,” said Senator Lankford.

In an effort to verify the legitimacy of tax-exempt organizations, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires these organizations to collect the names and addresses of all major donors. While the IRS collection form is public, the identities of the donors are considered sensitive information and are not subject to disclosure. States like California and New York have tried to force tax-exempt organizations to disclose donor information. The Supreme Court, however, has ruled that these efforts infringe upon First Amendment rights.

The Protecting Charitable Giving Act would modify penalties relating to the disclosure of donor information to better ensure donor privacy and protection. More specifically, this legislation would:

  1. Increase the penalty of willful disclosure of the identities of donors to tax-exempt organizations from no more than $5,000 to between $10,000 and $250,000.
  2. Expand the jurisdiction of prosecution to include the judicial district in which the victim of the offense resides to ensure all cases are subject to a fair trial.

The Protecting Charitable Giving Act is supported by Philanthropy Roundtable, Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, Americans for Prosperity, and the Community Foundation of Pulaski County.

“Philanthropy Roundtable thanks Senators Todd Young and James Lankford for their tireless efforts to preserve and strengthen America’s federal donor privacy laws that protect the rights and freedoms of generous Americans to support the causes and communities they care about most. The Protecting Charitable Giving Act makes much-needed updates to the laws that protect charitable donors, and it grants new recourse to individuals or organizations whose private donor information has been leaked. 

Senators Young and Lankford understand that the right to associate with others who share one’s values and beliefs—and to do so privately—is vital to preserving the freedom that lies at the heart of the American experiment,” said Christie Herrera, President and CEO, Philanthropy Roundtable.

 “The Protecting Charitable Giving Act introduced by Senator Young is a vital step forward for philanthropy in Indiana and nationwide. At Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, where we represent a broad network of philanthropic organizations, we understand the importance of donor privacy as a cornerstone of charitable giving. This legislation safeguards that privacy, ensuring donors can support causes they believe in without fear of reprisal or exposure. Setting stronger penalties for breaches and reinforcing legal protections encourages continued generosity and is essential to maintaining support for the crucial work done by nonprofits across our state and nation,” said Claudia Cummings, President and CEO, Indiana Philanthropy Alliance

American charities are the lifeblood of this country and protecting the privacy of Americans, so that they can give to those charities without fear, is crucially important. The Protecting Charitable Giving Act is commonsense legislation that protects the First Amendment rights of citizens, no matter which charities they choose to support. It sends a clear message to bureaucrats that they cannot invade American’s privacy without serious consequences,” said Brent Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer, Americans for Prosperity.

“Here in Pulaski County, where everyone knows your name, the ability to give anonymously is cherished and would be protected by the Protecting Charitable Giving Act. My community has seen remarkable acts of generosity, like when a family, preferring to remain anonymous, provided significant funding for our local volunteer fire department. This family’s privacy was paramount, as they could help the volunteer firefighters purchase the necessary safety equipment without any public attention. This law does more than protect our donors by providing them discretion, it actively fosters a culture of giving which is critical for enriching and sustaining our rural quality of life,” said Leeann Wright, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Pulaski County.

Full legislative text can be found here.