Some generous West Virginians donate large sums to out-of-state causes -- but we think donors also should focus on helping their own communities and neighbors.
That's why the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation was launched a half-century ago by the late Gazette Publisher W.E. "Ned" Chilton III and other civic figures. They wanted local charity to remain close to home, helping a six-county region around the state capital.
Similarly, in 1996, the Legislature launched another strategy to boost local West Virginia causes. It's called the Neighborhood Investment Program, and it works like this:
Each year, lawmakers set aside $3 million in state tax credits for people or businesses who make sizable gifts -- usually between $500 and $200,000 -- to worthy Mountain State nonprofits. Donors to hometown charities not only can take the contributions off their federal taxes, but they also get extra-large deductions from their state taxes.
Individuals can apply the credits to their personal state income tax, and firms can deduct from the corporate net income tax or the business franchise tax.
Local groups eligible for this plan include homeless shelters, health clinics, scholarship programs, hospice shelters, meal-delivery services, senior centers, battered women's shelters and many more. Each year, they apply to the state Development Office and are awarded varying blocks of credits.
Currently, one such charity, the Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center -- host of the whimsical yearly Jim Dent fundraising dinner -- is urging donors to provide $500 support at just $150 out-of-pocket cost.
"The West Virginia Neighborhood Investment Tax Credit Program allows us to offer state tax credits for gifts of $500 or more," Director Sky Kershner wrote. "This is a wonderful way to maximize your generosity. It is a win-win for everybody .... We have a total of $20,000 in tax credits to offer, and can accept gifts up to $40,000 as long as they last."
He explained that a person or business donating $500 to the pastoral center can deduct $250 from state taxes and approximately $100 from federal taxes, thus the donor actually incurs only $150 cost.
Good deal. This illustrates how the Neighborhood Investment Program lets selfless West Virginians give an extra boost to close-to-home efforts.
Many people feel a noble urge to help others -- and helping causes in your own backyard makes West Virginia a better place in which to live.