It’s the tenth day of my 12 Days of Charitable Giving for 2018. Readers have suggested deserving charities over the past few weeks, and I’ll be posting one a day for—well, 12 days (I’m clever that way). Today’s charity is the National Constitution Center.
I’m admittedly a little biased here, and not just because the National Constitution Center is located in Philadelphia. As a lawyer and a history buff, I think it’s important to make sure that all people have access to education and resources about our country’s history and our Constitution. That’s exactly what the National Constitution Center seeks to do. Its mission is to illuminate constitutional ideals and inspire active citizenship.
The National Constitution Center is the first and only nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to the U.S. Constitution. While the idea of a permanent memorial to the Constitution was first proposed more than 100 years ago, the idea didn’t take shape until it was proposed in 1987.
President Ronald Reagan signed the Constitution Heritage Act of 1988, which established the National Constitution Center, and the Center broke ground on September 17, 2000, 213 years to the day after the Constitution was signed. Even the museum’s address has significance: The museum’s 525 Arch Street address was chosen because May 25 (5/25) is the date that the Constitutional Convention began in Philadelphia in 1787.
One of the features of the museum is Signers’ Hall, where you can where you can sign the Constitution alongside 42 life-size, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers. It took 18 months and 50 artists to produce the statues. Fun fact: Gouverneur Morris is slightly hunched over to make George Washington stand out as the tallest man in the room.
Jack Bogle, founder and former chief executive of the Vanguard Group, had been a director of the National Constitution Center since 1988. In 1999, he succeeded former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell as chairman. He agreed, he recalls, to serve for six months, until they could find what he described as a “real” chairman. When the Center opened its doors on July 4, 2003 (on budget and on time), Bogle was still serving. Today, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. serves as Chair.
Since that time, it has hosted a range of programming featuring such folks as Tom Brokaw, Ken Burns, Chris Matthews, Donald Rumsfeld, and Antonin Scalia.
For the last dozen years, the Constitution Center has administered the Liberty Medal, awarded annually to men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. The first medals awarded at the Center were to Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in 2006 for their bipartisan humanitarian efforts on behalf of victims of natural disasters in Southeast Asia and the Gulf Coast. Recipients since that time have included Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Senator John McCain and Sandra Day O’Connor.
Today the museum features hundreds of interactive exhibits, theatrical performances, and original documents. The National Constitution Center also hosts constitutional debates across a range of broadcast and digital media platforms. And the Constitution Center offers constitutional seminars, discussions, course materials, and interactive and digital resources for students of all ages.
(See, even RBG thinks you should go!)
So how can you help?
Despite its roots in government, the National Constitution Center is a private, nonprofit museum. It sits on federal land but is not a federal institution. The museum relies on donations, ticket sales, membership, and other funding.
To make a one-time donation, click over to the organization’s website. You can also mail a check to National Constitution Center Attn: Development, 525 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19106 or call 215-409-6767.
For federal income tax purposes, if you plan to claim a deduction for a cash contribution, you’ll want to keep a record of the donation regardless of the amount. Ideally, the organization will provide a written record with the name of the charity, date, and amount of the contribution.
You may also consider becoming a member. You can join in person (sign up at the front desk), by phone at 215-409-6767, or online by clicking here. Members receive free and discounted admission to Town Hall programs, and you may receive other benefits. Remember that a membership to a charitable club or organization may not be fully tax-deductible. You may only deduct the amount of your donation which exceeds the value of anything that you receive in return. That includes free admissions, coffee mugs, meals, magazine subscriptions and more. Many organizations will carve out the value of your gift and advise how much you might deduct for varying membership levels or sponsorship opportunities. If you’re not sure, just ask.
Do your homework.
As always, you want to make sure that your donation is going to a qualified charitable organization. A search using the IRS’ new Exempt Organizations Select Check reveals that the National Constitution Center is on the list.
I often suggest checking out third-party sites like Charity Navigator for more information about charitable organizations, including evaluations and access to tax forms and other financials. The National Constitution Center has a three-star ranking on Charity Navigator.
In 2011, the Constitution Center was honored with accreditation from the American Association of Museums, the highest national recognition for a museum, achieved by less than 5% of museums nationwide.
Remember: Submissions to the 12 Days of Charitable Giving are made by readers, and in most cases, I can’t personally vouch for the good work that these folks do. So be generous, but be smart: Do your homework.
For more on making charitable donations, click here.
For information about 2018 tax rates – those you’ll use for the 2018 tax year when you file in 2019 – click here.
Looking for more inspiration? Here are the other organizations on the 12 Days of Charitable Giving list this year: