Charitable and Government Sectors Must Work Together to Make State Thrive

OpEd by Marnie Taylor, President and CEO

On January 20, just as we have done 44 times before in our nation’s history, a new president was inaugurated in Washington, DC. With the new administration, Congress and our own state Legislature, there is excitement and anxiety about what is to come. Nonprofits are admittedly nervous about a number of upcoming issues at both the federal and state levels, and leadership in the charitable sector needs to brace for change because change is definitely on the horizon.

The National Council of Nonprofits expects significant regulatory changes to emerge for nonprofits in the next few years. They are urging nonprofits to work closely together to monitor changes to charitable giving incentives at the federal and state levels, healthcare, partisanship as it relates to the sector, nonprofit independence in allocation of their own resources, funding for core services, and federal and state contracting.

We know that if there are tax code changes, charitable gifts won’t have as much perceived value, particularly those end-of-year special gifts that help donors through the giving incentives. Last year, American charities had a flurry of end-of-year contributions based on predictions that those incentive caps could be lowered.

Nonprofits are also very concerned about the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act if it doesn’t have a replacement. As nonprofits are employers to tens of millions in the United States (10 percent of the overall workforce), organizations need better options for those employees along with healthcare access to the constituents they serve.

Another issue is that nonprofits have been barred from actively endorsing candidates or political parties. While many organizations certainly espouse values, both conservative and progressive, this neutrality in electioneering helps preserve a balance between donor and organization, so that nonprofits aren’t pressured into supporting candidates based on the requests of donors.

Organizations are deeply concerned that they will be subject to limits on their abilities to allocate their own resources. Even last year, our own Legislature introduced a bill that could limit the fundraising capabilities of certain animal welfare organizations. This, coupled with reductions in exemptions for nonprofits, will have a negative impact on a nonprofit’s bottom line, leaving less for programs and increasing the need for administrative resources.

Finally, the charitable sector’s biggest concern is that dwindling government resources are irreparably damaging their ability to successfully implement their missions. Especially in Oklahoma, cuts to core services – healthcare, education, human services, infrastructure and public safety – increase the burdens of not just Oklahomans but on the nonprofits that serve them. When you add the complexity of government contracting and oversight, nonprofits simply can’t meet the ever-increasing demand.

In a recent survey we completed with our members, the majority of respondents felt uneasy about the legislative climate and how it related to their specific nonprofit. Worse yet, smaller organizations with budgets less than $750,000 annually are the least likely to participate in advocacy and legislative affairs because of capacity.

Whether on a federal or state level, the charitable sector – nonprofits, philanthropists and private business – must work closely with the government sector to ensure that nonprofits may improve our communities and make our state thrive.

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