While Oklahoma Legislative Session Ends, National Issues Take Focus for Nonprofits

OpEd by Marnie Taylor, President and CEOCherry Blossoms in DC

This week, I’m in Washington, D.C., for our annual conference of the National Council of Nonprofits. State associations from across America come to the capital for two days of learning, sharing and advocating, including gathering on the Hill for meetings with our federal delegations. I look forward to this opportunity each year to visit with our representatives and senators along with staffers from their offices. It’s a great way to fill them in on what’s happening nationally with the charitable sector and to discuss the work of nonprofits in their own districts.

Our state’s legislative session ended last month. Without the budget problems of the past along with a more optimistic Legislature and new governor, our session was certainly quieter compared to years past. I am happy to know that nonprofits showed up at the Capitol quite a bit this year – whether through their own days at the Capitol, joining the Center for Nonprofits’ day or visiting with their own legislators. Our state policy makers are taking the concerns and needs of the charitable sector seriously and working with nonprofits to solve big issues our state faces.

At the national level, we still have a lot of work to accomplish. This week, I visited with our delegation about two very important topics that are front-of-mind for nonprofits, philanthropists and local policy makers: charitable giving and the 2020 Census.

Last year, Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits had significant concerns about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that heavily reformed the nation’s tax code. One of the key issues for charities is the doubling of the standard deduction. That will reduce the number of individuals itemizing on their tax returns from 30 percent of tax filers to just five percent. The University of Indiana Lilly School of Philanthropy predicted it could result in a decrease in giving between $13 and $22 billion because of the loss of the giving incentive for millions of Americans.

We will not know exact numbers until the GivingUSA report is released later this month. Another report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project had mixed news. That study predicts overall giving to increase by 1.6 percent this year over last. However, total number of donors has dropped 4.5 percent since last year and the overall donor retention rate (how many nonprofits keep donors) has dropped 6.3 percent. Donors might be giving more but fewer donors are giving, and that is a concern related to the tax reforms.

Philanthropists and nonprofits are also concerned about next year’s census count. Oklahoma needs the most accurate count possible to ensure federal funds continue to come into the state. It is imperative that everyone is counted, particularly people living in poverty and children. Because the census is only completed every 10 years, a child uncounted could mean a drop in federal funds for the next decade, meaning dollars lost for programs that child may need well into adolescence.

While our summers are usually filled with swimming pools, camps and barbecues, OKCNP will be filled with more news to share about what is happening on the policy front. Next week, the Department of Commerce will be convening a group of nonprofit leaders from across the state to discuss our goals for the sector (and the census will be included in those conversations). I’ll be excited to share more about that in July.

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Marnie Taylor