As community nonprofits, we have an opening right now. Let’s not squander it.
The banking and business leaders who usually hold sway in the halls of government are suffering from a huge loss of credibility. This isÂ a great chance for community nonprofit leaders to step up and speak out. In the last several weeks, we’ve used our nonprofit voices to call for funding that helps the poor and vulnerable and for funding to the nonprofit sector. However, there’s been a "more for us" tone that hasn’t sounded too different from the "more for us" cries that every industry is making. As artists, educators, community developers and otherÂ community-oriented folks, we’ve tended simply to assert that our sector and subsectors should get funding. We haven’t done such a good job of explaining why nonprofit funding is a better economic stimulus than tax cuts. And although much of our funding comes through state and local governments, our nonprofit voices haven’t spoken up much for such funding in the package. The National Council of Nonprofits’ statement was an important exception.
We have an important message about community building and community nonprofits. We have a story to tell about the economic efficiency and power of funding at the ground level. We have ideas about democratic participation and community economics based on decades of hard-won experience. In the economic stimulus debate, we seemed to spend all of our policy energy on influencing what would be in the bill, and little (at least that I saw) calling upon our constituents to get legislators to vote for the bill. I believe that to be taken as seriously as we deserve to be, we need not simply to influence the substance of legislation, but also to lend our strength to make sure that legislators pass the measures we need and support.
Almost all of us are struggling with funding cuts, and human service organizations are faced with dramatically increasing need. But when we can, let’s try to use this opportunity for leadership to speak out not only for our organizations and our constituents, but for a fairer and sustainable society. Let’s not let this opening for leadership pass us by. –Jan Masaoka
* Car donations . . . you’ve heard about them but what’s the real story? This issue has a First Person Nonprofit article about what really goes on with them, and a story on the controversy and how best to donate your own car. PLUS: Succession Planning for Nonprofits of All Sizes (a fast, comprehensive read) and a 3-Minute Vacation with a mad cat. Enjoy.