ANN’s Position on the Repeal of the Johnson Amendment

The Alliance for Nevada Nonprofits would like to add its voice to the growing opposition to the repeal of the Johnson Amendment.  Repeal of the Johnson Amendment would change the character and nature of the nonprofit sector and limit the ability of nonprofit organizations to play a vital role in their communities by politicizing charities and foundations. Much of the discussion of the Johnson amendment has focused on allowing religious communities to participate more directly in the political process.  However, the proposed changes to federal law, including H.R. 172, H.R. 781, and S.264, would apply to not only churches and religious organizations but to all charitable foundations and nonprofits.

Current federal law does not permit 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations to endorse or oppose candidates for office or engage in substantial lobbying efforts. Removal of this restriction would lead to politicizing charitable organizations. The politicizing of charities would erode civil society and further deepen the divide between left and right.  In place of charities that serve whole communities regardless of political affiliations, we might see highly a highly political charitable sector, reduction in support for charitable activities, and significant duplication of effort.

In the past, organizations that have taken overtly political stances have lost significant support and trust when their political actions interfered with their missions. These types of activities have led to a huge loss of support for these organizations and diminished their ability to serve their communities.  Keeping overtly political views out of nonprofit organizations allows them to gain the trust and support of the broader public. Removal of the Johnson Amendment risks the trust nonprofits currently enjoy.

Not only does the Johnson Amendment protect charities and the communities they support from politics, but it also prevents large foundations and their wealthy donors from having too much influence in government. Repeal of the Johnson Amendment would allow tax deductible donations to be used for political purposes – effectively a taxpayer subsidy for the wealthy to engage in politics. If the law changes, the wealthy could set up foundations, gain tax benefits and then spend those assets on behalf of candidates and lobbying with little to no restrictions. The change would also allow existing foundations such as the Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Ford Foundation to use their considerable wealth to engage in overtly political activities.

Ultimately, donors would have no way of determining whether their gifts were being used for charitable purposes, or if they were just benefiting those running for office. Simply stated, these proposals would benefit politicians and political operatives and damage the ability for foundations and charitable organizations to serve their communities.

Legislative Bootcamp – Free Training

The 79th (2017) Session of the Nevada Legislature will begin on Monday, February 6, 2017.  Are you ready?  Do you know what you should be doing?

In preparation for the session the Alliance for Nevada Nonprofits has gathered information on the current Assembly and Senate for our members, which can be accessed here: 2017 NV Legislators

We are also holding a FREE workshop in conjunction with the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities and United Way of Southern Nevada:

Legislative Boot Camp: A Last Minute Crash Course in Preparing for the 2017 Session
Las Vegas, NV | The Innevation Center
Tuesday, January 31, 2017 from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM (PST)

Seating is limited.  You MUST RSVP to attend: RSVP HERE

The workshop will also be recorded and available as a webinar for those unable to attend in person.

Don’t forget:

ANN Membership Meeting, January 25th at 2:30 p.m.  Call in 712-432-3066, PIN: 159757#

 

Changes Coming for Nonprofits in the New Congress and Administration

With the likely change from government gridlock to fast and furious legislating in Washington this month, many nonprofit and foundation professionals are struggling to see how the pieces fit together and where their advocacy efforts can promote positive solutions. Our national network, the National Council of Nonprofits, just published a look at six federal issues of sector-wide importance that will likely be taken up in the coming weeks and months, and lays out what they mean for your nonprofit. We encourage you to read the article “Nonprofits Need to Stand Together to Push for Smart Public Policies,” share it with your board and other stakeholders, and be ready to stand up to defend nonprofit missions. Working with our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits, we will keep you informed on developments in our nation’s capital that affect the work of nonprofits in our state.

Learning Opportunities

Several Opportunities for Training are available in the next few months.

Lobbying Rules for 501(c)(3) Organizations (Alliance For Justice)

WHEN: Tue, Jan 10, 2017
TIME: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
COST: $35
REGISTER: http://www.bolderadvocacy.org/how-afj-can-help/workshops

This one-hour webinar addresses:
How the tax law permits lobbying for nonprofits
One easy step most charities can take to maximize the amount they’re allowed to spend on lobbying  [Read more…]

election-2016

Alliance for Nevada Nonprofits (ANN) asked the candidates for statewide offices throughout Nevada for their responses on 4 key questions in relation to nonprofit issues.  Please share information with nonprofit boards, staff and volunteers to inform voting for these offices.

Please take a look at the attached document for the candidates’ responses.  If they did not respond to our request that is also noted.

2016 Nevada Candidate Survey on Nonprofit Issues

http://alliancefornevadanonprofits.com/advocacy/6950/

Nevada Assembly To Recognize Nevada Nonprofits

ThNevada-State-Legislaturee Nevada Assembly will make a special proclamation acknowledging the many contributions Nevada nonprofits make to enrich the quality of life and strengthening communities in every corner of our state.

Friday, February 27
11:00 am
Nevada Assembly
Legislative Building
401 S. Carson St.
Carson City, NV

Nonprofit leaders are invited to be recognized in the gallery or sit with their state representative. You must be seated by 11:15 am. The recognition should take place some time between 11:15 am and 12:30 pm. Timing is dependent on the number of bills being read first on that day. When you RSVP, you will be emailed the Thursday before the number bills that will be read before the declaration.

Please RSVP so we can get an accurate count.

Thank you, Nevada nonprofits for the great things you do!

“Who Has the Time” and Other Questions on Nonprofit Advocacy

By David L. Thompson, Vice President of Public Policy for the National Council of Nonprofits 

A few months ago, a nationally prominent nonprofit leader said this to an audience of people from public charities and private foundations: “Nonprofits have a duty to advocate on behalf of the people who have no voice, to demand social justice.” Many in the audience nodded in agreement; others waited politely for him to get past his warm-up comments to get to something they hadn’t heard before. One audience member was heard muttering under her breath, “yeah, but who has the time?”

To many of us, the “nonprofits ought to advocate” message, as delivered by the above leader and many others, is a mantra without meaning. Everyone says it – preaches it, actually – but very few embrace advocacy as core to advancing their missions. The ought-to-advocate message is akin to hearing that you need to learn a new language. There are plenty of good reasons: cultural appreciation, enhanced communications, reduced demographic tensions. But most of us have other priorities and those reasons don’t push language learning to the top of the to-do list.

This is an article about nonprofit advocacy, but not of the “ought-to” variety. Instead, it relies on two bedrock principles to make the case for “every day advocacy,” which virtually all of us are already doing.

The first principle is that we in the nonprofit community are driven by our mission, our values, and our impact. Stated simply, mission is our motivation.

The second fundamental truth about us is that we typically see ourselves as problem solvers, as solutions-oriented people, as optimists. We haven’t ended hunger and homelessness yet, but we keep at it, and we keep trying new ideas to get to the solutions that work. We know that a live performance of a classical work, or of a brand-new piece, will not only change a life, but also the world; we believe in the transformative power of art. And faith, and education, and community engagement, and more.

Based on those principles, the answer to the question “who has the time” is … each of us. That is partly because bad policies are forcing us to divert time away from our missions. And it is partly because we are already advocating for our missions every day.

Recently released data from the Urban Institute in Washington, DC bring these points home. Responses to a nationwide survey of nonprofits with government contracts and grants indicate that Nevada is in the bottom third of states in which governments impose needlessly complex and time-consuming reporting requirements. This means that the time and aggravation that Nevada nonprofit employees spend on monitoring, reporting, and dealing with audits is greater than many other places in the Unites States.

To this problem, the question is less who has the time to advocate, but how much time could we save by working with governments to prevent duplicative audits, overlapping and inconsistent compliance procedures, retroactive imposition of reporting requirements, incompatible and inconsistent data collection, and a lack of standardization that inject vagaries into an already complex process.

Continuing with the Urban Institute data, governments in Nevada also change the terms of contracts and grants after services commence, causing problems for nearly half (48 percent) of Nevada nonprofits participating in the survey. Mid-stream changes to contracts that governments previously signed and agreed to honor is most vexing, in part because it often imposes costs on nonprofits that are then not paid. Such changes take many forms, including cuts to agreed-upon payments, redefined eligibility for payments, nonprofits instructed to perform additional or increased levels of service, and new reporting and compliance requirements with no additional reimbursement for these added costs. The time spent adjusting, re-doing, and fundraising as a result of mid-stream changes is time away from mission.

Is it effective to demand this time of nonprofit employees? Most of us think it is not, and many are working to fix this recurring problem.

One more data point from the Urban Institute survey is worth noting. More than half (55 percent) of Nevada nonprofits responding to the Urban survey reported that governments impose arbitrary caps on program administrative and overhead costs. Of those, three out of four (76 percent) report receiving reimbursements of ten percent or less for these necessary expenses.

Studies reveal that the usual range of overhead rates for for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations alike is approximately 25 percent to 35 percent. Yet, governments have historically treated nonprofit organizations differently, imposing arbitrary restrictions on reimbursement rates that undercut the ability of their partners to succeed on behalf of taxpayers.

Why? The most obvious answer is because nonprofits haven’t effectively advocated for fairness.

Unrealistic limits on reimbursement of a nonprofit’s legitimate costs undermine its efficiency, effectiveness, and ability to perform vital services on behalf of the governments. Worse, current policies on indirect costs force nonprofit employees to spend time raising funds to fill the gaps. So to the question, who has the time to advocate, another question is: why are nonprofits and their funders subsidizing governments? And importantly, how much time must we divert from our missions to fundraise for government?

Thanks to the ongoing advocacy efforts of the Alliance of Nevada Nonprofits and many other organizations, there is the promise of relief for some of the time- and money-wasting problems that are plaguing nonprofits in the state. Those of you who participated in the ANN webinar this summer will recall that last December the federal Office of Management and Budget published new Uniform Guidance (sometimes called the “Super Circular”) that will require pass-through entities (typically states and local governments receiving federal funding) and all federal agencies to reimburse nonprofits for their indirect costs. If the nonprofit already has a federally negotiated indirect cost rate, that is what the states and localities are going to have to pay. Nonprofits that have never had such a negotiated rate will be entitled to elect an indirect cost rate equal to ten percent of their modified total direct costs rate. In all cases, nonprofits will have the opportunity to negotiate and get paid a rate based on the federal guidelines.

Here is what the National Council of Nonprofits said about the OMB Uniform Guidance when it came out: “The new guidance from the federal government means that nonprofits should be able to focus more on their missions and should be under less pressure to raise additional funds to essentially subsidize governments.” The benefits are not limited just to nonprofits that provide services on behalf of governments: “In turn, charities with no government contracts or grants could see less competition for scarce philanthropic dollars.”

The OMB Uniform Guidance is a major success story demonstrating the value of nonprofit advocacy. But it would never have happened if nonprofit leaders focused solely on getting the duplicate forms filed and resubmitted, and spent any leftover time planning and engaging in fundraising activities. Many leaders over many conversations told their stories to colleagues, who recognized shared problems and did what nonprofit people do best – came up with solutions. That is the kind of every-day advocacy that is transforming nonprofits and their communities.

 

David L. Thompson is Vice President of Public Policy for the National Council of Nonprofits in Washington, DC. The Council of Nonprofits’ recent special report, Toward Common Sense Contracting: What Taxpayers Deserve, highlights ready-made solutions to problems Nevada nonprofits are facing.