Many years ago when Ronald Reagan was President, his administration developed a money saving policy for the national school lunch program by declaring that ketchup was a vegetable.
My job at that time was to help low-income people gain access to high quality affordably-priced food.
I was outraged.
What’s happening now makes me nostalgic for those times.
If you’re working for a nonprofit in America today, you can’t help but feel that your organization and the nonprofit sector as a whole, is under siege.
Just looking at what’s been proposed as “tax reform” is downright frightening and, in many respects, threatens the very essence of nonprofitness.
What I mean by that is this: the proposed changes to the tax code are projected to reduce charitable donations by up to $13 billion annually.
And maybe worse, the potential revocation of the Johnson Amendment – which prohibits charitable nonprofits from endorsing candidates for office – threatens to open up a Pandora’s Box of problems across the nation by tempting wealthy donors to donate tax-free dollars to nonprofits as a way of funneling money to their favorite candidates.
That means Mickey Mouse could donate $10 million to the Home for Homeless Mice on the condition that it uses all of that money to endorse his favorite candidate, Minnie, for Congress. That would put the Home for Homeless Mice in an awkward situation since it wouldn’t be able to spend that money to help mice who don’t have enough cheese and a place to sleep.
If Mickey was a long-time donor to the home, the situation could get pretty ugly pretty fast.
The National Council of Nonprofits keeps a running summary on the details of the tax proposals and their potential impact -- an invaluable and much appreciated service. You can read their nonprofit impact summary.
As I write this blog, no one knows how it this will turn out, however Unisom is flying off the shelves at CVS, RiteAid and Walgreens.
(Note added two days after this blog was published: Thanks to the efforts of nonprofits across the country, the threatened repeal of The Johnson Amendment died in committee. A reason to celebrate and a reason to stay active!)
So what’s a nonprofit leader to do?
LOBBY! Yes, Virginia, lobbying is perfectly legal for charitable nonprofits. If you are unfamiliar with the rules, please go to my website and watch this easy-to-understand video.
Ask your board and staff to watch the video and take action
Tell your family and friends that want you really want as a holiday present is for them to make calls to Congress about these issues.
Tell your neighbors to forget the caroling and start singing the blues to Congress.
Stay in touch with The National Council of Nonprofits and your statewide nonprofit association to keep up-to-date on the latest news.
Then, when the new year rolls around, regardless of whether a bill passed or not, do it all over again!
Stay connected to your congresspeople. Make sure they’re educated about what you do and that they know you and your organization on a first name basis.
In addition, be sure to:
Tell your donors how much you love them and need them
Register people to vote in your community regardless of what kind of work your organization does (this is perfectly legal and won’t count against your lobbying limits).
Most important, try to breathe deeply, keep calm, and stay in it for the long haul. Society needs you, the world needs you, keep on doing what you do.
This too will pass.
Wishing you happy holidaze,
Pat Libby is a management consultant to nonprofits and philanthropies. She has served as an academic, senior executive, board member, and consultant to innumerable nonprofit organizations and foundations since 1978.
Get in touch if you have any questions!