Building Nonprofit Strength Together

I grew up a Presbyterian. You’re probably thinking there is no reason for you to know that about me, or necessarily even care. You’d be right, of course. But, it is important to know that Presbyterians LOVE committees. They do almost everything by committee. And those who grow up in the Presbyterian faith, I have found, carry their love of committee structures into lots of others aspects of their lives.

So, it is no wonder that I love the role and work of the Independent Sector Public Policy Committee (PPC), and I have a deep gratitude for the hundreds of sector leaders (literally hundreds) who have served on the PPC over past decades. It also strikes me that we, as IS leadership, give them far too little public attention or thanks – something I aim to correct with this article.

The Public Policy Committee serves a critical role in shaping, vetting, authorizing, and assessing the policy work we do at IS. The leadership of the committee (Chair and Vice-Chair) is drawn from the IS Board of Directors, creating a direct tie between the work of the PPC and the ultimate responsibility of the IS Board. Our current PPC chair is Sarah Kastelic, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, and our Vice-Chair is David Williams, principal at Deloitte, LLP. The total membership on the committee this year is just over 40, most of them drawn from IS membership.

As you can see from the committee roster, this is an extraordinarily diverse group of leaders, drawn from both philanthropy, nonprofits, and academia. The diversity of experience and perspective is key not only to a good committee, but to keeping IS true to our deepening commitment to craft and endorse policies that build the strength of our sector and promote equitable outcomes for Black, Native, Latinx, and other communities of color, as well as rural residents. Our understanding of how to view our public policy work through a racial equity lens is evolving. In many ways, and thankfully, we find ourselves continuously learning from organizations represented on the PPC, many of them further along the equity pathway than IS. So, in addition to the other roles I have described for the Public Policy Committee, it is also a learning community.

The committee meets (virtually for all of 2021) three times a year and, when needed, will come together for a special meeting to address a pressing policy question or opportunity. Members serve one-year terms, with the hope that they will extend for a total of three terms before rotating off to make room for new voices and perspectives.

Our first meeting of 2021, held on February 5, focused on two core topics. The 2020 introduction of the Initiative to Accelerate Charitable Giving has continued to drive conversation in our sector, and to some extent on Capitol Hill, on the topic of payout rates and reform initiatives focused on Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) and private foundations. The committee discussed where policy changes might benefit the sector and where policy changes might prove most problematic. The IS team was also anxious to hear the thoughts of committee members on the highest value role for Independent Sector in this policy debate as it continues to unfold. The committee also reviewed the core IS public policy agenda for 2021 and offered its insights into where to place priorities and resources in what will continue to be a very busy policy year.

As I often say to our members and coalition partners, “we are stronger with you than without you.” Every policy challenge or opportunity we will face in 2021 will require us to strengthen our voice and our resolve as advocates. The IS Public Policy Committee is one way in which we try to build that strength. We welcome all IS members with an interest in the world of public policy to consider joining the committee at some point. So, if you are interested, please do reach out to me at We would love to have you.

And, once again, a sincere thank you to all those who have served and serve today. We ARE stronger with you than without you!

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Infrastructure, Public Policy, Voices for Good
Focus Areas: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Giving, Organizational Relationships
Policy Issues: Civil Society Infrastructure