Democracy in Action Even Under Threat

To date, 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine, making this “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II,” according to Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In recent years, we have also seen refugee crises of this magnitude or larger in Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan, just to name a very few. Throughout human history and especially in the last century, organizations within civil society have been called upon to respond to these crises and hold up humanity when our systems and our leaders fail us. We are watching, in real time, a democracy fight for its very existence and as we do so, we know that we are all inextricably linked to one another. It’s not just the threats of nuclear war that make this acutely real, but it’s also the attack on our democracy here at home – whether it’s the longstanding plague of racism, the existential threat climate change poses, or the toll of nearly 1 million deaths from a global pandemic.

In this sector, we have a moral, ethical, and humanitarian obligation to respond to these crises. But people may forget that in order to meet the needs of any crisis, there are organizations that are here regularly engaging communities, addressing needs, and advocating for better systems even during relative “peace.” Leaders in our sector lean into our daily democratic values with the way we organize, advocate, self-regulate, and lay the necessary foundation for us to do all the life-changing work that we do. Without a thriving charitable sector, our democracy is fundamentally compromised in its ability to fulfill its role. It is this incredibly important tie between our sector and democracy that makes it even more vital that organizations, like Independent Sector, use our voice – a collection of thousands of individual leaders and hundreds of organizations – to directly engage in our democratic system.

This week, I will be doing just that by testifying before the Senate in a hearing about charitable giving. On March 17, I will join Una Osili from IS member Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University; as well as Susannah Morgan of the Oregon Food Bank, and C. Eugene Steuerle of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute to testify before the United States Senate Committee on Finance. The hearing, “Examining Charitable Giving and Trends in the Nonprofit Sector,” will be broadcast live at 10 am ET this Thursday, March 17.

The hearing is not just an opportunity to speak directly to the tax policy changes that can protect and improve sector organizations’ ability to meet our multiple crises and build a healthier and just nation, but also showcase democracy in action. It’s an important moment in time when our congressional leaders publicly hear from a number of sector leaders to understand how policy change impacts the communities that we represent. You may read my full written testimony here, and you also have an opportunity to submit your own written testimony.

Democracy is under threat at home and globally, but there are still moments and spaces for us to make our voices heard. I am immensely grateful to have the opportunity to address the committee and understand the responsibility that carries. Thank you to our Independent Sector members for entrusting our organization to be your voice on Capitol Hill, and to carry the responsibility of improving our giving and tax policies while so many leaders in this sector continue to do the heroic work – healing our nation, building up our communities, and meeting crises at every turn. We are all stronger for it.

Types: Blog, Policy Update
Global Topics: Civil Society, Congress, COVID-19 Public Policy, COVID-19 Response, Data, Equity, IS Member, IS Staff, Nonprofit Capital, Nonprofit Health, Public Policy, seat4nonprofits
Policy Issues: Nonprofit Operations, Tax & Fiscal Policy