(WASHINGTON, July 1, 2021) – Daniel J. Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector, issues the following statement:
“On July 1, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision on the cases Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta and Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta, concluding that California cannot require nonprofits to file donor information as a part of the solicitation process. The ruling protects diverse voices in our democracy, but also poses a significant challenge for preserving public trust in the nonprofit sector.
On one hand, the Supreme Court ruling reinforces nonprofits’ critical role in supporting pluralism in our democratic process. Carefully limiting access to donor information supports the historic role of nonprofits representing marginalized communities and unpopular voices. Although state officials are prohibited under current law from publicly releasing donor information, the Court’s decision further reduces concerns about the perceived or potential mismanagement of donation records in the future.
On the other hand, nonprofits continue to face the very real problem of declining public trust, exacerbated by high-profile cases of self-dealing and fraud. Protecting the public’s trust in the sector requires enforcement of standards and laws demonstrating that our organizations are ethical, accountable, and transparent. Nonprofit policy, oversight, and enforcement need more than anecdotes and narratives – they need data. Trillions of dollars flow through nonprofits for the betterment of our communities, and data about those resources is needed to develop effective oversight and policy. The Supreme Court’s decision determining states’ ability to access a small set of donor data as facially invalid should not imply a choice between collecting data or no data available at all. Independent Sector hopes this decision does not threaten the federal government’s authority to use donor information to guard against nonprofit abuse. There is no question: federal and state governments must continue to collect information necessary to enforce transparency and accountability of nonprofits.
The nonprofit sector accepts the challenges we face in making data collection processes more standardized and always protective of privacy based on both ethical and legal considerations. Independent Sector welcomes the opportunity to work with colleagues and policymakers to identify new solutions for effective oversight of the sector that balance transparency, privacy, and speech, starting with securing federal investment in a shared infrastructure to standardize and securely collect nonprofit data across states.”
Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse community of changemakers at nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs working to ensure all people in the United States thrive.
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