It Takes More than Roads and Bridges – and More than One Bill

On November 15, Independent Sector, alongside our extraordinary partners at KABOOM!, was proud to represent the work – and the voices – of the Nonprofit Infrastructure Investment Advocacy Group (NIIAG) at The White House for the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure package. It was a day NIIAG had been working toward since May 2020. It was also a day to remember how much work remains unfinished.

Dan Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector, and Lysa Ratliff, CEO of KABOOM!, visited The White House on November 15 to witness President Joe Biden sign the Infrastructure and Investments Job Act into law. They are co-chairs of the Nonprofit Infrastructure Investment Advocacy Group (NIIAG). Photo courtesy of Dan Cardinali

Since its inception, NIIAG has been making the case that, just like roads and bridges, nonprofits are critical infrastructure in this nation. The pandemic has again made clear that nonprofit infrastructure – this incredible network of community-based organizations – provides perhaps the most trusted of lifelines into communities in times of crisis and change.

But, of course, we know that nonprofits are more than service providers. They put people to work (we aren’t the nation’s third largest employer because of our volunteer force). They equip community leaders to lean into the hard work of taking down, or building up, systems. And they are incredibly effective at getting people to vote, regardless of political affiliation.

Just likes roads and bridges, nonprofits need to be strong, agile, and well resourced – not for their own sake – but for the good of the communities and missions they were created to serve. Ensuring that strength and those resources, the vast majority of which flow to nonprofits from public sources, requires that nonprofits, like our counterparts in the private sector, are fully and permanently represented with “A Seat at the Table,” where federal policies that impact them are being made. To that end, and from its earliest days as a coalition, NIIAG has been advocating for a White House Office on the Nonprofit Sector to build the capacity and ensure the representation of the nonprofit sector in the federal policymaking process.

Creating this office, and strengthening this relationship between the nonprofit sector and the federal government, takes a campaign operating on two tracks. One track establishes the White House Office structure by way of an Executive Order prepared for the President’s signature. That Executive Order, prepared by Independent Sector and a drafting committee of over 100 organizations from across the sector, was delivered to The White House earlier this year. Remembering that anything created by Executive Order can be eliminated by future administrations, this campaign requires a second track – through Congressional legislation – to make these structures and provisions permanent. As she shared with us all at Upswell, Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN) now has draft legislation, which she intends to introduce in the near future, to do just that.

Campaigns like “A Seat at the Table” require many things. They require instruments like Executive Orders and legislation. They require informed advocates who are prepared, and willing, to make the case to policy makers, to their networks, and through various communications outlets as to why this change is needed and what it will deliver. They take time, sometimes measured in years. And they take resources.

But most of all, they take nonprofit leaders, like you, to say, “I want in – I want to be a part of that work.”

We want and need you “in.” This will not happen without you. Please take the first and incredibly simple step to lend your name to the “A Seat at the Table” campaign mailing list. Signing up allows us to keep you informed, engaged in the work, and part of this diverse and growing community of changemakers working to make sure their voices are heard.

Stronger with you than without. And much to do.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Administration, Civil Society, Congress, Infrastructure, Innovation, NIIAG, Nonprofit Health, Public Policy, Purpose, Voices for Good
Policy Issues: Civil Society Infrastructure