As 2020 mercifully draws to a close, the public policy team at Independent Sector (IS) is deep in planning and budgeting efforts to set the stage for the new year. This is a ritual that, this year, takes on daunting challenges and promising opportunities. I suspect many of you are in exactly the same situation – with unrelenting needs to be met, financial uncertainties hanging overhead, and some glimmers of hope, however faint, about new starts on the horizon.
Looking forward, and as we shared with the IS Public Policy Committee in October, there is no higher priority for us than working with our colleagues across the sector to make sure that Congress and the administration (whether the Trump Administration before the end of the year or the incoming Biden Administration) get another COVID-19 relief package passed and signed into law.
We have been, and will continue to be, clear needs to do. The next relief package must include emergency provisions in broad areas like the Census, broadband access, childcare, and postal service to keep our communities functioning. It also must include emergency relief provisions specifically for nonprofits. In particular, the bill must improve and expand the Paycheck Protection Program to allow nonprofits, especially smaller nonprofits, a “second bite” at needed resources and ensure that larger nonprofits (with over 500 employees) are not excluded from this assistance. It also needs to expand upon the universal charitable deduction, included in the CARES Act, lifting the cap to incentivize greater giving and extending the benefit at least through 2021. More information about the full set of Relief4Charities priorities can be found in this letter, recently shared with the Biden transition team, and including over 4000 signatures from our sector. We also hope you will take just a few minutes to contact your Members of Congress urging them to act without further delay to provide this critical assistance.
We also know that, despite the strong champions we have historically nurtured at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, it would certainly be helpful to the sector and the communities that rely upon us if, during the year we have been living through, we had savvy, strategically placed, and sustained representation of our sector within the Administration. Over the years there have been many attempts to build a stronger relationship between a given Administration and our sector. Those efforts have taken many forms and have come and gone. The reality, as we know, is that the nonprofit sector is the third largest private employer in the nation, and is responsible for approximately 5 percent of the GDP and an indispensable partner to government in getting the people’s work done. We are born of and rooted in communities of all types, and we are more Despite all these facts, and unlike our colleagues in the business community, we have no permanent voice in the White House and no standing advocates across the many federal agencies that rely on our partnership to get stuff done.
We’d like to see that change.
About a month ago, before the election took place, the Biden team asked Independent Sector to explore what effective sector representation in a Biden administration might look like. Working with a core group of “A Team” players (Shirley Sagawa, Bob Grimm, and Nathan Dietz) as our drafting team and engaging a diverse set of leaders from across the sector and academia, we set out to develop an options paper for both the Trump and Biden teams. Our charge from the Biden team had been clear. Help us understand the nature of the opportunity and a limited number of approaches to addressing it. Don’t sell a single solution.
After three weeks of intensive work with the drafting group and representatives from the IS Board, our Public Policy Committee, the Nonprofit Infrastructure Investment Advocacy Group, and others, we developed two drafts and waited for a clear sign as to which one would move forward. This memorandum is now in the hands of senior Biden transition team leadership, and we are carefully and strategically choosing and mobilizing a small number of advocates to make sure that it is not lost amid the onslaught of requests that come in a transition process. As we have been told in our first follow-up conversation with the Biden team, we also need to be realistic in our understanding of where first priorities will be for the incoming administration. As if you hadn’t heard it before, getting a hold on the pandemic and re-igniting the economy are the first order of business.
But I come back to my earlier point, and we believe it is one the Biden team well understands. Meeting the urgent needs of communities hit hardest by the pandemic, by a tanked economy, and by structural inequities, is where our sector can best step to the plate as partner to government, job creator, and trusted agent of change. This is the nonprofit sector’s track record and, with time, we believe it is “the” case that will ensure our seat at the table in this and future administrations. Like all good things, this will take time and determined effort. We are ready, with you, to see this through.
Lastly, and speaking of “seats at the table,” I hope each of you will have a safe and soul-filling Thanksgiving – no matter how many folks (and it should not be too many!!) are around your dinner table with you. Come back rested. We still have a lot to do before the end of this year!