To say the least, 2018 kept the charitable sector occupied. On the public policy front, we devoted considerable energy throughout the year assessing the effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and keeping nonprofits informed about the latest provisions affecting our work and the communities we serve. We also had the honor of tapping a diverse range of thought leaders to discuss the changing role of civil society in the 21st century in an extended article series that appeared in Stanford Social Innovation Review. We also had the opportunity to cultivate young leaders and share wisdom from around the sector on issues that affect us all. To showcase a few highlights from 2018, here are the ten most popular stories from the year that appeared on the IS blog.
Very early last year, we got to share this Q&A with Alliance for Strong Families and Communities President and CEO Susan Dreyfus and American Public Human Services Association President and CEO Tracy Wareing Evans. These leaders of two of the largest national associations representing government agencies and nonprofits in human services came together to discuss the findings of a new report, as well as the path forward for the human services sector.
In April, Equity in the Center (EIC) launched their highly anticipated report designed to help nonprofit organizations chart their own path toward a race equity culture. In May, Kristina from our team spoke with EIC Director Kerrien Suarez, and discussed what nonprofit and philanthropic organizations can gain from using this new research.
In June, we launched our in-depth article series with Stanford Social Innovation Review highlighting the current challenges of civil society in the 21st century, and the role it has to play in helping us rebound from a time of declining trust in institutions. This post includes context on the series, plus links to all 24 articles that appeared in it!
In one effort to assess the impact of tax reform on charitable giving, we worked with TargetPoint Consulting in early June to survey 975 registered voters nationwide about their impressions of their own giving in 2018, the giving of those in their community, and about one potential policy solution. Later in the month, Allison and Ben from our policy team shared the results, and offered some analysis.
In August, we had the great honor of announcing PolicyLink Founder Angela Glover Blackwell as the 2018 recipient of our distinguished John W. Gardner Leadership Award. This is a tribute to Angela’s visionary, transformative leadership as a trailblazer who has been at the forefront of creating solution to spur more equitable outcomes for our nation’s most vulnerable communities. We also had the honor of celebrating Angela’s work in-person at Upswell LA in November.
One ongoing effort devoted to assessing the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s quarterly analysis of fundraising returns. Following the release of the numbers for the second quarter, Allison from our team explained why the numbers painted a bleak picture with a 2 percent overall decline in giving and a 7 percent decline in the number of donors. The findings were consistent with the decline projected earlier in the year by several organizations who commissioned research. The decline in giving also underscores the need for expanded (rather than reduced) giving incentives.
Early last year, we had the fortune of reconnecting with some alums of our NGen Fellows Program during the application period for our 2018 program year. In this post, we talked to the following alums from four different program years: Janet Arias-Martine, Terri Broussard Williams, Amy Lazarus, Scott Beale, and Kevin Bolduc. They each shared a little about what they got out of the program, and why they would recommend it to other social purpose leaders looking for an incomparable opportunity to grow.
Given the government shutdown that spanned the final days of 2018 and continued into 2019, it’s no surprise that our readers took a special interest in this look at the priorities the administration outlined in their budget proposal released in early February. Jamie and Allison walked through the highlights in the proposal, many of which fortunately did not bear out. Nonetheless, while some of the numbers have changed, you can see for yourself which components are still on the table as Congress negotiates the current funding bill.
Back in March, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) got a boost from an omnibus spending bill that funded the federal government through September 30. Allison summarized the good news for the program that came out of the process. Though not previously a popular topic of policy conversations, the federal program started to get more attention as 2018 was expected to usher in the first wave of public service workers who, theoretically, would be eligible to have their debt forgiven after making ten years’ worth of on-time payments on their student loans. Despite incremental improvements to the program, lenders are still struggling to navigate it. As of late 2018, less than 1 percent of the 41,000 workers who applied have had their loans forgiven.
As much as we’d like to take credit for launching the conversation about a new tax on nonprofits created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Beatles were way ahead of us all. Jamie and Allison explained how with references to three songs released between 1965 and 1968 that all but presaged the unrelated business income tax (UBIT) situation. This lighthearted piece and related resources serve as a good primer on the issue. But we encourage everyone to keep an eye on UBIT news early in 2019, and urge the incoming Congress to prioritize repealing the tax on nonprofits this year.