Introducing the Nonprofit Federal Issues Coalition
As citizens and leaders, we have begun to see prospects for the nonprofit sector take shape through the executive orders, policy prescriptions, and budget proposals of the new federal administration. There has been well-founded anxiety over the intent to roll back decades of hard-won progress in areas like public health, economic justice, civil rights, environmental protection, and more. There has been alarm about promised budget cuts that will have a negative impact on our bottom lines. At the same time, there has been hope: The collective will of people across the U.S. – to march, to fill town halls, and to flood endangered organizations with support – is making a powerful grassroots counterbalance to the forces coming at us from above.
Though faced with wave after wave of new challenges, the nonprofit sector is poised to seize the opportunities riding in their wake. The surge in civic engagement among Americans, and around the world, brings with it a growing appetite for facts that might otherwise be obscured or even suppressed, for calls to action both practical and financial, and for the chance to find allies and share strengths. In this target-rich environment, it’s incumbent upon us to expand our understanding of the mission and its demands – to fully realize [to realize anew] the importance of our expertise and mobilizing power.
How can nonprofits most effectively respond to this array of challenges and opportunities? How can we best influence federal policy decisions impacting our work, our resources, our talent, and the people we work for? How do we stand up for Georgia’s nonprofits?
Individually, most nonprofit organizations are quite small, with limited resources, experience, and bandwidth for advocacy. Our tendency is to divide ourselves, and allow others to divide us, by cause area, budget size, geography, and more – often leading us to speak out on a too-narrow set of concerns. In so doing, we short-circuit our chance to unify behind policy matters that affect us all.
We must understand that, however small we might appear on our own, the sector as a whole is quite large. If we speak as one, ours is a voice that cannot be ignored. We will protect our missions, and the communities they support, when advocates from across the spectrum of nonprofit interests form a united front, communicating the scale of our work and our reach, and making it clear how much value we represent for our local and national economy.
In the face of current policy-making practice, which moves swiftly and with little debate, the only way to ensure our common cause is through joint leadership, decisive action, and an imperative to defend our shared interests.
We believe that this requires our sector leaders to undertake a “movement of movements” that aligns our efforts, magnifies our impact, and enables us to present a powerful case to elected officials, donors, and the public at large.
For that reason, GCN is proud to convene the new Nonprofit Federal Issues Coalition, bringing the state’s nonprofit leadership together to focus on the policy issues at hand, then organize strategic, cooperative actions that respond directly to policy-makers while rallying the constituents they answer to. Bringing us together across the boundaries of our individual missions, the Nonprofit Federal Issues Coalition will speak in a unified voice about what we know and what is right.
We began planning for the Coalition in two organizational meetings, exploring with a small group of nonprofit leaders the potential for a sustained, coordinated, strategic response to federal-level matters on behalf of Georgia’s nonprofit sector. Together, we reviewed current and possible consequences related to the White House budget proposal, identified areas of agreement, and created an action plan for top areas of concern.
The result was an initial, but working, concept of the Coalition, outlining our purpose, goals, prospective actions, and policy priorities; defining the elements that make for effective cooperative work, including point agency assignments; and proposing coordination protocols and other methods for strategic planning and communication.
GCN will serve as convener and provide a one-stop information hub for Coalition members, centralizing data and updates on our website. “Point guard” organizations, representing each sub-sector, will coordinate specific actions and messages among their peers that speak to three key audiences: elected officials, donors, and the public.
The purpose of the Coalition is to protect federal resources that enable
and advance the impact of nonprofits in the communities we serve.
To accomplish that, we will:
1. Mobilize for action: Our coalition will be prepared to mobilize expertise, people, brand reach, public trust, and other resources in a united effort to influence federal matters that threaten Georgia nonprofits, their stakeholders, and their causes.
2. Build and amplify a unified, trusted voice: We will give sector and sub-sector experts a greater role in local and national dialogue, positioning them to become known as trusted sources of information and prominent difference-makers.
3. Protect and influence resources: We will shepherd resources toward causes that are common, and critical, to all Georgia nonprofits.
4. Engage and integrate outside allies: We will engage non-sector allies in strategies that amplify impact and reach.
5. Protect sector interests: Our actions will leverage time and other resources to protect the sector’s values and interests.
The goals that these efforts will aim us toward:
1. To protect mission-critical resources that may be altered via block granting, increasingly prohibitive requirements for client qualifications or access, and other policies that raise barriers to services.
2. To coordinate a leadership group representing the sector-at-large around civil liberty and sector concerns.
3. To unify cross-sector responses to policies which are harmful to the state’s economic welfare, Georgians’ quality of life, and the conditions that promote a healthy society; or which fail to consider the unique needs of Georgia’s diverse communities, including rural areas, small cities, and large urban centers.
4. To quickly analyze policy, craft a response strategy, and drive action by way of a unique “brain trust” of agencies, each of which serves as a point guard capable of coordinating a network of efforts.
5. To amplify messaging through coordinated, strategic PR campaigns that provide facts, stories, and arguments backing up Coalition policy positions.
The work ahead of us, to be planned in concert with agencies that
receive federal funds directly or via state pass-through, are:
1. Coordinating the content of specific meetings with targeted Congressional leaders.
2. Catalyzing a proactive dialogue with foundations and the wider philanthropic community, including the associations serving their interests, to increase their understanding of the government-backed resources currently sustaining sector impact, engage them as partners in advocacy, and influence them to take direct actions, such as payout increases, that may help offset the financial impact of new policies.
3. Building “sightlines” to make critical interests and sector threats visible across sector boundaries like cause area, silos, and areas of expertise, and use that visibility as a tool for collaborative action among unlikely allies.
4. Creating a speakers’ bureau ready to provide media, donors, and subsector coalitions with data, context, community voices, and more.
5. Amplifying subsector voices and public engagement via a informational hub on GCN.org, which will serve as a central resource for fellow nonprofits, the media, elected officials, and the public; and through broader promotion of policy platforms, government lobbying days, local gatherings, mobilization efforts, and other outreach efforts.
6. Creating and promoting data on the specific economic impact of policy actions on the sector and the community at large.
We need to hear from you to advance this initiative.
This will ensure you receive the latest Coalition briefings and updates, and it’s also your opportunity to provide information for our Coalition “hub” on GCN.org, including your organization’s policy positions and analysis, the legislative meetings you will attend or coordinate on behalf of your sub-sector or cause area, and contact information for your advocacy team, media spokesperson, or other point-person.
Questions? Please contact us at [email protected]. We are eager to begin.
President and CEO
Georgia Center for Nonprofits