Open Letter to Georgia’s Congressional Members
On behalf of more than 1,500 of Georgia’s top charitable nonprofits and foundations, we are reaching out to work with Georgia’s Congressional members and the new administration on the most critical issues facing our country today.
The charitable sector of our economy is a diverse community of organizations and individuals, including foundations, charitable nonprofits, social enterprises, issue advocates, and individual volunteers, reaching every corner of the state. Every day, sector organizations provide economic opportunities and quality services to the most vulnerable among us, help communities solve entrenched and emerging problems, and strengthen our civil society.
More than that, the sector is a critical building block of Georgia’s economy, representing 10 percent of the state’s private employment—and over 15 percent in some counties. An economic impact study conducted by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and Georgia Tech indicates that every job in the nonprofit sector results in two new jobs created in the private sector. We also generate direct economic impact by bringing grants and contracts to Georgia, attracting top talent to communities throughout the state, and improving financial conditions for beneficiaries—who can then contribute through increased purchasing power and tax dollars. In short, Georgia’s economy thrives in accordance with the health of nonprofits.
As you work with the new administration on its policy and spending proposals, we’re asking for a place at the table alongside members of the business community and our local elected officials. As your dedicated partners, we can offer two unique assets.
First, we provide important local perspective. Because we know Georgia’s communities at the neighborhood level, from Atlanta to the Coast, we make an incomparable resource for any leader seeking to understand the diversity of cultures, experiences, challenges, and potential that define Georgia. Moreover, nonprofits understand the critical economic needs of their respective communities, including both struggles and success stories. Thanks to the nonprofit organizations that collect data, the philanthropists who invest in their communities, and the local problem solvers who work with them, policymakers can gain a solid grasp of their constituents’ experiences and needs.
Second, the charitable sector has earned a significant level of confidence among the public, maintaining a reputation as a trustworthy and informed community partner. For more than six years, an annual survey from Edelman Public Relations called “The Trust Barometer” has found that citizens trust nonprofits above government and business agencies to tell the truth and spend money wisely. These findings were backed up by a recent national study conducted by a team of bipartisan polling firms—TargetPoint Consulting and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research—that surveyed voters to understand how they view the charitable sector, its interaction with government, and tax policies that impact charitable giving. They found that, across party lines, Americans believe the charitable sector should be entrusted to help government efforts addressing the economic and social challenges facing our nation, with 78 percent of voters supporting a bigger role for the sector, and 74 percent indicating they trust charities to use their money more wisely than the federal government.
Georgia’s nonprofit sector stands ready to work with legislators and the White House in promoting opportunity, empowerment, and prosperity for Georgians. The knowledge within the sector, including independent research conducted by nonprofits and philanthropies, can help government agencies tackle community issues with solid data, proven methodologies, and the best evidence-based and emerging practices. But, because any successful partnership is built on reciprocity, we request three important commitments from our federal partners:
Make our input known. You understand better than most that voters are frustrated with Washington, and that every Georgian wants their community’s voices heard in the federal policymaking process. With that in mind, we ask you to make it clear to your constituents that you will tap the on-the-ground expertise of the charitable sector regularly for guidance in domestic spending and other policy shifts impacting the services they depend on. We also ask that you communicate exactly how you’ll access the sector’s bank of human, social, and intellectual capital.
Seek first to understand. Many of the decisions ahead of you will have significant consequences for communities, and there is no doubt that leaders across the public, private, and charitable sectors will face difficult trade-offs as we work to build up the economy and improve life for all Americans. Before such decisions are made, we ask that you engage the sector to gain a comprehensive understanding of how each available option will impact individual communities and the most vulnerable among us. While our position may not align with yours for a given policy proposal, we can help ensure that you have a complete understanding of its implications.
Realize our capacity is not limitless. The sector simply cannot cover every gap left behind by continued government cuts: the need is already great, and our resources already limited. Our partnership will work best if the government can take action to preserve policies that promote charitable giving, contract nonprofits in ways that cover the full costs of services rendered, and understand that the nation’s safety net depends upon sound investment. Also understand that this partnership is not one sided: Nonprofits routinely raise money and in-kind resources to augment state and local resources, and we hire and deploy experts to ensure that services are delivered where the government cannot. Together, we should work to promote greater reach, access, and impact for the services that ensure every citizen can reach their fullest potential.
Thank you for your thoughtful attention and consideration. We are eager to continue this conversation with you in advance of the budget proposal to Congress. Our delegation of leaders, representing Georgia’s nonprofit sector, would like to set up a face-to-face meeting in your district, or in Washington, at your earliest opportunity. Please contact me when possible to discuss the details; we are very much looking forward to working with you.
President and CEO
Georgia Center for Nonprofits