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Everyone’s Mission: Advocacy

As of this month, the FY 2021 budget proposals from Governor Brian Kemp and President Donald Trump have both been released.

Predictably, the cuts outlined in each are fueling a great deal of pushback from nonprofits, cause coalitions, and others who understand the challenges facing our communities.

What’s happening

If you haven’t yet heard, Gov. Kemp’s budget calls for cuts across all state agencies – most in the 3-to-6 percent range, but more than 12 percent in the case of the Department of Agriculture – with the exception of certain enrollment-based programs like K-12 schools and Medicaid. (Significantly, the budget does allocate more than $350 million to give teachers a $2,000 raise.)

In addition, Gov. Kemp’s amended FY 2020 budget “seeks to reduce the state’s current spending by $148 million over the final six months of the fiscal year,” according to the Georgia Budget Policy Institute (GBPI).

Due in part to public pushback, the Georgia House voted on Feb. 19 to reverse some of the Governor’s proposed cuts, restoring certain funds for rural programs, health care services, child welfare, and public safety. Unfortunately, that still leaves $159 million in cuts to much-needed programs and services. (For more details on the Kemp proposals, check the GBPI’s characteristically thorough overview, including a rundown of how much, in dollars, each department’s budget is expected to lose.)

As for President Trump’s proposed budget, it contains a long list of domestic cuts, many of which were already rejected by Congress over the past three years. Among the suggestions, old and new: eliminate all federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, out-of-school learning programs, and environmental justice enforcement (among a drastic 26% cut in the EPA’s budget); end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and curtail student loans; and further reduce spending on essential services like SNAP, housing, basic disability assistance, and public health.

Why it matters

These budget proposals matter to all of us in the sector, including those who don’t get revenue from a government source: For example, even if your food pantry program is funded entirely by private sources, cuts to SNAP will increase the demands on it. That’s why it is important for all nonprofits to see advocacy as a part of their mission, and make their positions known.

Advocacy, for the most part, is about educating, and nonprofits can play a critical role in ensuring state legislators understand the issues from a front-line perspective. As experts in the situation on the ground, and as experts in a given field, we are uniquely qualified to assess the impact of a particular measure on the local community – and, as such, uniquely obligated.

Unfortunately, our policy research shows that many legislators never hear from us because (1) most nonprofits consider advocacy someone else’s responsibility, and (2) most nonprofit directors feel like they don’t have permission from their board to advocate.

Participating in public policy can make a direct and outsized impact on the sustainability of your organization and its results; in that sense, advocacy is simply a matter of good governance. From a leadership perspective, it does in fact make a difference when expert opinions, and critical information such as local statistics, are considered in the legislative process – and that makes you responsible, at least in part, for the ultimate outcome.

Advocacy is everyone's mission. We encourage you to raise your voice and lend your expertise to our collective responsibility.

Many of the state’s nonprofits and cause coalitions have issued calls-to-action in response to both the state and federal proposals – and as you likely know, the power of our sector’s collective voice is measured in the number of people we can speak for. To that end, we encourage you to:

  • Get involved with the coalitions aligned with your cause and priorities

  • Answer the calls-to-action of your fellow nonprofits; and

  • Reach out to your state representatives, get your supporters to do so as well – especially your board members – and be sure to let them know how many people benefit from your work, and why it matters.

As a GCN member, you’re already a part of the largest consortium of nonprofits in the state, and be assured that we’re speaking to state and U.S. officials on behalf of the sector. But the more we can give voice to the full ecosystem of nonprofits – from individual leaders, organizations, and donors to advocacy networks, working groups, grantmakers, and more – the more influence we’ll have in the Gold Dome and on the Hill.

Calls-to-action

Be sure to contact your representatives in the State and Federal Government to make your organization’s position known on the budget, and other pressing legislation.

For inspiration, here are two local nonprofits calling for pushback against this year’s proposed budget cuts. Please consider joining their campaigns – we’re all depending on each other.

► The Frazer Center issued this appeal in association with the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), which says that, “for the FIRST time since the creation of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, the Governor has recommended that zero new NOW/COMP waivers be created.” Frazer adds context: “Over 95 percent of the funding for the services Frazer's Adult Program provides comes from Medicaid waivers. Today in Georgia, 6,000 people are on the waiting list for this support.” They point to this step-by-step guide from the GCDD for those who want to take action.

► The latest 2-Minute Advocacy Ask from Voices for Georgia’s Children highlights the President’s proposal (for the fourth year in a row) to cut all federal funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which would end access to before-school, afterschool, and summer learning programs for 26,000 kids in Georgia alone. They’re asking supporters to tell Congress to reject these cuts; their call-to-action includes contact information for each of Georgia’s congresspeople.

Check here for a list of coalitions involved in policy.

Everyone’s Mission is a semi-monthly series on policy developments in state and national government for the Georgia nonprofit community. Please send us your policy updates for future editions: actions taken, alerts to share, coalitions seeking members, areas of concern, or even questions. 

Marc Schultz is communications editor at GCN.

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