Last month marked another first for the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, when we teamed up with the National Council of Nonprofits to put on the first-ever Joint Policy Institute. More than 100 representatives of regional philanthropy associations and state nonprofit associations gathered in Chicago on August 29-31 to build and strengthen state and local partnerships across the philanthropic and nonprofit sector.
The Forum is the largest network serving philanthropy in America, and the Council of Nonprofits is the nation’s largest network of nonprofits. As the two national organizations that work directly with nonprofits and philanthropy on policy at the state and local level, getting our members in the room together for the first time revealed the potential power of working together better to respond to policy opportunities and challenges and to advance effective policy for the charitable sector at the state and local level.
The Institute offered a unique opportunity for the staff and members of both the philanthropy and nonprofit associations to identify how to tackle the most critical policy issues facing our field right now, strategize on how to improve policymakers’ understanding of our field, and learn about new ways to enhance effective partnerships between the philanthropy and nonprofit associations. One successful partnership highlighted at the Institute is one in New Jersey between the Center for Non-Profits and the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers. The leaders of these two groups, Linda Czipo and Nina Stack, just published a new blog post where they describe what makes their partnership work.
During the Institute, participants identified various ways to work together to combat continued policy attacks and burdens directed at the field on the state and local level, such as the imposition of new taxes and fees on nonprofits and the potentially devastating impacts on nonprofits from state budget crises and other fiscal challenges.
Participants also strategized on how to educate state and local policymakers about the charitable sector. During a session featuring a panel of state legislators from Illinois, several panelists noted that they’ve heard their legislative colleagues refer to our sector as “tax eaters” and a “black hole,” demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of the value and nature of our sector. We clearly have a lot of work to do to help legislators and other policymakers understand the vital role of the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, together with the business and government sectors, within America’s three-sector society.
We’re already hearing a lot from our members about what they valued about the Institute and how they are taking action as a result of the experience. In a recent blog post, Philanthropy New York President Ronna Brown noted that although her organization has worked quite a bit in the past with PNY’s nonprofit association colleagues, the Joint Policy Institute put them together for “three days of concentrated learning and strategizing” that you just don’t get back home and helped her organization to “better understand the priorities of our nonprofit sector partners.” According to Brown, the Institute’s New York contingent walked away with a set of “productive and concrete strategies” for working together over the coming year.
The Institute is part of a larger collaborative effort between the Forum and the Council of Nonprofits to help nonprofits and philanthropy work together in a much more coordinated way around policy for the good of the entire sector. The Institute was our biggest joint effort to date, and the Forum looks forward to continuing the collaboration.
The Forum would like to extend a big THANK YOU to everyone at the National Council of Nonprofits for being such great partners on the Institute. We’d also like to thank the sponsors of the Institute and supporters of the broader policy partnership between the Forum and the Council of Nonprofits: Coeus Global, First Nonprofit Group, The Joyce Foundation, M+R, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, The Nord Family Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, Weingart Foundation, Woods Fund Chicago and The YMCA.
David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers
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