Nonprofits Need to Adapt to the New Political Climate

Nonprofits need to adapt to the changing political climate.

Photo CC-BY Andy Blackledge

Republicans now control not only the White House, but the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as 33 governorships and, most likely, the Supreme Court in a short amount of time.

President-elect Trump has proposed or appointed a number of individuals who have made known their desire to end or drastically curtail many parts of the United States’ social safety net. This new cabinet and political landscape will require some adaption by nonprofits.

The challenges for nonprofits, especially those involved in advocacy, will become much broader and more intense. It may even be necessary to “reframe” arguments in order to persuade the new executive and legislative leaders to support those charitable and advocacy causes.

Nonprofit Quarterly has recommended four things that nonprofits should do as soon as they can.

Work on advocacy strategies and capacities. Be sure your board understands the importance of advocacy, now more than ever. Make your organization able to participate in campaigns to advance ideas and initiatives.

Collaborate across groups. Each nonprofit has its own mission, but by working with other nonprofits to support similar causes and initiatives, the community as a whole will be more effective.

Engage with constituents. Keep your supporters informed and ready to mobilize. This means communication has to go both ways, and your organization needs to be listening to its supporters and beneficiaries as well as its staff and board.

Keep your mission and vision in mind. Now more than ever, especially if your organization does advocacy, it’s important to stay on task while you collaborate with other groups and engage with your constituents.

American politics has undergone a sea change with the 2016 election, but nonprofits still have a very important job to do. It’s crucial that charitable organizations not waste time floundering but that they get even more active than they were before.

How You Can Stand with Standing Rock

DAPL protestors in Portland, Oregon

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By now, most people have heard of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the protesters that are working hard to prevent it from happening. These protestors have been radicalized or ignored by mainstream media, but in and of themselves they are an impressive group of people.

The protesters are based at the Oceti Sakowin Camp. This camp in itself is momentous in that it is a “first of its kind historic gathering of Indigenous Nations.” An assembly of this magnitude has not been seen since the Great Sioux Nation before the Battle at the Little Big Horn. The camp is a place where the leaders can meet to provide a peaceful and unified front sending a message of protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. They are entirely off-grid and rely on solar and wind power.

The Dakota and Lakota people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are the permanent residents of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. These people have lived throughout the Dakotas as well as Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska before receiving land in the Dakotas for their reservation.

Since July, when they learned of the project, the tribes have opposed the creation of the pipeline less than a mile from the border with their land. Significant parts of the route have religious as well as cultural significance to the tribes. This includes burial sites and other sacred locations that the pipeline and its construction jeopardize.

The tribes are united and strong in their protests because it is imperative to protect their lands as well as their water. Additionally, federal law requires consultation with the Tribes before final approval of these plans, which did not happen. The pipeline had two possible routes of construction, one near North Dakota’s capital city, Bismarck, and one near the border to the reservation. The route near Bismarck was rejected because of its potential to jeopardize the drinking water for its residents. The project designers seem to have no problem asking the Native Americans to take this risk, though.

The leaders of the tribes have attempted to meet with officials in Washington and have met with little success. All protests have been peaceful. To support the protestors at Standing Rock, there are instructions on their website. They are in need of supplies as the temperature drops as well as support from other U.S. citizens to show we do not want the pipeline to put them in jeopardy.

Big Changes Coming To the Nonprofit World

Nonprofits will find their missions increasingly important, especially those that work in the social justice field, with the new administration.

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Many of us in the nonprofit field were no doubt surprised when Donald Trump won the presidential election, especially those whose work is going to get that much harder in the coming years.

Given what we know about Trump’s plans, and with Republicans cementing a majority in Congress and among governors, we can expect that federal funding is going to get tighter. This will be especially true for organizations focused on helping marginalized people or fighting for social justice.

But, as the editors of Nonprofit Quarterly pointed out the day after the election, the world didn’t end and there is still a lot of work to be done. Maybe more work, depending on your viewpoint, but there isn’t really time to waste.

Though Trump won’t take office until January 20, 2017, his victory is already having effects throughout the world, so it’s important that we get down to work while there is still time to do some of it.

NPQ pointed out that, among other things, it important to take stock and make sure that lines of communication are open, between colleagues, between levels of organizations, and to the people and communities they work with.

Take the time to make sure that your organization is on the same page, so that when this new administration takes over, everybody knows what they’re supposed to be doing.

Now is not the time to crawl into a hole and lick our wounds. We need to take a look around at the situation we’re in now and do everything in our power to make sure that our organizations, and the nonprofit field as a whole, is ready for whatever comes next.

The scope of your work—and its importance—may increase, especially if your organization is one that meets basic needs such as food, housing, and medical assistance. But as nonprofits, we have to be able to adapt to whatever challenges and, yes, even opportunities, this election is going to generate. It’s not time to think small.

Nonprofit Profile: Union Gospel Mission

The Union Gospel Mission helps the hurting and homeless in Seattle.

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The Union Gospel Mission is a religious organization that works to serve the homeless in the greater Seattle area. Their mission is to “serve, rescue and transform those in greatest need through the grace of Jesus Christ.”

They do this by following a list of core values:

  • Bold and courageous
  • Diverse brilliance
  • Passionate urgency
  • Strategic effectiveness
  • Pursuit of excellence
  • Sacred trust
  • Innovative and scrappy

The UGM provides both emergency care and long-term recovery services to the homeless. They believe that as public money decreases to assist the “hurting and homeless” in Seattle, God is calling them to fill this need.

“We refuse to forget our poor and homeless neighbors,” they write. “Our programs awaken hope in the hearts of people overcome with poverty and homelessness.

The organization got its start serving soup during the Great Depression. Now, almost 100 years later they are expanding and caring for their neighbors in so many neighborhoods across the entire greater Seattle area.

The Union Gospel Mission is now seeking to expand its services. As their website says, “God’s calling us to dream big as the gap widens between human need and public resources. We’re expanding our efforts like never before—beyond Seattle to the rest of King County.”

The UGM fills the gap by fighting hunger, homelessness, poverty, and addiction and helping high-risk youth. They do this by partnering with local churches, other organizations, and the local government.

In addition to these services, they also provide medical, dental, and mental health assistance; youth and prison ministries; transitional housing; legal services; direct outreach to the Latino/a community; and more. The organization also supports an “Art From the Streets” program, which “provides instruction and space for homeless men and women to explore the arts as a catalyst for healing and therapy.” It also allows homeless people to connect to the community through artistic expression.

The Union Gospel Mission is always looking for donations of time, supplies and money. Visit their website to see how you can help.

Sad About Trump? Donate or Volunteer but Get Out There

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

For many Americans, the 2016 presidential election was perhaps one of the darkest days in recent memory. Even the most die-hard Donald Trump fans, though, would admit that this has been the most contentious, divisive election cycle in decades. Judging from the nation’s shocked reaction and the numerous post-election protests happening, there is a lot of collective mourning going on right now. But as Jordan Weissmann of Slate pointed out, what we need now is tikkun olam, acts of kindness, to make the world a better place.

Regardless of your political beliefs, you know that one of the key things that is bound to happen in this presidency is the dismantling of a large portion of the social safety net that protects our most vulnerable citizens.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes that the latest house budget plan would eliminate $3.7 trillion from programs that benefit low- and moderate-income households over the next 10 years. “In 2026,” they note, “it would cut such programs overall by 42 percent—causing tens of millions of people to lose health coverage and millions to lose basic food and other support.”

In order to counteract that, we need to reach out to charities doing the work to help those individuals.

Do some research, find some charities you believe in, and donate your money and your time to help those in need. The Trump campaign has promised that they will be actively working to counter LGBTQ protections, ending programs that provide food and shelter to the poor, slashing federal aid to college students, and undermining science and education. This is where charities come into play.

While philanthropy is not an adequate replacement for an actual social safety net, we can use it to take out some of the sting of feelings of defeat or be an exemplar of your religious beliefs. Government support is better than charity, especially during recessions, because the government can spend more to bolster society while donations tend to decrease, but we need to work with what we’ve got.

Donate, volunteer, do something to make the world a better place. It needs it.

How Does Piecemeal Minimum Wage Legislation Affect Nonprofits?

How does minimum wage legislation affect nonprofits?

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Cook County, Illinois, is raising its minimum wage, though not at the rate that Chicago did, meaning that the greater Chicago metro area now has three different minimum wages. That’s confusing, certainly and it can cause difficulties for people living and running businesses in those areas. But it’s also indicative of a much larger problem: the federal government hasn’t been able or willing to establish a nationwide minimum wage that allows people to live above the poverty line.

Nonprofits are in a difficult place because of all of this, too. The ideal nonprofit is one that can balance its mission with what is required to achieve that mission. For smaller organizations, paying employees can be difficult, and a minimum wage increase can make that even harder. But there is also an ethical question many nonprofits need to address: is the minimum wage to which your organization is subject high enough for your employees to survive? If not, can you afford to pay them more?

In places like Chicago or Seattle, where the minimum wage is increasing, being able to stay ahead of that increase is pretty helpful. If an organization can pay its employees $13 an hour before the wage increase is required by the city, it will be able to plan ahead, budget, and fundraise to meet that expense.

However, grantmakers are more likely to fund projects and services than they are to fund overhead expenses such as salaries and wages for nonprofits’ employees. CalNonprofits executive director Jan Masoka told Nonprofit Quarterly, “foundation folk quietly support minimum wage increases but seldom fund efforts to raise it, and they virtually never help their grantees with the transition and the huge budget increases it entails.”

Nonprofits are supposed to be thinking about what’s best for their mission and employees, not for profit margins or bottom lines. Nonprofits have an ethical obligation to pay employees a living wage, whether that’s the minimum wage or not. The trick is figuring out how to do that.

American Civil Liberties Union: Protecting Americans’ Rights

The American Civil Liberties Union has been fighting for our rights since the early 20th Century

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The American Civil Liberties Union is an incredibly important organization in the U.S. that protects the rights that are enshrined in the Constitution.

It was founded in the years after World War I to protect the civil liberties of those who were being rounded up and persecuted in the name of the fear of Communism. At the time, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer authorized the arrest of many Americans without warrants or due cause. They were kept in poor conditions and treated worse.

One of the ACLU’s first big fights took place in Tennessee when the state banned the teaching of the theory of evolution in schools. In 1925, when a biology teacher named John T. Scopes was charged with violating a ban on teaching evolution, the organization hired attorney Clarence Darrow for his defense.

The ACLU also fought against the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; joined the NAACP in prosecuting the Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court declared that segregated schools were in violation of the 14th Amendment. It also fought for women’s right to control their bodies in the Roe v. Wade, and continues to work against the erosion of women’s rights to safe, legal birth control and abortion services.

In one of its more unpopular actions, the ACLU defended the right of American Nazis to hold a march in Skokie, Illinois. That case cost the organization dearly in terms of membership and revenue, but it demonstrated that the ACLU really does defend free speech for everyone.

The ACLU fought for academic freedom and has since evolved to fight for the rights that are defined in the United States Constitution. It currently has half a million members and a couple hundred on-staff attorneys. Among other things, they work to “fight government abuse and to vigorously defend individual freedoms including speech and religion, a woman’s right to choose, the right to due process, and citizens’ rights to privacy.”

The ACLU describes itself as “ingrained in American society that it is hard to imagine an America without it.” It will become even more important in the coming years to protect the rights of each American and to support the organizations that are working tirelessly to do so.

Philanthropy Profile: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation puts its philanthropy to work all over the world.

Melinda Gates speaks at an event. Photo: JStone / Shutterstock.com

The belief that every life has equal value is what motivates the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They strive to help all people all over the world lead healthy productive lives.

This means different things in different places. In developing countries, this means improving people’s health and helping the lift them out of extreme poverty. In the United States and the Pacific Northwest, this means supporting and getting resources to those who need help with education.

Both Bill Gates and Melinda (French) Gates were raised in families that taught them the value of giving back to the community. “Both the Gates and French families instilled the values of volunteerism and civic engagement,” say the couple. “Our families believed that if life happens to bless you, you should use those gifts as well and as wisely as you can.”

With that in mind, in 1997, when Bill and Melinda Gates read an article about the children in poor countries who die from diseases that we have all but eliminated in the U.S, they knew they had to help somehow.

Later that year, Bill took his first trip to India to help administer oral polio vaccines. He then started talking about a world without polio and in 1998 they gifted $100 million for polio research.

Currently, the foundation gives grants in Development, Health, Policy and Advocacy and specific United States-based programs. It has headquarters all over the world and on six continents. It supports grants in all 50 states of the U.S. and employs around 1,300 people.

The current value of the foundation’s endowment is almost $40 billion.

The foundation specifically structures itself to be financially transparent as well as transparent with leadership and its decisions. It separates its asset management from its charity work. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust is the branch that holds the assets from the Gates family as well as contributions from Warren Buffet. The trust manages the investments and transfers proceeds to the foundation when necessary.

Today, the Gates Foundation works with thousands of partners all over the world. Its goal, as stated on the foundation’s website, is to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live.

Giving Helps in the Short Term, but Can Harm in the Long Term

Charity can help in the short term but harm in the longer term.

Disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy. Photo: a katz / Shutterstock.com

Americans donate a lot of time, money, and goods to charity, and that’s great. In 2014 alone, we donated $358 billion. But there’s a problem with this as well: sending aid somewhere isn’t always the best way to help with a problem. In fact, it can hurt after a while.

Following a disaster like Hurricane Matthew, recovery follows three steps: relief, rehabilitation, and development. The first helps people survive day to day, the second works to get things back to normal, and the third moves the community ahead. Development is supposed to look like people getting loans to open up businesses and help the community regain its footing. Unfortunately, that can be delayed by too much giving.

When we continue to send food, clothing, and money to areas that should be in the development phase, we hold it back. That’s clothing and food that isn’t being purchased from local vendors, which means less money actually circulating in the local economy. “Buy local” isn’t just a hipster catchphrase; it’s integral to keeping economies working.

The problem isn’t that Americans are too generous, it’s that we’re not generous in the most effective ways. After a point, the recovery from a natural disaster needs to move forward, and donations stop being helpful. At that point we need to shift our focus from giving food to setting up loans—finding ways to “help people help themselves,” as it were.

In order to make sure that our charitable nature doesn’t end up harming people, we need to think harder about how we’re giving. That means nonprofits need to develop better plans for helping people, even if that means transitioning efforts from one group to another. If your organization focus on getting water and food to disaster zones, for example, work with charities focused on development and pass the torch, allowing them to help get things restarted while you move on to offer relief elsewhere.

Charity is wonderful, but uninformed charity can be harmful.

Startup Connects Young Lawyers with Nonprofits

CariClub, a new startup designed to connect junior lawyers with nonprofit boards, is off to a great start.

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CariClub, a startup designed to link junior lawyers with nonprofits seeking associate board members, has just finished a successful round of seed funding. Among its backers: Henry Kravis and Paul Raether of KKR, Todd Gadress of Spark Capital, Ray McGuire of Citigroup, Scott Swif of SLS Capital Management, and David Schulhod of IM Global Films.

The newly acquired funding will go towards building CariClub’s social network. Expanding their outreach efforts will allow the startup to serve a wider range of industries and areas. The company already has an impressive list of corporate clients, including Davis Polk and Berkshire Capital.

Bruce Cameron, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Capital, loves the idea of combining professional development with philanthropy.

“CariClub is a valuable addition to our existing Corporate Social Responsibility efforts,” Cameron stated. “The support from the CariClub team and the seamless nature of the platform has resulted in an elevated interest in the greater good across almost every level of our organization. With CariClub’s help, we look forward to watching our young professionals evolve into engaged Associate Board Members.”

Thomas J. Reid, managing partner of Davis Polk, expressed similar sentiments.

“Davis Polk lawyers have forever been leaders in the nonprofit community,” Reid stated. “In CariClub, we have found an innovative company that can partner with us to create the next generation of community and firm leaders from among our young lawyers.”

CariClub’s prestigious list of investors has already earned the company widespread media coverage. Bloomberg Law wrote about the startup in early September, claiming that elite law firms are already circling the company.

CariClub has also been featured on NPR, The Huffington Post, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The company is certainly off to a spectacular start. It just goes to show the power of businesses and nonprofits working side-by-side to support the greater good.