What Nonprofits Should Know About H.R. 1

Sometimes it becomes important for nonprofits, no matter what your mission, budget or history, to pay attention to what’s going on in the political realm. With proposed budget cuts that would eliminate federal funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service as well as other programs relevant to nonprofits, now is one of those times.

The Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act for 2011, otherwise known as H.R. 1, has evoked passionate reactions on both sides of the partisan dividing line. While advocates across the country fight for and against it, many are confused about what it actually is.

Short History of H.R. 1

Last year President Obama enacted  a provisionary budget for the federal government for 2011 that lasts until early this month. The government must now approve a budget that will take us through the rest of fiscal year 2011, which ends in September 2011.

The House Appropriations Committee proposed H.R. 1, which reduces 2011 discretionary funding by close to $100 billion.

The bill passed the House on February 19. Now it will go to the Senate, who will either pass it or propose their own bill.

The cuts proposed in H.R. 1 are a big step towards the smaller government promised by the new crop of Republicans. Additionally, many of the cuts address controversial aspects of the country’s social and political investments. It’s important to understand which programs will be affected by each of the cuts and what this will mean for the nonprofit sector.

Regardless of how you feel about the issues, it’s likely your organization will be impacted in some way by these cuts.

Since the 350+ page bill can be difficult to read through, below is a summary of some of the areas that will experience drastic reductions or will be cut completely:

Summary of Impact

Nonprofits are already serving more clients in need with less money and staff than ever before. Below are some of the areas of the government that will be affected by the proposed budget cuts:

  • Environment
    Cuts include land and water conservation programs, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, climate change programs, and slashing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by one-third.
  • Education
    The Department of Education budget will be cut by 16%, which will impact many scholarship and grant programs including the Pell Grants, which will drop by 15%. Drug control resources and employment training programs will also be reduced.

The Impact on Service

While all of these cuts will affect nonprofits across the country in one way or another, the cuts to Corporation for National and Community Service may be most relevant for you. The provisions of H.R. 1 effectively eliminate the operating budget for CNCS.

Without this funding, the Corporation would not be able to support the national service programs that supply volunteers to local organizations around the country. These programs would be severely handicapped or shut down – programs like Americorps, Senior Corps, Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity, City Year and YouthBuild.

Teach for America, for example, would have to cut around 1,000 teachers from its corps, dramatically reducing the number of low-income schools the organization will serve across the country.

If these programs do shut down or are limited in scale, many of the listings that make VolunteerMatch such a robust place to connect good causes to good people will disappear. In fact, the proposed budget cuts could eliminate approximately 1 in 8 listings that currently show up in search results.

If your nonprofit won’t be affected, many of your peer organizations will be. It will also become more difficult for volunteers to find the right opportunity. They could, eventually, end up discouraged and give up on service. No matter how you feel about the proposed budget cuts, no one wants that.

You Can Do Something

Chances are you and your organization have an opinion about these cuts. Whether you support H.R. 1 or oppose it, there are ways for your nonprofit to take action. Rally your community of supporters, show them that they can join you in supporting or opposing the bill. Call your congressional representatives, write letters, post blogs, use Twitter and Facebook to spread the word. Your community members will welcome your leadership.

If you oppose the bill, check out SaveService.org, which provides resources for you in your efforts, and the Save AmeriCorps petition on Change.org.

Most importantly, remember that you and your community have a voice! Use it to join in the debate over this critical issue.

Is your organization going to be affected by the proposed federal budget cuts? Share your story and what you’re doing in the comments below.

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