Reflection from Independent Sector: Increasing Our Community’s Clout with Elected Officials

Early this week, the 2010 Independent Sector Annual Conference brought together more than 900 attendees from America’s most energized nonprofits, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs. The item below by VolunteerMatch president Greg Baldwin originally appeared in the Independent Sector blog.

For a sector dedicated to advancing the common good, we often  criticize ourselves for our own inability to organize to advance our common interests.

But there is hope. At the Public Policy Action Institute at this week’s 2010  Independent Sector conference in Atlanta we discussed why our voice is so often overlooked by government and what can be done to strengthen our influence with elected officials.

Audrey Tayse Haynes the Chief Government Affairs Officer of the YMCA moderated a panel on Tuesday with three nonprofit leaders working to challenge the status quo: Kyle Caldwell, President and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association; Daniel Fuller, Vice President of Legislative Relations, Communities in Schools; and Jon Pratt, Executive Director, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

To influence the state legislative agenda, the Michigan Nonprofit Association has established a permanent institutional link between the nonprofit sector and state government with a a bi-partisan caucus in the legislature to discuss and address issues impacting the state’s nonprofits.

To influence the national educational agenda, Communities in Schools has joined a coalition of 40 organizations supporting the Keeping PACE Act (S. 1411/H.R. 3343) to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to encourage greater community engagement in schools.

To influence the national legislative agenda, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is supporting Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act (H.R. 5533) which is designed to strengthen the federal government’s partnership with the nonprofit sector.

We had the opportunity to discuss the challenges and successes of  these initiatives and to be reminded of the importance of organizing our shared interests — because when it comes to government, if you don’t have a seat at the table you’ll probably end up on the menu.

To learn more and get involved please visit:

Michigan Nonprofit Association

Communities in Schools
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

About the Author

Greg Baldwin is the president of VolunteerMatch.

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