The Nonprofit Congress, an initiative of the National Council of Nonprofit Associations (NCNA), recently released Voices From the Field: The National Meeting Briefing Book, a summary of six key priorities (the "Priorities") for nonprofits as identified by participants in Town Hall meetings across the country. The NCNA National Meeting is to held on October 16 and 17 this year in Washington, D.C.
- Nonprofit Organizational Effectiveness
- Advocacy and Grassroots Community Activities
- Nonprofit Collaboration
- Partnerships with Government and Business
- Public Awareness and Support of the Nonprofit Sector
- Social Change
The Briefing Book discusses each Priority in terms of Aspirations, Obstacles and Solutions. Curiously, the words "law" and "legal" do not appear at all in the 27-page release. "Regulation(s)" is mentioned 6 times, including in the following contexts:
- A priority is to have regulations built to support and encourage nonprofits.
- An aspiration is to have nonprofits speak with one voice regarding issues that impact the entire sector, such as regulation.
- An obstacle is that nonprofits are subject to excessive regulations.
- A solution is to adopt efficient and effective operational practices and accountability standards to involve self-regulation as opposed to Congressional intervention (such as most promising practices, sharing information and open sourcing).
Perhaps the impact of the law in affecting the organization and operation of nonprofits and in shaping the nonprofit sector will be given greater recognition at the annual meeting. While a great many leaders in the sector would prefer self-regulation to Congressional intervention, the keys to obtaining such solution lie in educating staff and board members about existing laws and the importance of legal compliance. While it may be understandable that many leaders of especially small nonprofits do not devote much of their time or resources to prescriptively address legal issues before they become problems (because they want to devote as much of their resources as possible to programmatic activities), it is no longer acceptable. Too many leaders of organizations operate without adequate knowledge of the legal parameters of operating a nonprofit, inadvertently break laws, and jeopardize the entire sector and all of its beneficiaries in the long-term.
Although the Briefing Book may not address legal issues to the degree that I desire, it is full of excellent and enlightening information. I recommend that you give it a look and see if a few of the ideas raised may be valuable to your organization.
Click here for the full text of Voices From the Field: The National Meeting Briefing Book.
Quick Facts: The Briefing Book, citing the National Center of Charitable Statistics, reports the following distribution of (presumably charitable) nonprofits according to budget size:
- 44% – $25,000 and $99,000.
- 29% – $100,000 and $499,000.
- 8% – $500,000 and $999,000.
- 12% – $1,000,000 and $4,999,999
- 3% – $5,000,000 and $9,999,999
- 4% – $10,000,000 and above