FirstEval-Melissa Kovacs

FirstEval

A Murky Line Divides Public and Private…

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Yesterday U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, MN-4, introduced legislation designed to strengthen nonprofit organizations and support their missions.  The Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act (H.R. 5533) will establish an inter-agency working group on the nonprofit sector as a whole and give the sector a unified voice in Congress.  Importantly, according to her website, “the legislation directs Federal agencies to collect and publish better data on nonprofits AND to support research that will lead to smarter Federal policy.” 

A few thoughts on this:

–          I learned about this legislation through an email alert from the Fulbright Association – a reminder that nonprofits come with all shapes and sizes of purpose, from soup kitchens to cultural exchanges abroad to religious organizations.  While some nonprofits with shared purposes enjoy an advocacy voice in DC, this bill may result in Congress viewing nonprofits as a unified sector.  New perspectives are always good for policy-makers. 

–          I am forever a fan of data collection that provides broad yet rich information.  While transparency sites like Guidestar give access to the financial details of nonprofit organizations and “reviews” of organizations, this legislation would ask the Commerce Department to collect data on the overall economic impact of the nonprofit sector on our national economy, employment information, and federal funding of nonprofits, according to the bill’s text. 

–          Democracies have different versions of the balance between private nonprofits and government funding of social and other services.  I.e. many European countries’ governments support social services to a greater extent than the U.S. government.  In turn, we have a stronger nonprofit sector that provides social and other services to Americans.  This balance is fluid.  Such legislation may enhance this important relationship between public and private.

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