Nonprofit Congress can spur policy change

By Todd Cohen

Nonprofits throughout the U.S. have a rare chance to work together to shape public policy.

At regional meetings that will culminate in a Nonprofit Congress to be held Oct. 16-17 in Washington, D.C., nonprofits can voice their ideas about how to fix social wrongs.

Nonprofits fight social problems on the front lines, and know as much as anyone about the impact of flawed public policies on their services and constituents.

So the effort to enlist nonprofits in developing and pushing a national policy agenda holds great promise.

The challenge is to not limit the focus of the Nonprofit Congress to policies that affect only the nonprofit sector as a whole.

Instead, the effort should look at the broad range of social, economic and cultural issues that nonprofits address.

Accounting for roughly 5 percent of gross domestic product, nonprofits represent a powerful force in the U.S.

They also are a sprawling group with diverse ideologies and policy agendas.

If it can avoid the claws of the philanthropic-industrial complex that controls policy within the nonprofit sector, the Nonprofit Congress can help nonprofits find common ground and mobilize themselves to push for meaningful change in public policies that affect social justice.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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