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Nonprofits must speak up

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By Todd Cohen

Policy work needs more workers.

Flawed public policies underlie critical social problems, and nonprofits must raise their voice and push to fix those policies.

In North Carolina, a nonprofit-led coalition that includes banks, corporations and trade groups has urged state lawmakers for two years to increase to $50 million from $3 million the annual appropriation to a state fund for affordable housing.

In response, lawmakers agreed to one-time increases of $5 million last year and this year, and also agreed this year to spend nearly $11 million for affordable housing for the mentally ill.

These increases, while short of the coalition’s goal, show the impact nonprofits can have by forming alliances and getting involved in the political process.

Many nonprofits shy away from advocacy work, concluding they lack the time, resources or know-how, or fearing activism will hurt their funding.

Or they limit their advocacy to issues in their own field, or to those that affect the business of nonprofits as a sector.

But many social issues, like homelessness and mental illness, affect all communities and often are interconnected.

By speaking up and working together on a broad range of social issues, nonprofits can help make change happen.


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

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