Nonprofit reform requires common ground

To the editor,

Recent commentaries coupled with the ongoing debate over regulating the nonprofit sector would suggest that little has changed in the past couple of years.

A few years ago, I wrote to the Chronicle of Philanthropy asking how a small or midsize public charity could stay abreast of regulations and internal control issues when nobody talked about them.

Today, the problem is trying to stay abreast of the myriad of conversations about reform and regulations.

I would suggest that nonprofits of all sizes need a single website that they can access that is designed to help them stay abreast of these diverse conversations and ever-changing state and federal requirements.

Burying reforms and new requirements inside legislation that one would not expect to hold nonprofit issues, like the Pension Protection Act of 2006 or even Sarbanes – Oxley Act, is not a transparent method of promoting reform.

Except for those organizations and individuals who have a passion for this debate, it is my belief that most organizations only have interest in those issues that directly impact their operations.

Consequently, when one discusses transparency and accountability without acknowledging organizational self-interest, the efforts for reform will fail.

Simply put, the current efforts to reform the nonprofit sector, while noble, will fail because there is no common ground upon which to build success.

Passing new laws without a concerted effort by government or the nonprofit sector itself to foster ownership of the reforms through education and outreach will mean that many agencies will continue to remain clueless as to the need or obligation to change their behavior.

Additionally, any reform effort that is not directed at agencies of all sizes and cognizant of their diverse needs will fail because one size does not fit all.

John McGee, executive director, Family Relations Program, Gainesville, Ga.

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