Action urged to shore up nonprofits

The nonprofit sector, a major part of the U.S. economy, is in danger of buckling under the weight of rising need and dwindling resources, a new report says.

To stave off further economic disaster, Civic Enterprises recommends four ways to bolster the nation’s nonprofit sector.

The sector employs about 9.4 million people and hosts 4.7 million full-time volunteers, the equivalent of about 11 percent of the U.S. workforce, says the report, “Quiet Crisis: The Impact of the Economic Downturn on the Nonprofit Sector.”

To protect that workforce, which is larger than the auto and banking industries combined, the report recommends four courses of action.

Congress should pass the Serve America Act, which the report says would put 250,000 people to work each year in national and community-service roles.

The U.S. also should adopt incentives to encourage more giving and volunteering.

Such changes would include extending the rollover provision allowing older Americans to donate tax-free from their IRAs; increasing mileage reimbursement for volunteers from 14 cents a mile to the business rate of 58.5 cents a mile; and allowing taxpayers who do not itemize deductions to claim deductions for their charitable donations.

The report also urges creation of a “Social Innovation and Compassion Capital Fund” that it says would help nonprofits expand their services to those most in need, diversify their funding sources and create new programs building on the ideas of social entrepreneurs.

Finally, the report recommends providing nonprofit housing groups, including community development financial institutions, with a more significant role in the nation’s recovery from the housing crisis.

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