Need seen for policy research

Public policy for nonprofits
Public policy for nonprofits

As the environment for nonprofits becomes more challenging because of high-profile scandals, rising needs, fundraising pressures and government budget crises, sector leaders see the need for more and better research on the effects of public policies on nonprofits, a new report says.

With about 1.6 million nonprofits in the U.S. that employ 8 percent of the country’s workers and generate almost $2 trillion in annual revenue, the sector is vital to the nation’s economy.

However, critical gaps in data and information about how local, state and federal laws and policies affect nonprofits persist, says the report, “Public Policy for Nonprofits,” a report by ARNOVA, the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.

The report was compiled based on a symposium, attended by 30 nonprofit scholars and leaders in early October 2010, that explored how public policy helps or hurts public charities.

Following two days of discussions, the group identified several areas in which additional research is needed:

  • Nonprofit financing – forms of financing, use of and dependence on government funds
  • Regulatory and tax policies – including the societal benefits provided by nonprofits in exchange for tax exemptions and charitable deductions
  • Models for creating and operating nonprofits – positive and negative effects of new forms of public-benefit organizations
  • Role in strengthening communities – understanding how nonprofits impact their communities, limitations that exists and “the boundary of public-policy engagement advocacy and political engagement”
  • Value proposition of the nonprofit sector – clarifying the “desired functions and benefits” of nonprofit organizations

To continue the work begun at the symposium, ARNOVA will convene a session for the academic research community at its 2011 conference Nov. 17-19 in Toronto.

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