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Bridging the Divide: What will your nonprofit do?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jennifer Blair
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Nonprofits can use their credibility as proven champions for the community (not one political side or the other) to bring unnatural allies together. Nonprofits do this all the time. For instance, a community organization seeking support for a bike lane learns to navigate opposition from those in the community who don’t want the bike lane. There may be legitimate safety concerns about how narrow the road will become with the addition of a bike lane. Listening to the other’s side’s concerns creates better solutions. Your nonprofit may have led many similar conversations. Your staff probably already has the skills needed to bring the community together to find common ground. Within each nonprofit lies the capacity to facilitate deeper listening, cultivate empathy, and champion better solutions for the community. In these situations, inclusiveness matters, too. If we leave out certain voices and perspectives, we haven’t gained ground – we’ve only reinforced our own beliefs, blind spots and all. Perhaps your nonprofit is already intentionally convening conversations that bridge the divide in your community, or can suggest ways that any nonprofit can do so. If so, we’d love to hear your story.

Another way to help depolarize our society is for charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations to remain strictly nonpartisan, as required by current federal law. That doesn’t mean stay silent – it just means maintaining credibility with both sides of the political divide so we can move beyond “dug in” towards deeper listening and modeling peaceful tolerance. Right now, 501(c)(3) organizations are trusted as neutral, safe places where Americans can escape raw partisan politics. Can you image how damaging it would be if in the future, because that law gets changed, charitable nonprofits are constantly being pulled into caustic partisan battles?

That future is all too possible. As we warned in an article GrantStation shared with its readers,legislation in Congress seeks to remove longstanding protections, plunging charitable nonprofits into divisive partisanship. Consequently, these scenarios could result:

  • Donors are scared away from giving to any nonprofits because they learn that some nonprofits divert donations to support political candidates.
  • Foundations withhold funding from nonprofits that don’t align with their political views.
  • Other donors try to pressure nonprofits to endorse candidates for political office, using their donations as leverage. (Think this through: How can you possibly keep multiple donors happy when they have competing views of who should win the primary or general elections at local, state, and federal levels?)
  • Political candidates and their operatives hound nonprofits for endorsements and campaign contributions, and don’t take “no” for an answer because the protections of current law are no longer in place.
  • Board members are diverted from missions, arguing over which candidates to endorse.
  • The public’s trust in the nonprofit sector vanishes as nonprofits end up as rancorous and partisan as the rest of society.

Your nonprofit can take an easy step to protect itself and the broader community from divisiveness: simply insist that the current laws requiring nonprofits to keep away from partisan electioneering remain in place. You can join more than 5,400 charitable nonprofits, houses of worship, and foundations from all 50 states by signing the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship. Learn more at Givevoice.org. You can also write your own letter – send a Tweet – call your Congressional delegation’s offices, or all of the above! Even better is to make sure your elected officials in Congress know that your nonprofit wants to remain nonpartisan by dropping by your elected officials’ home district offices before Labor Day to express why remaining nonpartisan is so important to your nonprofit’s mission. While you are visiting the district office, don’t forget to remind them what a terrific resource your nonprofit can be on matters relating to its mission. 



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