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Politicians Should Look Elsewhere for Endorsements and Campaign Contributions

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For more than 60 years, the Johnson Amendment has successfully protected the charities serving you, me and our communities as a safe space free to advance our missions without the rancor of partisan politics.  The law, proposed by Senator Lyndon Johnson and signed into law by President Eisenhower in 1954, prohibits churches and other charitable nonprofits and foundations from endorsing political candidates.

Some in Congress and the Trump Administration want to repeal or weaken the protections in the law. This change would allow preachers to endorse political candidates from the pulpit, but the impact and consequences go much further.  That is why we, along with the vast majority of congregations, charitable nonprofits and foundations, strongly oppose efforts to change the law – endorsing or contributing to candidates, even if by only a few organizations, would destroy the nonpartisanship necessary for nonprofits to effectively solve problems in our communities.

Watering down or repealing the Johnson Amendment matters to all Kentuckians. When the nonprofit sector is damaged, the people we serve suffer most. For nonprofits to be safe places where people of all parties join forces to enhance the quality of life for all Kentuckians, we need your support.

The current protection applies to all 501 (c)(3) charitable nonprofits – including the homeless shelter, child care center, animal rescue organization, art museum, veteran’s aid organization, nonprofit hospital, and your congregation. Your favorite causes would be affected, and partisanship would harm each one.

Your donations to charitable nonprofits are investments in solving community problems and caring for Kentucky’s citizens. The public’s trust is vital to supporting these investments. Allowing people to make tax-deductible contributions to groups who endorse or oppose candidates would erode the integrity of the nonprofit sector. It is in everyone’s interest to keep dark money out of charitable nonprofits and congregations.

Protecting the Johnson Amendment isn’t a free speech issue – advocacy and candidate endorsement are not the same.  Protecting the Johnson Amendment isn’t a religious issue – the implications reach beyond the pulpit.  Protecting the Johnson Amendment is not even a partisan issue.  For more than six decades, the provision to maintain a neutral playing field has been respected and supported by both parties. While nonprofits may take public policy positions that are favored by one group of elected officials more than another group, candidate endorsement or opposition is detrimental to the neutrality and integrity of the sector.

Protecting the Johnson Amendment is common sense.  Kentucky Nonprofit Network, our commonwealth’s association of charitable nonprofits, and the Kentucky Council of Churches, representing eleven denominations, call on Kentuckians to stand with us in rejecting any effort to weaken or dismantle the Johnson Amendment. Send a loud and clear message to Washington that partisan politics have no place in charitable nonprofits and faith communities.

Danielle Clore, Executive Director/CEO
Kentucky Nonprofit Network
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Rev. Dr. Peggy C. Hinds, Interim Executive Director
Kentucky Council of Churches

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An Unexpected Opportunity to Renew My Awe and Passion for Your Work

15 years. February 13 marked the 15th anniversary of the day I went to work as a professional temporary at UK to create what was originally called the UK Center for Nonprofit Management, then I became permanent staff as the work evolved to become UK’s Nonprofit Leadership Initiative and now we are the independent 501 (c) 3, Kentucky Nonprofit Network – your state association. For the most part, 15 years has flown by – I’m sure many of you can relate. There are days that have become routine and leave me questioning, “what’s next” – for me and for KNN.  And then, there are days that serve as an important opportunity for renewal and remind me of why I am so passionate about you – Kentucky’s nonprofit sector.  I am grateful for these opportunities that remind me of why I do the work I do.  It’s you.  Your work is what inspires me.  

fullsizerender-1The afternoon following KNN’s successful 12th annual Kentucky Nonprofit Day at the Capitol, I boarded a plane to Washington DC.  Regardless of how many trips I make to Washington, I hope I never lose the feeling of awe as the monuments and Capitol come into view from my cab.  I never want to lose the incredible sense of pride I feel in my country when I visit.  I certainly never want this trip to feel “routine.”

 

I traveled to Washington DC to participate in a Charitable Giving Fly-In organized by the img_6868Charitable Giving Coalition. Along with KNN members, Guy Adams of Christian Appalachian Project and Mike Delzotti of Markey Cancer Foundation, and a few other “adopted Kentuckians,” I remained in awe of our Nation’s Capital as we met with Kentucky’s members of Congress and their staff.
fullsizerender.jpg I even ran into KNN members lobbing on behalf of the Affordable Care Act at Senator Mitch McConnell’s office – Emily Beauregard of Kentucky Voices for Health and Cara Stewart of Kentucky Equal Justice Center.

Our small, but mighty crew traveled from meeting to meeting – eight stops in only one day.  But I wasn’t tired.  I became more energized with each meeting.  I was renewed not only because we were urging Congress to expand the charitable giving tax deduction to increase philanthropic investments critical to our sector, but because we were also sharing important stories about the value of your work. Eyes were opened, brows furrowed in surprise and notes were being taken as I talked about the economic importance of Kentucky’s nonprofit sector – employing one in nine Kentuckians.  Heads were nodding in agreement as Guy and Mike shared their respective missions – how fighting poverty and conducting ground-breaking cancer research are essential to improving the quality of life in Kentucky.  It was a powerful day.  I realized my awe had shifted from the grandeur of Capitol Hill to renewed awe in our sector and an important reminder of my sincere passion for helping KNN members tell their stories. 

As the day wrapped up and the sun began to set, fatigue finally set in.  My awe, renewed passion and fuel had nearly run out.  Instead of taking advantage of the subway to hit a few of my favorite shopping spots before my late flight, I instead went to the airport to relax for a few hours (for those who know my love of shopping, I know – shocking).  I’m certainly glad I did because I got to have dinner with

img_6881Rep. John Yarmuth at the airport.   I promised not to bother him when he sat down, yet he wanted to know why I was in Washington and was eager to learn of the issues facing Kentucky nonprofits. Another opportunity to share the story of our sector and I was energized again!
 

 What could have been a routine trip to Washington, originally filled with awe for our Nation’s Capitol, became an unexpected opportunity to renew my awe and passion for your work.  Yes, I achieved my goal of successfully communicating the importance of charitable giving and made important connections with Congress members and staff that will be critical in the months ahead.  But I gained so much more – exactly what I needed on my 15th work anniversary.  I suspect many of you often hit this spot, personally or professionally, where you need to reconnect with your passion – why you do what you do.  If you are in this place, a spot where you need to feel awe and inspired – I hope you find what you need to keep doing your important work.  The days ahead will require all of us to be passionate about our missions and the larger nonprofit sector.      

As is outlined in our latest public policy blast, there are significant threats and opportunities at the state and federal level.  Our collective passion and unified voice is essential to advancing the sector.  I realize that for many who are fighting your own organization’s battles to protect or advance an issue, asking for your help with sector-wide issues is asking for a lot.  I promise to make it as easy as I can for you to stay engaged and updated.   

I share my little trip to Washington story with you because I hope you will find what renews your passion for your work, if you need it.  I also share this story as an opportunity to thank you.  You are the backbone of our communities.  I know you are skilled in touting the importance of your mission – but do you really take time to reflect on the power of what you are doing? The lives you are changing? The ways you are strengthening communities?  There are important stories to tell – whether they are stories about the impact of charitable giving on your mission, the reasons remaining nonpartisan is essential to your community effectiveness or how AmeriCorps is helping you serve your neighbors.  These stories deserve to be heard and now is the time to tell them.  

Your stories are why I do what I do. I hope you will take a moment to reflect on why it is you do the work you do.  And then let’s work together to lift our collective voice. It’s a privilege to stand with you.
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Executive Director/CEO

P.S.  An easy step to life your voice on an important issue – Sign on to the Community Letter in Support of Nonpartisanship.

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Advocacy is no longer optional

To our members – advocacy is no longer optional…

KNN has put out plenty of “calls to action” before.  We’ve asked you to join us at Kentucky Nonprofit Day at the Capitol.  We’ve asked you to email and call legislators and government officials to request support or voice opposition to legislation or policies that impacted the sector.  We’ve often urged (and sometimes begged) you to get engaged and form relationships with legislators so that, when the time comes, the sector won’t be “asking strangers for a favor.”  We’ve created tools to help you easily educate local, state and federal officials on the economic importance of the sector, as well as provided talking points on our efforts to streamline nonprofit contracts with government and update the laws governing nonprofits in Kentucky.

But my email to you today, this call to action, is different.  Why?  Because advocacy is no longer optional. Why? Here’s a short list (though not exhaustive) of issues your state association is closely monitoring:  

Efforts to Politicize Nonprofits

KNN is opposed to the repeal of the Johnson Amendment for a number of reasons (see some outlined in the articles below) – primarily because we believe remaining nonpartisan is vital to the work of nonprofits.  There’s long been confusion about what nonprofits can and cannot do with regard to lobbying and election activity.  Essentially, nonprofits (501 c 3 organizations) can (and should) take positions on issues and legislation, but cannot endorse specific candidates.  Politicians pushing nonprofits for endorsements would put nonprofits in a position that would ultimately put our missions at risk. Certainly, some of our members (some of whom are churches) may disagree, they are ready to jump in to electioneering.  But this is about more than the pulpit.  Read more on this issue…

Threats to the Charitable Giving Tax Deduction and Other Unknowns of Tax Reform

There are few things that unite nonprofits more than protection of our tax-exempt status and the charitable giving tax deduction.  As the federal tax reform process is expected to begin in the next few weeks, its predicted that tax reform plans are likely to reduce individual and corporate tax rates, cut down on the number of tax brackets, increase the standard deduction, and repeal the federal estate tax. Kentucky is expected to take up tax reform in a special legislative session.  Incentives for charitable giving will be a major topic of both discussions – proposals range from removing the deduction entirely to expanding it.  KNN supports policies that encourages charitable giving to invest in the work of nonprofits.  Read more…

Early Discussion on Federal Spending Cuts 

The federal spending plan for the remainder of this fiscal year is unclear, but details are emerging for budget proposals for FY 2018 beginning on October 1. Administration officials have suggested that the President will seek to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years, with most of the spending cuts coming from domestic programs.  Many of the spending cuts being considered are troubling to nonprofits (and communities), including the possibility of eliminating the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women Grants, abolishing the Legal Services Corporation, reducing funding for DOJ’s Civil Rights division, privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and eliminating both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A steep reduction in domestic spending would have significant implications for Kentucky’s budget, since a large portion of the state’s spending comes from federal appropriations and block grants. Of course, KNN will keep you posted as proposals become public.

So, what am I asking you to do?

  1. Get informed.  Read up on the issues mentioned above; know your state legislators and members of Congress – if you haven’t already, know how to contact them and the Governor; check out KNN’s 2017 public policy agenda and legislative priorities.
  2. Get engaged. Secure support of your board of directors to clarify your organization’s own public policy priorities, as well as those of the sector; register to stand with the sector on February 14 at Kentucky Nonprofit Day at the Capitol.
  3. Get others on board. Please help us strengthen the sector’s unified voice.  Reach out to a colleague of yours and ask them to stand with us – to become a KNN member, to attend Kentucky Nonprofit Day at the Capitol or both!

And if you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, you are not alone.  I urge you to join me in taking deliberate steps to take care of yourself and support your team during these uncertain times.  To stop the unending (and often upsetting) distractions throughout the work day, I tried avoiding social media and news until the end of my day.  Well, then I couldn’t sleep.  I certainly don’t have the right answer yet, but here are a few resources on staying focused and avoiding “psychological devastation in your newsfeed.”

I’m grateful we have each other.  You need us – KNN is here as your state association, to look out for the sector’s collective best interests and keep you informed.  And we need you – we can’t do this work without you.  What you are seeing and experiencing on the front lines is important – please, let us hear from you.

In summary, I know your organization has its own priorities and these may or may not include legislative or public policy priorities.  I also know you are busy and likely struggling with limited resources.  I get it – I truly do.  But make no mistake about it – the sector’s priorities must now be your priorities too.  Let’s stand together in Kentucky and with nonprofits across the nation to keep pushing ahead, to let our voice be heard and to take advantage of this critical opportunity to educate policy makers and the public on vital role and importance of the nonprofit sector.

Advocacy is no longer optional.  

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Changes to KY’s Political Landscape

On November 8, Kentucky secured what’s being referred to as a “trifecta” – a GOP controlled House, Senate and Governor’s Office. Republicans picked up a net of 17 seats in the Kentucky House and for the first time in nearly a century, have a supermajority of 64-36 and a new speaker in Rep. Jeff Hoover.

Check out the full list of those elected in this article from CN|2.

In Kentucky’s federal races, all incumbent lawmakers were re-elected or uncontested and a new Congressman, James Comer was elected to replace retiring U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield.

By most accounts, Kentucky’s landslide results and Donald J. Trump’s election as our 45th president were unexpected and leave many nonprofit leaders asking: what now?  There are any number of articles attempting to predict the impact of the presidential race on the sector.  The National Council of Nonprofits has created a great overview.

But we know that the action is in the states.  And for certain, it’s a different landscape now in Kentucky. As we prepare for the upcoming session of the General Assembly to convene in January, your state association is strengthening existing relationships and connecting with new legislators to ensure the sector’s voice and the needs of those we serve is heard.  We are mailing an information packet to new legislators to introduce them to the economic importance and vital work of our nonprofit sector (yes, this year, there are lots of packets).  We are also gearing up for KY Nonprofit Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, February 14 a fantastic opportunity for you to connect now with your legislator and  invite them to join us for breakfast.

KNN continues to lead the way for a unified sector voice by focusing on the issues that matter to nonprofits – protection of the charitable giving tax deduction; a regulatory environment that supports a transparent and responsive sector, but is not overly burdensome; ongoing efforts to streamline nonprofit contracts with state government that builds on the final recommendation of the Government Nonprofit Contracting Task Force; and more.

To be sure your voice is heard, we invite you to take our member survey.  Your feedback will inform KNN’s public policy committee as it develops legislative priorities for the 2017 General Assembly.  Please let us hear from you before the Thanksgiving holiday.

There is much we don’t know and yet, still a few things we are certain of. We know for certain that nonprofits touch the lives of every Kentuckian.  We know for certain that nonprofits are critical to the safety, health and joy of our communities.  And we know for certain that working through nonprofits, Kentuckians can reconnect with our communities and rediscover what binds us together. We know that’s when healing can happen and we can unite to move our nation forward.

More than anything, know that KNN stands with you.  Our sector will face challenges and benefit from opportunities in the days ahead, yet the experience will be different for many of us.  Being nimble, proactive, responsive and focused is essential. We appreciate you and are proud to serve as your state association – your partner.

Danielle

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It’s Why We Exist…

Even though the Kentucky General Assembly isn’t in session, I’ve learned that there is plenty of activity to keep Frankfort buzzing during the summer.

Work around the Government Nonprofit Contracting Task Force has kept me at the Capitol more than usual this summer.  The second Task Force meeting was held earlier this week and will have four more meetings before the Task Force must submit its recommendations for next steps to streamline nonprofit contracts with state government.  While the Task Force has much less time to explore the issues and form its recommendations than outlined in the legislation, members are engaged and committed to, at a minimum, determining how this important work to save government and nonprofits time and money should continue beyond the revised report due date of December 1, 2016.

I was also unexpectedly busy last week because of a letter KNN submitted during the open comment period for the Bevin administration’s waiver proposal to modify Kentucky’s Medicaid program.

If you haven’t read the letter – you can click here to read it.

Several news outlets reported on KNN’s letter and some opposed to the proposal have used member comments in the letter to fight for their cause. Sometimes things were quoted accurately.  Sometimes the quotes were not accurate.  Here are a few clarifications:

Why did KNN submit the letter to the Bevin Administration?

KNN was invited by Governor Bevin’s staff to meet on their proposed Medicaid waiver in June.  At that time, the proposal had already been released and meetings for comment had been scheduled around the state.  The community engagement piece was already included in their proposal, but the meeting provided KNN with an opportunity to share some of the often overlooked realities of running an effective volunteer program – the resources of staff and finances required for training, support, space, background checks when required, and more.  During the meeting, it was communicated that there would be some nonprofits who would not be impacted by this proposal at all because they do not utilize volunteers; there would be some nonprofits who are structured in such a way that they might be able to accommodate the potential influx of volunteers; and other nonprofits who would find great hardship in trying to help their fellow Kentuckians meet this requirement.  Concerns were also expressed about nonprofits located in rural communities.  Regardless of these realities and concerns, KNN committed to assist in whatever way we could if the requirement remains in the proposal and if the proposal is approved by the federal government.

Because members were also expressing concerns on this issue, KNN decided that formalizing the June conversation and directly sharing the member comments we were receiving was important to ensure these thoughts were “on the record” and submitted during the open comment period.

KNN submitted the letter because we exist to advance Kentucky’s nonprofit community.  Sharing the realities of volunteer management as a part of nonprofit management best practices and serving as a vehicle for member concerns is an example of what we do.  It’s our job.  It’s why we exist.

Is KNN opposed to or in favor of the Medicaid waiver proposal?

The letter is straightforward.  KNN does not have a position on the Medicaid waiver proposal or more specifically, we do not have a position on the proposed community engagement requirement. 

KNN’s letter included member comments received via Facebook and email. The only comments that were not included, were a handful from individuals who are not KNN members.  None of these comments were supportive of the proposal.  With the exception of a few grammatical and spelling corrections, the comments in our letter were not edited or condensed or rephrased because KNN’s letter served as a vehicle for our members – editing comments or choosing which to include or exclude would, in essence, be taking a position.

What happens next?

The Bevin Administration’s final Medicaid waiver proposal was submitted on 8/24/16.  If the waiver proposal is approved by the federal government, KNN is committed to helping connect our members who are interested in working on this initiative with state government. It is our hope that the letter was helpful to the administration and whatever the outcome, KNN is here as a resource.

In summary, I am so grateful to our KNN members who submitted comments via social media and email – it was my privilege to share their front-line experiences and I appreciate each taking time to comment.  I also want to thank those nonprofit professionals who took time to email, text and call me last week – 97% (yes, I counted) of these were in appreciation of their state association’s voice on the importance and realities of volunteer management.  Of course, we’ll keep you posted! And to those nonprofits who’ve not yet become a member of your state association – I urge you to join KNN and join the conversion.

Every day, I am reminded of the incredible opportunity I have as KNN’s executive director to work with such fine men and women leading outstanding organizations across this Commonwealth.  Advocating for you, for your vital work, for our sector – it’s why we exist…

Danielle

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Efforts to Improve Government Contracting Finally Underway

Great news!  The Government Nonprofit Contracting Task Force, created with the unanimous passage of HCR 89 in 2015, FINALLY held it’s first meeting today!

Please check out the press release to learn more.

This Task Force is important not only for organizations contracting with state government, but matters to all nonprofits and will result in savings of time and money that will ultimately benefit Kentuckians across the state.  A number of issues (including the recent special elections) delayed our start date, but we are ready to get to work to identify solutions to the unnecessary red tape and duplicative reporting that are keeping nonprofits from doing what they do best – serving Kentuckians.

The Task Force’s report of recommendations is due October 31.  A request has been made to extend this deadline, though statute requires a final report by December 1 (even if the extension is granted) – which means there is much work ahead and in a short amount of time..

Four nonprofit executives were selected to serve on the Task Force from a list of eight recommended by KNN.  These leaders will join me in communicating the issues facing our sector and are committed to actively participating with the Task Force to recommend solutions that will result in improved contractual partnerships – and ultimately improved services for Kentucky’s citizens.  I am grateful for their willingness to share their time and expertise!

I am also grateful for our KNN members who helped us get this resolution passed in 2015 and I urge you to stay engaged – we are just getting started and as the work of the Task Force evolves, I hope to hear from you.  If you aren’t yet a KNN member, now is a great time to join and stand with other nonprofits statewide to help us advance policy efforts that empower our nonprofit sector and strengthen Kentucky.

Stay tuned!

Danielle Clore
Executive Director/CEO

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Congrats to KY Gives Day Prize Winners!

I’m hitting the road today to take a much-needed vacation.  I hope you are planning to take some time off this summer too.  We all need an opportunity to recharge our batteries and I cannot wait to recharge mine with my family on the sandy beach of Pawley’s Island, SC!

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Photo credit to my fabulous sister!

Before I go, I’m thrilled to report that the 201 nonprofits participating in Kentucky Gives Day on May 24 raised $181,649 in just 24 hours.  I’m even more thrilled to report that the 2016 effort brought our four-year total to $1,113,105!

Congratulations to these KNN members winning top fundraising prizes on the big day! Their totals include dollars raised and prizes from KNN.

As you can see – some tight competition!  Other prize winners include: Toy Chest, Franklin County Women’s Shelter, God’s Pantry Food Bank, Hospice of the Bluegrass and Glean KY. Check out full details on the results!

This event was made possible with support of our sponsors: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Kentucky; Anthem Medicaid and Keeneland!  Our media partners were essential to getting the word out: Ocululs Studios; iHeart Media Lexington; iHeart Media Louisville; Kentucky News Network; WAVE, Louisville; WKYT, Lexington; WPSD, Paducah; WBKO, Bowling Green; WEHT, Evansville; WYMT, Hazard and Lexington Herald-Leader.  We were also excited to welcome a regional partner for the first time – Central Kentucky Community Foundation did a fantastic job of bringing twenty-one organizations to KY Gives Day and offering an additional $1000 in prizes to top fundraisers from their region.

KNN is proud to host this annual statewide day of giving in the Commonwealth and we are grateful for the nonprofits, partners and donors working with us to make it a success!  Stay tuned for news on 2017 – I plan to tackle that project and more upon return from the beach…

Danielle

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