Monday, June 2, 2008

Aspen Institute: 10 Nonprofit Policy Proposal to Strengthen U.S. Communities

The Aspen Institute issued a report today containing 10 "Ideas" to strengthen the nonprofit community.  Here is the introduction to the report entitled, Mobilizing Change:  10 Nonprofit Policy Proposals to Strengthen U.S. Communities :

Mobilizing Change: 10 Nonprofit Policy Proposals To Strengthen U.S. Communities, the latest NSPP publication, is a compilation of proposals of leading thinkers in the field who are working to address social problems and improve the lives of those in need through nonprofit-government policies. Some of the proposals include extending the deadline for charitable contributions to April 15, creating a Small Business Administration for nonprofits, and improving disaster relief coordination between FEMA and local nonprofits. The report summarizes each proposal and explains how it would work, who would be affected, and the action required to make it happen. In addition, for each proposal, there are links to related reports and articles including those written by the authors of the proposals.

The ten ideas are

(1) Generate Growth Capital for Promising Nonprofits by Creating a Social Investment Fund Network (2) Promote the Growth of Enterprises that Mix Business Practices with Social Missions by Creating a Special Tax Code Designation for Social-Benefit Enterprises, (3) Increase Donations by Extending the Deadline  to April 15 for Making Tax-Deductible Charitable Contributions, (4) Increase the Funds Available to Nonprofits by Simplifying or Reducing the Excise Tax for Private Foundations, (5) Improve the Viability of Small Nonprofits by Creating a Small Business Administration for nonprofits, (6) Advance Knowledge and Improve the Performance of nonprofits and Philanthropy by creating a Stategic Nonprofit Research Collaborative to support Independent analysis of nonprofit data, issues, and challenges, (7)Improve Disaster Relief, especially for low income and vulnerable people, by integrating local nonprofits and faith-based groups into official response systems, (8) Ensure strong nonprofits by recruiting, training, and retaining the next generation of leaders for the nonprofit sector, (9), Encourage public service by making a "Summer of Service" a rite of passage for every young person during the transition from middle school to high school, (10) Encourage the Use of Music as a development tool by creating a Music National Service Initiative, strengthening and expanding Music based public service.

I like all of the ideas, particularly idea number 2 and 4.  I'm wary, though, of top-down approaches to civil society.  I think it was Harvey Dale at NYU who once remarked that the strength of the nonprofit sector is, in part, because it is so undefined and unorganized.  If that is true, it is  probably better that groups like the Aspen  Institute advocate ideas for ad hoc adoption by nonprofits rather than attempt to organize . . . well . . . organizations.


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