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What every elected official should know about the nonprofit sector.

In a few short weeks, your senators and representatives will head home to reconnect with you--constituents and voters who will determine their electoral fate this fall and in years to come. This is your opportunity to educate them about the charitable sector and the important role nonprofits play in sustaining a healthy democracy of active citizens, effective institutions, and vibrant communities. Here's what every elected official should know:

1. The nonprofit sector is critical to the U.S. economy.

* One in 10 U.S. workers is employed by a nonprofit organization.

* The 13.5 million nonprofit employees collectively earn nearly $670 billion annually in wages and benefits--salaries that support middle-class families in communities across America.

2. Nonprofits have been hit hard by the economic downturn.

* Nonprofit employers have struggled to keep pace with the increased demand for services brought about by the economic downturn and cutbacks by every level of government.

* Far too many have been forced to reduce employee benefits, freeze, or reduce salaries or even lay off employees in order to direct more funds to programs and services.

3. A strong and healthy nonprofit sector is vital to democracy, America's quality of life and our free society.

* Thriving communities depend upon the vast array of activities undertaken through non-profit organizations, including meeting basic human needs, promoting artistic expression, educating our youth, providing quality health care, protecting our environment, providing spiritual experiences, and speaking out for causes.

* Charitable giving and volunteering are tangible expressions of private initiative for the public good.

4. Public policy--including tax policy--can and should encourage charitable giving and volunteering by all Americans.

* While Americans give to charitable organizations for many reasons, studies show that tax policy greatly influences how much and how often people give. In fact, 20 percent of all online giving occurs on the last two days of the tax year.

* Unlike other tax deductions or exclusions, the charitable deduction encourages behavior for which the taxpayer receives no personal benefit. It is a means of enriching communities, not individuals, and capping or eliminating it would not make the tax code fairer.

* Americans understand that the charitable deduction is fair and important. An April 2011 Gallup Poll found that even among Americans who do not claim a charitable deduction, 62 percent are opposed to eliminating it.

When you meet with your elected officials or have the opportunity to ask questions of candidates at town hall meetings or forums, tell them that the nonprofit sector is important to you and ask them these questions:

1. Will you protect the charitable deduction and other tax incentives to give and volunteer?

2. Will you support the immediate reinstatement of the IRA charitable rollover and incentives for giving food, books, computers, and land conservation?

3. Will you ensure that nonprofit employers and employees receive the same benefits and protections under law as for-profit employers and employees?

Diana Aviv is president and CEO of Independent Sector in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit, nonpartisan network of 600 charities, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs.
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Title Annotation:ADVOCACY
Author:Aviv, Diana
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Date:Aug 1, 2012
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