Nonprofits Entering New Era

There is a new revolution coming to Colorado. Next week, all nonprofits will be encouraged to unite behind the “Nonprofit Congress,” a unique national effort that will endeavor to strengthen the charitable sector and influence social issues-and become involved in the political arena.

The Nonprofit Congress, (website) an initiative of the National Council of Nonprofit Associations (NCNA), was awarded $75,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to assemble America’s diverse nonprofit organizations under common goals.

Nonprofits statewide are invited to attend town meetings in Denver, July 17, in Pueblo, July 18 or in Grand Junction, July 19 to discuss and prioritize objectives of this enterprise. Arrangements and registration is through the Colorado Nonprofit Association (registration). So far, there are 100 town meetings organized across the US.

The “Nonprofit Congress” is the brainchild of Robert Egger (bio) who hopes to build the charitable sector in America. “We must change or die,” Egger predicts. Also, Egger challenges nonprofits to be more proactive on legislation that affects the nonprofit sector programs and clients.

An interview with Colorado Confidential reveals Robert Egger’s purpose behind Nonprofit Congress:

Q. If you are one of the founding fathers, did this idea come to you in the middle of the night or did an event occur that put you over the edge?

A. “I was in India, studying the Indian National Congress and how 3,000 British officers (the max they ever had on the ground) were able to dominate 350 million folks, on a sub continent for a century and a half!??!??!

I thought they had some grand strategy, but it was, frankly, surprisingly obvious….as long as they could keep Indians divided by race, class, caste, language, geography and fighting each other, then it was really quite easy. Then it dawned on me….that’s us, the nonprofit sector in America-fighting each other for scraps instead of combining efforts to fight common foes.

I came back to DC and hooked up with Audrey Alvarado over at NCNA, who shared a similar interest in making something happen. The rest is history in the making.”

Q. What is the result you hope to accomplish? How will the Nonprofit Congress give voice to the nonprofit sector when it comes to legislation, funding and servicing clients or causes?

A. “That’s the 1,000,000 dollar question. We hope to blast open the door to a new era of dialogue and action….and get the sector to grow up, on its own power and get political.

Big questions we hope to tackle at the Congress and that have arisen at the town halls include-do we need a new name to replace the tired and boring term “nonprofit”? Do we need a PAC in DC to fight on our behalf on the issues we share (legislation that would regulate our sector)? What is the role the sector should play in the 08 elections, the first with no incumbent President or VP in 50(+) years?

Mostly though….I want in-depth coverage of our work in every business page, in every newspaper in America. An educated public is our best friend….and now all they see when they look at us is charity or scandal!!”

Q. Why should the “average Joe or Jane” care about the issues that are being brought forth during the town hall meetings?

  A. “My favorite question—akin to a VT farmer, in 1776 asking himself, “Why should I drop my plow, pick up my musket, leave my family and fight for independence from Britain”? What does it mean to me?

Luckily, like the founding congress, we have our own King George in the form of Sen. Charles Grassley, who aims to regulate the sector, and we have little of NO real say in the process. We are 1/10th of the economy and 1/10th of the workforce in this country, yet we sit back and wait for stuff like this to land ON us.

We get no media coverage, we have no role in the budgeting policies of even the smallest city and the majority of the public thinks “low administrative overhead” is the way to determine efficiency?!?!?!?!

In short….we are ignoring the role we should be playing in this country.

Put more simply….EVERY “average Joe” community member or corporation is only going to be asked to do MORE with LESS unless we get our collective act together and get united. There is only one way forward….and that’s together.”

For more information about the Colorado town meetings or to register, contact Mark Turner at (303) 832-5710 x203 / (800) 333-6554 x203 or mturner@ColoradoNonprofits.org.

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Leslie Robinson

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