The Wisconsin Nonprofits Association (WNA) considers advocacy for the nonprofit sector and its interests within the policy-making arena one of its primary purposes. Our Public Policy Agenda consists of two parts. First, the five Ongoing Policy Interests described below are critical to the success of the sector as a whole and to the ability of individual nonprofits to thrive, and represent the organization’s continuing policy focus.
Secondly, within these interest areas we will identify and prioritize policy efforts on an annual basis where we feel the best opportunities for success lie – as well as those issues that are already in or are about to be in play and which require our attention. The result of this analysis is the list of Current Priorities given below. This list will change throughout the year based on political and policy developments, budget and revenue changes and other unforeseen events that impact policy-making in the state and in Washington, D.C.
We invite WNA members, policymakers and the public to weigh in on these and other issues important to nonprofits in Wisconsin, and we urge everyone to join us in our efforts. We all benefit from successful nonprofits.
Ongoing Policy Interests
1. Advocacy Rights
Whatever their cause or purpose, nonprofit organizations have a clear right to advocate on behalf of the individuals and communities they serve and these rights must be protected.
2. Nonprofit Sector Growth
Nonprofits are critical to the economies of our communities, the State of Wisconsin and the nation. Nonprofits in Wisconsin employ hundreds of thousands of tax-paying individuals, pay wages and benefits and engage scores of dedicated volunteers in serving their communities. State and federal policymakers should consider this impact and seek ways to foster growth of the nonprofit sector just as it regularly does of the for-profit sector.
3. State and Federal Spending
Budget decisions affect all residents. In times of economic hardship, these decisions have particularly serious consequences for the people nonprofits serve and the communities in which they operate. These consequences should be taken into account as state and federal budget decisions are made.
4. Tax Policy
Nonprofits, by definition, are dedicated to the public’s benefit. Their work improves lives, strengthens communities and the economy and lightens the burdens on government, taxpayers and society as a whole. Tax policies, therefore, need to continue to account for the significant benefits which stem from the work of charitable nonprofits.
5. Government/Nonprofit Collaboration
Nonprofits perform work throughout the state on a daily basis on behalf of local, state and federal governments through contracts and grants. Governments and nonprofits must work together to ensure that these collaborative efforts are undertaken in an efficient, cost-effective and transparent manner.
1. Enactment of federal tax reform that protects charitable giving incentives.
Comprehensive tax reform is in play at the federal level with many critical nonprofit-related provisions included. We support the continuation of the charitable giving tax deduction as well as the numerous individual tax deductions and other provisions that impact the success of nonprofits by incentivizing donations. We also support making these provisions permanent as a way of avoiding the situation encountered in 2014 in which dozens of tax provisions expired at the beginning of the year and were not renewed until the very end of the year.
2. Implementation of new federal rules governing grants management.
On December 26th, 2014 new federal rules governing the contractual interactions of federal agencies and pass-throughs (including state and local governments) and nonprofits went into effect. These new rules contain several provisions that are meant to improve these processes and we are committed to ensuring that state and local agencies and nonprofits in Wisconsin are fully aware of and implement these rules as intended.
3. Establishment of an ongoing government/nonprofit best practices working group.
WNA facilitated small-group discussions throughout the state in 2014 with nonprofit leaders and key staff concerning working relationships and common procedures between nonprofits and state government. As a result of what was learned at those sessions, WNA recommends the establishment of an ongoing working group or task force within state government to be comprised of representatives from state agencies and nonprofits meant to address current inefficiencies as well as to proactively establish best practices. Similar efforts in other states have resulted in improved outcomes and financial savings.
4. Inclusion of nonprofit service providers’ input in State Budget decisions.
Entering the 2015/16 state budget process, the state faces a structural deficit of over $2 billion. We will seek to create opportunities for nonprofit service providers to be heard and the impact of their work on people’s lives considered as policymakers respond to this latest fiscal crisis.
5. Continuation of nonprofits’ nonpartisan election-related rights in face of IRS challenges.
In late 2013, the IRS issued a proposed rule which would have seriously curtailed the rights of some nonprofits to engage in nonpartisan election-related activities. WNA opposed several portions of the proposed rule and will continue to communicate with federal officials to ensure that any subsequent rule draft adequately respects the rights of nonprofits to advocate effectively, including during campaign seasons.
*Updated August 22, 2016