As charities grapple with the economic crisis, their executives would like to see the next president take steps to promote giving and to strengthen the nonprofit work force, according to a report released today.
The survey asked charity executives what a new presidential administration could do to help nonprofit groups and their clients handle the economic crisis. Roughly 80 percent of respondents said “reinstatement and expansion of tax incentives for individual charitable giving” would be “very helpful,” according to a report on the survey.
Executives of nonprofit groups also strongly supported restoring the estate tax — which they believe would stimulate more charitable giving — and restoring or increasing funds in the federal budget for services that charities provide. Leaders of orchestras, theaters, and museums were the biggest fans of changes that would stimulate charitable giving.
The survey was conducted in September by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies, in Baltimore, as part of the Nonprofit Listening Post Project, a research effort that conducts regular surveys on issues facing nonprofit groups. It was based on responses from executives at more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations that focus on four causes: children and family services, housing and services for older people, neighborhood and economic development, and the arts.
The charity leaders also said they would like to see changes that would help them recruit and retain workers. At least 84 percent of executives said it would be somewhat or extremely useful for the government to provide funds for nonprofit training, forgive students loans for people who choose to work at nonprofit organizations; and provide special health-insurance tax credits for nonprofit workers.
Impact of Federal Recue Plan
The survey was conducted before Congress’s approval of a $700-billion rescue plan for banks and the ensuing sharp drop in the stock market.
Lester M. Salamon, director of the Center for Civil Society Studies and one of the report’s authors, says nonprofit executives would probably have expressed even greater urgency in seeking changes in government policy if the survey had been conducted in the past two weeks.
“Nonprofits are going to be called upon to absorb enormous demands and they’re going to need help to do that,” Mr. Salamon says. “We need policies that recognize the role that they are going to play in the recovery.”
The nonprofit executives had less enthusiasm for certain regulatory actions that the next administration could take.
Only 36 percent of the executives strongly favored creating a federal agency to represent and promote nonprofit interests, and only 22 percent said it would be extremely useful to have “community benefit standards” to determine which organizations could be eligible for tax exemptions.
Disappointment in Bush White House
:The survey found that the nonprofit executives were generally disappointed with recent government actions affecting charities. Only 12 percent said they thought that government policies affecting nonprofit organizations had improved over the past two years.
Peter B. Goldberg, chief executive of the Alliance for Children and Families, in Milwaukee, says he fears that Congress might make changes in response to the financial crisis that would make things even worse for the nonprofit world. For example, some conservative commentators have suggested that the Community Reinvestment Act, which encourages lending in low-income areas, contributed to the current economic crisis.
“I hope we don’t take it all for granted — that whatever changes are made, the nonprofit sector will just keep rolling merrily along,” says Mr. Goldberg, who is chairman of the steering committee for the Listening Post project. “It’s not rolling merrily along now and it’s not going to get any better.”
The largest organizations in the survey — those with revenue of $3-million or more — were most concerned about finances, such as reforming reimbursements under the large federal programs. The smallest organizations — those with revenue of $500,000 or less[—]were more concerned about federal support for nonprofit training and health-insurance tax credits for nonprofit workers.