16 Mar Keep our nonprofits nonpartisan
Meals served to hungry people of all ages. Job training for those aiming to earn a better wage. Therapies and education for children with disabilities provided by skilled and caring professionals. Inspiring theatrical performances and works of art. Peaceful parks, enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors. Dozens of church volunteers deployed to clean up yards, repair roofs, install wheelchair ramps.
As director of the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy, I have the privilege of seeing the power of the nonprofit sector at work in our community, fueled by charitable dollars. Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy members, who include many of Greenville County’s foundations, corporate funders, and giving programs, provide nearly $30 million a year to hundreds of nonprofit organizations – classified by the IRS as 501(c)3 tax exempt public charities.
These nonprofits make Greenville County (and communities throughout the state) the place we are proud to call home. In the midst of partisan rancor and a world in which it seems we are increasingly divided, our nonprofit organizations bring us together.
But a proposal being considered behind closed doors in Congress threatens to contaminate this collaborative nonprofit world with partisan politics.
As Congressional leaders work to finalize the bill that will fund our federal government – which must pass by March 24th – special interests are working to add language that will allow nonprofits to engage in electoral politics.
Why would this change matter?
Why would you want your house of worship and the nonprofits where you volunteer and donate – sanctuaries where we currently unite for good – to be divided by the toxic partisanship that surround us?
Why would we allow candidates to pressure charitable organizations for endorsements and contributions and invite special interest money to undermine and distract nonprofits from their missions?
For decades, charities and faith organizations have been protected from politics, thanks to the Johnson Amendment, a longstanding law that protects 501(c)(3) organizations and their donors from demands from candidates for public office for political endorsements and other campaign involvement. In late 2017 when the tax reform bill was under debate, attempts to repeal the Johnson Amendment were attempted, but finally thwarted as more than 10,000 nonprofits and faith organizations from around the country voiced their opposition.
But special interests who want to politicize our charities are at it again, trying to insert anti-Johnson Amendment language into the enormous Congressional spending bill. In a state like South Carolina where our per capita donations of time and money far exceed national averages, we would ALL feel the impact of politics injected in our churches and charities.
If you’d like your donations and volunteer hours used for feeding the hungry, healing the sick, teaching and caring for our children and seniors, and infusing art and preserving greenspace in our world rather than for partisan politics, then the Johnson Amendment as it stands is working for you, too. Learn more at www.givevoice.org and learn more about lobbying rules for nonprofits and foundations.