CFORWARD: A NEW NONPROFIT/PAC PROVIDING A VOICE IN D.C.

By James D’Ambrosio

Nonprofits now have a stronger voice politically.

CForward, recently founded by Robert Egger —president of D.C. Central Kitchen and listed in Nonprofit Times’ “50 Most Powerful and Influential Nonprofit Leaders” four straight years — is a nonpartisan, 501 (c)(4) advocacy agency whose mission is “to promote the economic role of the nonprofit sector and supports candidates who include the sector in their plans to strengthen the economy.”

GOALS OF CFORWARD

Based in Washington, D.C., CForward has four goals:

1) Championing the economic contributions of the nonprofit sector;

2) Educating candidates about the economic contributions of nonprofits;

3) Supporting candidates providing detailed plans for partnering with nonprofits, social enterprise businesses, and micro-credit programs to create jobs and strengthen the economy; and

4) To help nonprofit employees, volunteers, clients and supporters use their rights as private citizens to: a) educate candidates about the economic role nonprofits play in the community; b) distribute information about candidates that include nonprofits in their platform; and c) work with private citizens to provide financial support and help elect candidates with a clear plan to partner with nonprofits to strengthen the economy.

WORKING WITHIN THE LAW, IRS REGULATIONS

Of course, tax-exempt 501 (c)(3) organizations are prohibited from endorsing  candidates for elected office, promoting a specific political view, or making campaign contributions. During campaigns they’re limited to impartial presentation of facts about candidates. Respecting these limitations, CForward seeks to leverage the power of nonprofit staff, volunteers and donors — as private citizens — to back candidates explicitly supporting nonprofits, creating an opportunity for 100 million people to become a  political force.

A MORE ROBUST POLITICAL IMPACT 

CForward does not seek to educate those already in office; rather, to elect individuals who “Show up on day one ready to partner with nonprofits to strengthen the economy.” This is a far more powerful strategy than the small amount of lobbying nonprofits are allowed to engage in — usually 5-10 percent of an organization’s activities.

Their Web site, www.cforward.org, includes three key components: 1) an opportunity to donate, supporting education and advocacy; 2) the CForward political action committee (PAC), supporting candidates; and 3) identifying/supporting candidates nominated by CForward members. Respecting IRS limitations on political activities of 501 (c)(3) organizations, if you sign up with CForward you must use your personal e-mail and social media accountsnot that of your employer or organization

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE & PERSPECTIVE

Last year, I heard founder Robert Egger deliver the keynote address at a nonprofit leadership conference in Westchester County, NY, and was impressed with his vision and passion for strengthening the sector.  I’m optimistic his new initiative will gain traction.

CForward isn’t about political views — it doesn’t matter if you’re liberal, conservative or moderate. It’s about getting progressive candidates  into office who will champion the work of the 1.4 million nonprofits in the U.S. Given the significant challenges facing nonprofits today, CForward has a vital role to play.

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QUESTION TO READERS: What do you think of CForward? Do you plan to get involved?

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TRANSFORMATIVE MESSAGE HIGHLIGHTS MAJOR NONPROFIT CONFERENCE

By James V.  D’Ambrosio

Last week I attended the 2011 Westchester County Nonprofit Leadership Summit in Tarrytown, NY, where 600+ nonprofit professionals and leaders from around the region gathered to discuss the state of the industry and build their skills in workshops and seminars. The day-long program — an unbeatable value at $30 — provided informative training for professionals at all levels.

The early part of the program focused on weathering the difficult economic climate and doing more with less. But an inspiring and provocative lunch-time keynote address dramatically altered the context of the event: Robert Egger, founder and president of D.C. Central Kitchen –the nation’s first ‘community kitchen’ where donated food fuels a nationally-recognized culinary arts job-training program and donations are turned into balanced meals in our nation’s capital — gave a riveting address clearly indicating why he’s an in-demand nationally-renowned speaker.

Egger provided his perspective on the nonprofit industry — where it stands and what needs to happen for it to remain vibrant. Specifically, he spoke about self-advocacy towards and collaboration with government, noting that nonprofits in New York comprise 17 percent of the state’s work force and generate $7.3 billion in revenue yet no candidate for governor in last year’s campaign spoke about nonprofits as a viable partner in bolstering the state’s economy. Egger implored the audience to reach out to government officials and start conversations about the importance of leveraging nonprofits’ talent and resources. (Earlier, Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino announced his appointment of an outreach coordinator — the county’s commissioner of mental health — to connect with nonprofits and discuss ways to cut costs, reduce overhead, and operate more efficiently.)

Egger maintained that continually vying for the same grant monies is neither useful or sustainable, and doing more with less has perhaps reached its limit. He advocated a bold, new business model — partnering with government to relieve pressure and increase organizational capacity. In a surprisingly concise 25 minutes, he challenged everyone to think and act expansively. Learn more about this visionary leader here: www.robertegger.org

Later in the conference, reflecting on the address, it occurred to me that many nonprofits may be so busy advocating, providing services for clientele and maintaining their own viability that they may not have considered the larger picture — where will they be 5, 10, 15 years from now? I concur with Mr. Egger’s vision; the challenge is steep, but nonprofits should embrace it. 

QUESTION TO READERS: What do you think of Mr. Egger’s vision for the nonprofit sector?

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