The nonprofit sector has a long history of utilizing advocacy as a tool to accomplish the mission of an individual nonprofit or a subsector of nonprofits. Our goal is to build on this rich tradition and broaden and strengthen the sector’s societal influence and impact. By working together, nonprofits in Maryland will advance and protect the public interest of the people and communities they serve.
This statement of principles is intended to guide Maryland Nonprofits' public policy activities, its Public Policy Committee, and its staff, in dealing with policy makers at all levels of government, with the media and the public at large. While these Principles do not preclude the Association from engaging on other issues, they provide five broad policy goals for the organized nonprofit sector, and specific steps that define and advance each goal. We encourage the nonprofit community throughout Maryland to adopt or support these Principles in their public policy advocacy.
1. ADVOCATE FOR SUFFICIENT PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN OUR COMMUNITIES
The purpose of government is to provide for and promote the general welfare of the people. The nonprofit community as a whole, being dedicated to the same goal of serving the people, should be a leader in advocating policies that recognize and support the importance of appropriate public investment in community programs and services.
- Government budget and fiscal policies must provide sufficient resources to equitably and adequately meet this responsibility.
- Government operations and programs should be responsive, fair, effective, efficient and accountable.
- The system of raising adequate government revenues itself must be efficient and equitable, and strive for progressivity.
2. STRENGTHEN THE ROLE AND PARTICIPATION OF THE PEOPLE IN THE DIRECTION OF THEIR GOVERNMENT.
The nonprofit sector should promote structures and policies that are conducive to effective public participation in the direction and affairs of government. The process of government must be open and subject to the control of the people and their elected representatives. Free expression is a basic right, but is meaningful only if the peoples’ voice has an effective means to be heard.
- The actions and mechanisms of all branches of government should be transparent and accessible to ensure the public’s involvement and understanding.
- Policy-making should be based on the input and best interests of the public and on decisions by their elected representatives. Traditionally disenfranchised groups must be supported and empowered, and the rights of vulnerable individuals must be protected.
- Elections must be conducted in a manner to promote and permit the fullest possible participation by voters, and to assure confidence that the people’s will rather than limited interests will govern election results and the actions of those elected.
- The public’s engagement with all aspects of government process must be encouraged.
3. BROADEN THE INVOLVEMENT AND INCREASE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS AS ADVOCATES FOR THE PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES THEY SERVE.
People form and support nonprofit organizations to assist individuals, to improve their communities and to provide a more effective voice for their concerns in the public policy arena. Advocacy is an important and natural role for nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits are often the most, or only, effective means to educate the public on the actions of government, and to voice the peoples’ views and concerns on public issues. Nonprofit advocacy is critical in preserving public confidence in the policy-making process.
- The nonprofit sector and its supporters must encourage greater participation by individual organizations as policy advocates for people and communities.
- The capacity of nonprofits to educate, represent and lead their constituencies on policy issues should be strengthened.
- Nonprofits should educate and encourage the public to participate in policy advocacy through effective nonprofit and community-based efforts.
- Challenges or impediments to the advocacy role of nonprofit organizations must be opposed and overcome at all levels of government.
- The public and the nonprofit community should be effectively represented on appropriate boards, commissions, councils and similar bodies established by government.
4. PROMOTE AND STRENGTHEN THE NONPROFIT SECTOR’S RELATIONSHIP WITH GOVERNMENT
Nonprofit organizations have traditionally performed a significant role in providing services to the public, complementing government programs or addressing needs not met by government action. Nonprofits also play a major part in implementing government programs or providing services on behalf of government. In addition, the nonprofit sector is a significant and growing force in the state’s overall economy. Nonprofits are responsible for more than 12½ % of private jobs in Maryland, employing almost 260,000 workers by the end of 2009. Public policies should acknowledge and strengthen this relationship, and recognize the nonprofit sector as an important factor in the state’s economic life.
- State contracting procedures should facilitate and not impede the efficient delivery of government services provided by nonprofits, and should sufficiently fund contracts for services.
- Economic development strategies, including programs to promote business and employment development, should recognize and include the nonprofit sector and the people and communities they represent.
- Tax policies that support and promote the charitable and nonprofit sector in the delivery of services and benefits to the public must be preserved.
- Public policies should protect and promote the integrity of “charitable” and “nonprofit” activities.
5. INCREASE PHILANTHROPY AND VOLUNTEERISM IN MARYLAND
Public policy should recognize and support the important role of private philanthropy and volunteer service in improving the lives of Maryland citizens and the quality of life in the State.
- Existing incentives for private philanthropy should be preserved.
- New methods to effectively and efficiently promote charitable giving and volunteer service should be examined and implemented.
- Government and the business and nonprofit communities should collaborate in developing effective programs to support philanthropy and volunteerism.