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Nonprofit Board Advocacy #Nonprofit Boards

In the US, there are three distinct structures that to a stronger or lessor degree serve the citizens: public, corporate, and nonprofit. Each can affect the other in a number of ways recognizing that the public and corporate may have, through money, more of, but not exclusively, an impact on the other.

There has become more recently a clear recognition that nonprofits, (501(c) 3s in particular could and should exert their own strengths to influence what happens in the public sector while recognizing that a good number of nonprofits also serve as extensions of the will of the public. These have grants or contracts sometimes which represent a majority of their income.

So, it is not surprising that there are moments when the public sector, or more specifically, public sector characters, may no like what a nonprofit sector entity has done and consequentially, take away the "people's" money. One might of course question the sense of a nonprofit whose sustainability strategy includes more than 1/3 of its money relying on public funds but let's not make that the focus of today's discussion.

No, the real focus of today''s discussion is the situation going-on in Maine whereby the Governor, according to the Portland Press Herald, has " threatened to pull state funding from Good Will-Hinckley – a social service agency that serves at-risk youth with programs that include a charter school – if it didn’t get rid of its new executive director, Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves." One legislator when asked about the situation states: “This stuff does happen, said Rep. Deb Sanderson, R-Chelsea, a member of the Government Oversight Committee. “There’s strong-arming that goes on. Politics is dirty. At least he has the guts to go out and say it.”

So...right or wrong? Should the cost of doing business with the state be that contract arrangements are always at political risk should the nonprofit "misbehave" according to the contractor? Note by-the-way that I'm not stating that the nonprofit in question did anything that should put its money in jeopardy. I believe that the only consideration as to go-no go funding should be ouputs and outcomes. Did the nonprofit do what it said it would do (and if not, why not) and did the nonprofit achieve the results it intended? These in my opinion SHOULD be the criteria for go-no go funding (aside from the typical public sector budget issues).

What we don't know in Maine and what should be the focus of the conversation is indeed the rate of performance by the nonprofit in question. And yes, at least according to the Governor, the nonprofit is not doing everything the way the Governor would like. But here's where the nonprofit's board could exert its own political strengths and ensure that the Governor is held back from doing what he's attempting to do - contract in the weeds versus outputs and outcomes. This is where a nonprofit board and its members should "step-up" and make its voices loud and clear at two levels. It must tell the story of outcomes and effectiveness and move other legislators and the public to ensure that contracting is not a political whimsy activity.

Nope, I'm not thinking the Governor is doing "right" in stepping into a contractural relationship and while I don't have enough information, I am hoping that the board is doing more right and stepping-up as advocates of good process as well as good information to ensure that their good work is continued.

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