White House’s Draft Budget Plan Raises Alarm in Nonprofit World

The Trump administration’s draft budget plan deeply cuts funding for many agencies that nonprofits rely on. Independent Sector, the charitable community's membership organization, is calling for a budget that maintains the partnership between government and the charitable sector.

Earlier this week, Independent Sector, the membership organization for charitable groups, released a statement of beliefs—something of a rules-of-the-road for federal spending from the perspective of the charitable nonprofit community.

The statement highlights several core beliefs, including that every person should have an opportunity prosper, that the relationship between government and charity is critical to the common good, and that budget cuts should not increase inequality.

The Trump administration’s federal budget proposal for 2018, released earlier this week, doesn’t square well with those beliefs, Independent Sector said Thursday. The budget outline includes a $54 billion boost in defense spending and eliminates or sharply reduces funding for many federal agencies that work closely with charitable groups.

Using its core beliefs “as a lens to assess the administration’s budget, we find the deep cuts proposed to non-defense discretionary programs threaten the vitality of the charitable sector’s enduring partnership with the federal government,” Independent Sector President and CEO Daniel J. Cardinali said in a statement. “More importantly, the blueprint seeks to strengthen other administration priorities at the expense of agencies and programs that help communities address the needs of the diverse makeup of their constituencies—from celebrating cultural achievements to offering critical, life-sustaining support.”

How Should Nonprofits Respond?

The administration’s hard-line stance on the budget could soften during the budgeting process in Congress. Nonprofit Quarterly contributors Jim Schaffer and Michael Wyland point out that many of the agencies targeted in Trump’s draft budget were also in the crosshairs of the Reagan administration but survived the funding battles of the 1980s.

Nonprofits shouldn’t panic, Schaffer and Wyland write, but they shouldn’t be complacent, either.

“For nonprofits, now is the time to gather your resources, allies, stakeholders and strategies for the fight ahead, which will undoubtedly will be more intense on some battlefields than on others, but, for this period, vigilance and the ability to flexibly respond where needed with strategies and supporters in hand will be critical,” they write.

For its part, Independent Sector is pressing for a different sort of budget to emerge from Congress.

“As spending debates move forward and difficult decisions about spending cuts are made, we urge policymakers to strive for and shape fiscal priorities that recognize the inherent value of all individuals, families and communities, and the institutions that work with them to build their potential as agents of positive change and renewal in our nation,” Cardinali said. “We stand ready to work in deep partnership with both the administration and Congress to achieve that goal for the American people.”

A photo of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget plan, released Thursday. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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