Nonprofit Leaders Speculate About Sector's Place in Obama Administration

In the wake of Tuesday's election, nonprofit leaders have begun speculating about what the Obama administration and a Democrat-controlled Senate could mean for the sector, the NonProfit Times reports.

The idea that nonprofits should have a seat at the table during public policy discussions was a theme that echoed through the sector immediately following the election. Council on Foundations president and CEO Steve Gunderson, for one, predicts that someone from the foundation world will be in the new president's administration and that there will be an increased focus on partnerships between the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. "There are an awful lot of my colleagues who have been in government before who are interested in returning," said Gunderson, a former congressman (R-WI).

Larry Ottinger, president of the Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest, said he expects some reforms to make it easier and more acceptable for nonprofits to engage in the public policy process. Similarly, Shirley Sagawa, former managing director at the Corporation for National and Community Service, said she believes new legislation could be passed quickly and predicts that the new administration might sign the Serve America Act, which would expand national public service, within its first hundred days.

Any hopes that nonprofits can expect more funding from a Democratic administration, however, were tempered by William Schambra, director of the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal. While nonprofits likely have a laundry list of things that were not addressed over the past eight years, said Schambra, resources will be scarce. "For all the hopes and dreams of those nonprofits, as they dust off their wish list, most of them I'm afraid are going to be disappointed."

Still, many in the sector are focusing on the potential positives of increased nonprofit involvement in an Obama administration. "It's incredibly important that nonprofits be at the policy table because many are on the front lines of so many social issues that America is going through," said National Council of Nonprofits executive director Tim Delaney. Noting Obama's campaign call for change, Delaney added, "We in the nonprofit sector have to hear that same call for change that many of us have been calling for for sometime, to get active and engaged."

Mark Hrywna. "With Obama's Election, Nonprofits Aim for a Seat at the Table." NonProfit Times 11/05/2008.