Appearing in this week’s Crains New York Business:
Nonprofits Have Big Role in State
As Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo and legislators shape their plans for New York next year, they should pay close attention to the state’s vibrant not-for-profit sector, as it is the standard-bearer for innovation and service to the state and its people. The 80,000 not-for-profit organizations in the state play crucial roles: leading efforts to prevent or cure disease, alleviate poverty, advance education, address environmental and social concerns, and ennoble through culture.
New York’s robust charitable sector, including such powerhouses as Columbia University, Sloan-Kettering, the Red Cross, the Ford Foundation and Lincoln Center, as well as community-based organizations, such as local drug-prevention programs, small community theaters and religion-based charities, help fuel the state’s economy, generating over $150 billion in revenue annually and employing hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Second in size only to the government as an employer in the city, the nonprofit sector provides more jobs than the financial and insurance industries combined.
Working together, state government and nonprofits can help maintain our state’s primacy as innovator, incubator and magnet for investment. Here’s how.
* Adjust taxes to encourage more giving. For example, reward taxpayers for increases in year-over-year charitable giving and incentivize artists to donate their work to charity auctions in support of good causes.
* Promote regulatory, administrative and legislative reforms that make it easier to start and operate nonprofits, especially in high-tech, medical research and green industries.
* Encourage and facilitate partnering among nonprofits and between them and for-profit businesses. For instance, provide a clearinghouse so that environmental groups can pair up with green-tech businesses or so arts-in-education organizations can collaborate with founders of charter schools.
* Incentivize nonprofits to hire recent college graduates to fill needed roles while they learn important lessons about professional development and social responsibility.
* Rearrange state budgets with existing charitable resources in mind. For example, recalibrate school aid and Medicaid expenditures so that public spending on students, the elderly and the disabled complements and stimulates private nonprofit resources and support.
* Safeguard against encroachments on sales- or property-tax -exemptions, which would hurt already-stretched hospitals, elder-care facilities and YMCAs.
* Promote visibility for worthy nonprofits by providing voluntary check-offs on state tax forms.
* Include nonprofit destinations in the state’s promotion of tourism and convention activity.
* Make nonprofits part of New York’s federal lobbying strategy.
The public’s trust in state government may be at a low ebb, but public support for nonprofits endures. By recommitting himself to the well-being of our valuable nonprofit institutions, Mr. Cuomo can take important steps toward reclaiming the state’s role as a national beacon and perpetuate its highest ideals.
Lesley Friedman Rosenthal is vice president and general counsel of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.