Author, Trainer, Activist
Nonprofits Talking Taxes
Nonprofits Talking Taxes: Building on the Power of Partnership
Nonprofits Talking Taxes is part of an important movement to engage nonprofit staff in talking about and understanding the vital purpose of taxes. Its growing impact in the California nonprofit community is also a testament to the power of aligned, complementary partners to move an issue forward.
Kim Klein came up with the idea for Nonprofits Talking Taxes in 2009 and CompassPoint joined her in the effort the following year. She says, “I really wanted to explore how nonprofits could be more of a united presence in Sacramento. When I first started experimenting with the workshops, I would have to call people to sponsor them, and then I started to get more calls to do workshops, but there was no place I could direct people to find more information. Then I talked to Steve Lew about it and he was very excited and got CompassPoint involved. Once I partnered with CompassPoint, the curriculum firmed up and the program took off.” The results since 2010: over 100 trainings conducted, 49 trainers trained to lead workshops statewide, and over 3,700 participants reached.
CompassPoint’s strengths in communicating with and connecting people complement the goals of the Nonprofits Talking Taxes initiative. States Kim, “One of the goals of the project is the notion of the nonprofit sector creating a more joint identity, rather than being siloed into categories like health, education, etc. CompassPoint is like that, too, bringing people and organizations together to learn, but also for strengthening the sector. It all helps the nonprofit sector to experience itself as powerful – to build this identity. People often come into the workshops thinking ‘my issue is more important,’ but we help them drop and change that paradigm – and it helps change how organizations work together for the common good.
“This program is all about people needing to understand tax policy – to see that it’s not that complicated. CompassPoint helps break down complicated topics and make them understandable to people. CompassPoint also delivers all of its information in a values-frame – and taxes are a mirror of values. While CompassPoint is nonpartisan, it doesn’t try to just be whatever people want at any given time. The organization has a strong Theory of Change and you can see that in the way it does its work. It’s a very powerful model for a management support organization.”
This project has also been a learning opportunity for Kim. “One takeaway for me is about the multichannel way you need to run programs now. We have developed so many ways to get people involved – we have video, social media, a micro-website, webinars . . . so many different formats and versions of the training. I’ve learned a lot about how to structure a flexible program. We’re able to respond to these different needs and it’s allowed us to reach more people.”
She concludes, “CompassPoint serves as a social change agent. It sees nonprofits as part of the common good.” And Kim believes this shows in the results of the Nonprofits Talking Taxes initiative:“People are starting to have conversations about taxes. They are more willing to engage and are not afraid to be shot down. I believe it’s having great impact in the world of civic engagement. In America we say people have a right to an opinion, but I feel people won’t form an opinion if they feel people aren’t going to ask about it. Nonprofits Talking Taxes – and CompassPoint – help give these people a voice and prepare them for these conversations. And this can lead to real change.”