Welcome to Nonprofits Talking Taxes, a workshop and curriculum designed help people have meaningful and fun conversations about nonprofits and the common good, and the role of fair and just tax policy in making our work more mission-effective.
On this website you will find a number of tools to help you think more clearly and deeply about what taxes should be used for and why nonprofit leaders need to be a stronger voice for the “common good” and help staff, volunteers, and board members understand what the common good can mean for our communities. Using these tools will help you and your group discover how engaging people in conversations about the common good may be one of the most powerful strategies we have to shape public policy which most promotes the public benefits that we believe in.
Read on for the history of the project, how you can use the toolkit, and creative commons licensing information, or
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As early as 2005, many fundraising consultants and others who work with a wide range of nonprofits began to notice that all kinds of nonprofits were having a harder and harder time raising the money they needed, even if their fundraising programs were excellent. We realized that much of the reason for that difficulty was simply that whole parts of the public sector had suffered such devastating cutbacks in their government funding that they had been forced to start raising money from foundations, corporations, and individuals. This meant that organizations which rely on those sources now found themselves competing for funding with public schools, public parks, health departments and the like.
Clearly, this was a lose-lose proposition. Donors expressed deep frustration between having to stop giving to organizations they had traditionally supported in order to support their children’s public schools or other agencies normally funded by taxes. Nonprofits did not want to engage in competing with important health and human service programs. We all questioned the notion that there was a limited amount of funding available, and asked “Why can’t we expand the pie?”
During the first decade of this century, the phrase, “doing more and more with less and less” became a more and more accurate description of life in the nonprofit sector.
Kim Klein, a fundraising consultant, along with Steve Lew and Anne Ryan at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, as well as many other colleagues from the Building Movement Project, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, the California Coalition for Civil Rights and other allies believed that legislators (and by extension, the voters that put them there) had to look at revenue creation as a solution, and we had to put a stop to more and more cuts in spending. The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and the Walter & Elise Haas Fund provided three years of grant support for developing the interactive workshop that was held in hundreds of nonprofit workplaces and convenings across California from 2010 – 2013.
As we advocated for revenue solutions alongside accountable spending, we had to teach ourselves about the rudiments of fair and just tax policy and the role of taxes in promoting the common good. As we taught ourselves, we started teaching others. We discovered that, like us, many people did not have well thought out opinions about how taxes should be levied or how they should be spent. Many of us were nervous to even have conversations about these issues because our experience was that these discussions quickly devolved into fights between people who were anti-government and people who felt tax policy was too complicated to understand. We are not anti-government, nor are we apologists for government. We feel that if people are to vote on propositions and initiatives that increase public revenue, our organizations need to get much better at helping them to connect their values with what these taxes will pay for, and this awareness comes from conversations that involve good questions, good listening, and interesting information.
Like many states, California is undergoing drastic cuts in public services and funding to all kinds of nonprofits. Progressive tax policies and state revenue cannot grow without a stronger civic commitment to the common good. After holding many trainings on the state’s budget crisis, we realized that we needed to talk about, and get others to talk about, the various meanings of the phrase “the common good.” Most of us believe that nonprofits are central to a healthy democracy and the that the role of nonprofits is to work for the common good, but we don’t often go into detail as to what that means, and particularly what the role of government is in creating, maintaining, and expanding the common good.
We have developed several different types of Nonprofits Talking Taxes group learning formats that you can choose from- whether you want to introduce the topic at a management team meeting, hold a longer discussion at a staff retreat, or to use it in a training that reaches chapters or network members online. You’ll find materials to use our workshop, webinar and interactive exercises for:
- Developing civic engagement skills for organizing and policy advocacy
- Getting staff and constituencies more informed about upcoming ballot issues
- Helping board members and staff consider future organizational strategies that involve policy advocacy and civic engagement
- Exploring collaborative advocacy and civic engagement with other groups
Nonprofits Talking Taxes Workshop by Nonprofits Talking Taxes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. We have taken all that we learned and put it on this website for everyone to use and develop. All the material here are copyrighted in the “creative commons” meaning they can be downloaded and used for free, as long as they are attributed to Nonprofits Talking Taxes. Though the content was originally focused on California, the material is now relevant and useful for groups in other states.
We hope you will find these materials helpful and you will provide feedback on them. If you develop new materials or modify these to a certain audience or for a specific topic, please consider sharing what you have created with others. All questions, concerns, feedback and new material can be sent to Kim Klein (Kim@kleinandroth.com) who, along with a number of colleagues, will continue to do this work.
- Two versions of the workshop PowerPoint: one is designed for a 60 minute meeting and one designed for 90 – 120 minute meetings. Each slide in each presentation has clear and detailed trainer notes.
- A full trainer guide to orient you to the flow of the workshop, and provide helpful tips on facilitating discussions about the material. You can also access a recording of a webinar that lead trainer Kim Klein led, to hear how she discusses the concepts and engages the audience.
- Two entertaining and informative videos that can provide background information to you and your group prior to participating in the workshop.
- A fact sheet for participants to take home with them after the workshop to support them as they have future conversations about the concepts they learned.
- Handouts for activities that can be added to the workshop if desired.
Thank you for your interest in Nonprofits Talking Taxes, and for your help in making the common good a common conversation. If you have questions about any of the materials, please contact Kim Klein (firstname.lastname@example.org) who, along with a number of colleagues, will continue to do this work.
Steve Lew, Kim Klein, Anne Ryan,
and the rest of the Nonprofits Talking Taxes team