As President-elect Donald Trump readies to take office, nonprofit leaders face their own version of the first 100 days. Can they coalesce quickly enough to effectively respond to policy changes and spending priorities that would affect nearly every corner of the nonprofit world?
Charity and foundation leaders pledge to ratchet up advo-
cacy and public-policy work to protect the charitable-giving
incentive if Congress takes up a tax overhaul, as expected. An-
other serious concern is federal spending — cuts to health care,
housing, education, and child and senior care
could create gaping chasms of support for
nonprofits, especially those with government
“We are currently in the process of trying to assess the landscape of how we could be impacted, one by a President Trump
that actually lives up to all the promises he made, or two, a
Republican-controlled Congress that may want to do even
more,” says Lorri Jean, chief executive of the Los Angeles LGBT
Center, which offers health services and gets about a third of its
$97 million annual budget from government.
It’s not just charities. Spending cuts would heap pressure on
foundations to fill those chasms, even as they could face new
scrutiny regarding their endowments and “in perpetuity” life
Perhaps just as important, nonprofit leaders are focused on a
potential change to strict limits on partisan politics that have
been in place since the 1950s. Some worry that will lead to an
influx of “dark money” and pressures from Republicans and
Democrats that would make it impossible for them to focus on
Meanwhile, the election results have prompted soul-searching at foundations over whether they have badly underestimated the needs of people in the middle of the country. Maxwell
King, president of the Pittsburgh Foundation, calls on his
colleagues to get closer to the ground. “We must meet people
where they are struggling, and we must examine how we have
been engaging the poor and working class in developing our
programs,” he says.
One truth that not even a profoundly unconventional
president can shake? As the stock market goes, so goes giving.
Adam Meyerson, president of the Philanthropy Roundtable,
says that if Mr. Trump can keep his pledge to double econom-
ic growth, “that will be great for charitable giving.”
In the pages that follow, we explore critical issues on the
minds of nonprofit leaders as sweeping political change unfolds
in Washington. Then, in our opinion pages, we offer the views
of five longtime observers of charities and foundations.
— MEGAN O’NEIL
Charity officials are preparing for a hard-charging Republican leadership
that vows change. At stake: tax breaks that encourage billions of dollars
in giving and legal limits on nonprofits’ political activities, for starters.
CHRIS TOPHER MORRIS/VII/REDUX