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Expert calls for nonprofits to unite to flex their economic and social muscle

he Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Missouri) | By DIANE STAFFORD

November 20, 2009

It’s time for that to change, starting with strong lobbying efforts in city halls, statehouses and the U.S. Capitol, says Robert Egger, director of the V3 Campaign and an expert in nonprofit management.

Egger’s address Thursday at the Philanthropy Midwest Conference in Overland Park was a call to move the nonprofit sector beyond practicing charity to make its economic and social power known.

Nonprofits produce 7 percent of the U.S. gross national product and hold $3 trillion in assets, he noted.

Nov. 20—Voice. Value. Votes.

For all the good — financial and charitable — that the nonprofit sector does in America, it hasn’t banded together to develop those three Vs.

It’s time for that to change, starting with strong lobbying efforts in city halls, statehouses and the U.S. Capitol, says Robert Egger, director of the V3 Campaign and an expert in nonprofit management.

Egger’s address Thursday at the Philanthropy Midwest Conference in Overland Park was a call to move the nonprofit sector beyond practicing charity to make its economic and social power known.

It is a sector whose parts are often seen as having little in common: What do arts organizations and food kitchens have to do with each other? But nonprofits are “all the things that make a community whole and beautiful and livable,” he said.

Egger founded Washington’s D.C. Central Kitchen and wrote “Begging for Change: The Dollars and Sense of Making Nonprofits Responsive, Efficient, and Rewarding for All.”

Nonprofits produce 7 percent of the U.S. gross national product and hold $3 trillion in assets, he noted.

The 14 million nonprofit employees, the 80 million who volunteer and the $300 billion in philanthropic contributions annually combine to create a powerful economic force that needs to be recognized by elected officials, he said.

Nonprofits, Egger said, are saddled with a business structure in which they “fight each other for grant money and have to report every 15 minutes how we spend it.” Charities must control overhead and spend wisely, but that should not be the full measure of a successful nonprofit, he said.

Egger said the sector needs to move from a handout mentality to encourage more microcredit and social enterprise efforts.

It also should demand a leadership role in federal job-creation plans to rebuild the U.S. economy, he said.

“It’s an urban myth that nonprofits can’t be involved in politics,” Egger said.

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