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Just In Time For 2012 Election, Nonprofits Get Their Own PAC

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Thanks to the new political action committee (PAC)CForward , nonprofit organizations now have a voice on Capitol Hill. And it's about time.

Nonprofits have long lived in a strange political limbo. Despite the fact that a huge percentage of us exist to provide a social safety net for citizens in our community, by law nonprofits must be nonpartisan or else they risk losing tax-exempt status. And while changes in public policy arguably impact nonprofits more than for-profits, nonprofits can't officially back a candidate or political view. Instead, they're limited by law during campaigns to the impartial presentation of facts about each candidate.

Robert Egger, head of the influential nonprofit D.C. Central Kitchen, founded CForward to give nonprofits a voice and to endorse political candidates who promise to work with nonprofits.

According to Egger, not enough people -- and certainly not enough politicians -- recognize that nonprofits provide the backbone for for-profit enterprises to succeed. They also help make citizens happier, healthier and more involved in community issues. In short, nonprofits make a better society.

Egger also points out that nonprofits provide one in 10 jobs across the nation. At a time when so much attention is being paid to jobs and economic growth, little is being said about the important role nonprofits play as the third largest workforce. "Nonprofits are, and have always been, essential to every community's financial health," he writes. "They must now be included in any plan to rebuild the economy."

Ironically, these restrictions not only ignore the reality of what nonprofits do, they ignore what Americans say they actually want from the organizations they support. In a 2010 Harris Interactive poll, respondents wished that nonprofits had a larger influence in the political arena. (PDF) Related to this, volunteer engagement expert Susan Ellis has written a great piece about how nonprofits can more effectively take advantage of this sentiment in their volunteer recruiting.

In addition to championing the economic contributions of the nonprofit sector, CForward will focus on leveraging donations and other funding sources to support candidates who provide detailed plans for how they will partner with nonprofits to create jobs and strengthen the economy. They'll also help nonprofit employees, volunteers and supporters use their rights as private citizens to educate candidates about how nonprofits strengthen our communities.

In the coming months, be sure to keep CForward on your radar. Regardless of whether our political allegiances are red, blue or otherwise, nonprofits and community service are essential for a successful society.

How could your local or national elected officials help your organization? Share your thoughts with us.