Sessions seek to give voice to nonprofits in time of change

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Changes are coming for nonprofit agencies across the nation, according to Amy Carr, a consultant with the newly-formed Washington Nonprofits organization.

Although problems have not arrived in Washington state, in other places new financial burdens are being placed on nonprofits, Carr said.

"In some parts of the country, state and local governments are seeking revenue from them through new fees and taxes," she said, in effect, asking for a payment.

With the government purses lighter and more tightly closed, some state, county and city officials are asking tax-exempt agencies for voluntary contributions.

In Palo Alto, Calif., for example, city officials have asked Stanford University for $30 million for infrastructure improvements in exchange for zoning permits that will allow the school to rebuild its hospital and expand its children's hospital, according to the National Council of Nonprofits.

In other instances, government agencies are cutting payments to nonprofits for contracted services or have made efforts to force those groups to pay property taxes through imposed fees, Carr said.

For those and other reasons, Washington Nonprofits is hosting a series of listening sessions around the state, including in Walla Walla. Those likely to benefit are executive directors, staff and board members of local nonprofit groups.

Local sessions are scheduled for Friday and June 23, noon-1:30 p.m., at the Walla Walla School District offices, 364 S. Park St. Sandwiches are provided for registered participants.

The legislative and governmental policies affecting nonprofit organizations and their clients are many, Carr said. "Unfortunately, not every nonprofit organization leader has the time to advocate for their organization at the state or federal level."

That's the purpose behind the birth of Washington Nonprofits, a member organization that is still looking for a place to call home. However, the agency will not be based in Seattle, she said. "Members need to be represented from throughout the state. We're sensitive to this and we want to make sure there isn't a perception that everything not on the West side will die."

With multiple members comes a bigger voice, Carr said. The new group plans to have a place at the table when policies concerning nonprofits are being created at the legislative level, she said. "And have influence with how (nonprofits) are being represented."

One goal is to help nonprofit groups with training, self-advocacy and leadership-development needs -- components often harder to come by in rural areas, Carr explained.

Those are the needs Washington Nonprofits is ready to hear about, she added. "The outcome is that these organizations will be better positioned to respond to coming trends that will affect nonprofits."

For more information or to register for a session, go to www.washingtonnonprofits.org or call 509-526-2660.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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