public-policy news

Nonprofit Campaign to Prevent Another Government Shutdown

February 4, 2019


The 35-day federal government shutdown ended with a temporary spending measure to give the President and Congress time to negotiate a resolution to their dispute without the ongoing disruption and pain inflicted on millions of individuals, nonprofit organizations, government contractors, and the public. That truce, in the form of a short-term funding bill, expires on Friday, February 15. Rumors and the news are changing by the hour, and the truth is that no one knows what the politicians will do. What is certain, however, is that another government shutdown would deeply undermine nonprofit services, the well-being of the people we serve, the economy, and the nation. These damages and costs may never go away. That’s why the National Council of Nonprofits and the National Human Services Assembly have joined forces to urge our members and others to take actions to help ensure a shutdown doesn’t occur this month or in the future.

We are asking each of you – our members – to leverage the collective clout of our national networks by sending the attached template message to your members, affiliates, and local operations, as well as other networks of influence. The basic message of the grassroots campaign urges individuals to take some quick and easy steps to tell the President, their two Senators, and their Representative that shutdowns are completely unacceptable and should never be an option.

The goal is to generate as many contacts with the White House and Congress as possible. We are asking all individuals connected with nonprofits – employees, board members, volunteers, donors, and clients – to weigh in to deliver the core message. Our many years of experience shows that template messages work best in getting people to take action when (1) you customize it so it carries your trusted logo and own “accent,” and (2) you send it out using a mechanism (such as an Action Alert) that contains a one-topic communication, rather than in a newsletter.

In addition to sending out Action Alerts to mobilize individual contacts, we encourage you to collect stories about how members of your networks stepped up to strengthen their communities during the shutdown as well as suffered losses in terms of expenses that will never be reimbursed, lost salaries, delayed or denied payments, and non-economic hardships. Many state associations of nonprofits have surveyed their members and publicized the results and comments of nonprofits to cite specific – and honest – examples of how people and organizations were hurt in the immediate shutdown, with continuing lingering problems, some long term.  Those stories are testimony to the power of nonprofits to build well-being in communities, even when partisan disputes undermine our ability to provide services.  We believe that sharing stories from your networks with our elected officials and the media will provide graphic proof that shutdowns are completely unacceptable and should never be an option.

Finally, we recognize that some in our networks may be hesitant to engage in advocacy on an extremely complex and controversial set of issues like border security and immigration. This grassroots campaign does not ask anyone to take sides in the border wall debate. And, we expressly remind all in the charitable nonprofit community to remain strictly nonpartisan at all times. Rather, the focus here is to recognize the significant harm of the recent shutdown and to urge our political leaders to reach a solution that will prevent future shutdowns.

The National Council of Nonprofits has created a webpage, America Deserves Better Than Another Shutdown, that provides background, recent news stories, state-specific information, and other resources. Please share any materials you see or make available. We want to have a central site where reporters can go to look for different story angles and in turn carry forth our message.

Thank you for your leadership in bringing the nonprofit community together and helping mobilize your members to join our bold collective voice for the common good.

Tim Delaney                                                  Lee Sherman
President and CEO                                        President and CEO
National Council of Nonprofits                     National Human Services Assembly