Policy Agenda

A unifying voice for the sector

Maine’s nonprofit sector is very diverse, but there are issues that we all have in common, including:

Accountability

Nonprofit Advocacy Rights

Tax Policy

Charitable Giving + Volunteerism Incentives

Nonprofit/Government Relations

Criteria

Our lobbying is done by our staff and volunteers, and we work in coalition with other nonprofits. We follow strict criteria when deciding to take action on a public policy issue.

  • Fit: Does the issue/initiative match the mission of MANP and its members and fit within MANP’s advocacy guidelines?
  • Impact: Does the issue/initiative have significant implications for MANP members and/or Maine’s nonprofit organizations?
  • Support: Is there, or do we reasonably anticipate that there will be, general informed support for the proposed position among the members of the Maine Association of Nonprofits.
  • Credibility: Will MANP be perceived as a legitimately concerned and appropriate advocate for the position to be taken?

“MANP has proven to be the best advocate and resource for nonprofits in general in the State of Maine.” – MANP Member

Issue Areas

Within the areas we address, MANP monitors public policy on both the state and federal level, educates our audience about policymaking, and lobbies for policies that support the nonprofit sector to thrive.

Accountability

Nonprofits serve the community, and as a result, should function with integrity and efficiency and should address violations within the sector.

  • MANP supports an appropriate level of government regulation and enforcement to protect the public’s interest while upholding the integrity of the nonprofit sector.
  • MANP promotes vigilance in maintaining excellence in the sector, speaks out against abuses of trust within the sector, and promotes the highest level of accountability within the sector.
  • MANP encourages policies that strengthen the management capacity of nonprofits.

Examples of policy work in this area:

  • Nonprofit Capacity Building: Neither state nor federal government has established an entity to support the development and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector. The Small Business Administration provides such support to local business, the Government Accountability Office ensures the effectiveness of government programs, but there is no comparable government program for nonprofits. We continue to look for opportunities to push governmental support for building the management effectiveness of Maine’s nonprofits.Ini
  • Maine’s Nonprofit Corporation Act: MANP members were well represented on a working committee that, during the Fall of 2001 and the Winter and Spring of 2002, created legislation that addressed the needs of many constituents to better regulate nonprofit conversions while not putting undue burden on Maine’s nonprofit organizations.
  • Panel on the Nonprofit Sector: The Panel on the Nonprofit Sector was convened in October 2004 at the encouragement of the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee to consider and recommend actions to strengthen good governance and ethical conduct within public charities and private foundations. They issued a final report in June 2005 and a supplement to the final report in April 2006, which, together, contain nearly 150 recommendations. A few of these reforms were included in the Pension Protection Act of 2006. 

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Nonprofit Advocacy Rights

Advocacy is an important role of the nonprofit sector, providing a voice for the voiceless in our society. Very often, advocacy is the most effective way for nonprofits to achieve their missions.

  • MANP supports proposals that encourage the advocacy activities of the sector.
  • MANP supports policies and proposals that build the capacity of nonprofits to advocate.
  • MANP encourages policies, regulations and proposals that seek the voice of nonprofits on public policies.

Examples of policy work in this area:

  • Protecting Nonprofit Nonpartisanship: In 2017-2018numerous attempts were made to eliminate or significantly weaken the Johnson Amendment–a law that prevents charitable nonprofits, including religious institutions and foundations, from using their charitable assets for political contributions and endorsing candidates for elective office. MANP opposed these efforts which would jeopardize the unique role of nonprofits as nonpartisan conveners and problem solvers.
  • Partners in Health & Human Services: A large percentage of our membership contracts with the Maine Department of Health & Human Services to provide critical services to the most vulnerable among us. MANP seeks opportunities for the nonprofit provider community to advocate for improvements in and influence decisions made by the department.
  • Federal Istook Amendment: In 1995, an effort to restrict nonprofit advocacy rights was hotly contested. Known as the Istook Amendment, named for Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr., Republican of Oklahoma, this legislation would have forbid government grantees from engaging in advocacy and, conversely, would have prevented organizations that carried out advocacy efforts from receiving government grants. MANP worked with Maine’s Congressional delegation to defeat this harmful provision.

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Charitable Giving + Volunteerism Incentives

Public policy should recognize and support the important roles of volunteer service and private philanthropy in improving the lives of citizens and the quality of life in Maine.

  • MANP supports public policy that increases the number of volunteers.
  • MANP opposes public policy that places undue burden on organizations that effectively utilize volunteers.
  • In addition to favorable tax policy, MANP supports public policy that assists fundraising and increases charitable giving to the sector.

Examples of policy work in this area:

  • Universal Charitable Giving Deduction: MANP has joined colleagues across the country to expand incentives for charitable giving to nonitemizers. During the COVID-19 pandemic there were temporary expansions of charitable deductions which provide data demonstrating the effectivness of this type of policy in expanding charitable giving, and MANP continues to lobby to make these expansions permanent.
  • Volunteer Mileage Reimbursement and Deduction: A charity’s ability to reimburse volunteers for expenses incurred while volunteering plays a huge role in nonprofit organizations’ abilities to recruit and retain volunteers. MANP believes that Congress should take action to exempt reimbursement of mileage from income and raise the volunteer standard deduction to a reasonable rate. Currently, charities may reimburse volunteers, on a nontaxable basis, up to the charitable mileage rate of 14 cents per mile. That rate has not changed since 1997 and no longer covers the price of gas. In addition, if charities reimburse their volunteers more than the 14 cent mileage reimbursement rate, volunteers pay taxes on the additional amount because it is treated as income thus, taxing individuals for donated services.
  • Charitable Giving Incentives: In late 2013, the 126th Maine Legislature passed Governor LePage’s Biennial Budget which included a $27,500 cap on itemized deductions including the charitable giving deduction. Our conservative estimates found that this cap will cost Maine nonprofits $20 million annually in decreased charitable giving. Working with legislative leadership MANP introduced and passed LD 1664: An Act To Encourage Charitable Contributions to Nonprofit Organizations, carving out the charitable giving deduction from the overall cap, preserving a tax deduction that benefits the greater good much more than it benefits the tax-payer. In early January 2015, the Governor presented his Biennial Budget to the Legislature, including the repeal of LD 1664. The legislature ultimately passed a budget which reinstated the itemized deduction cap, undoing the work of LD 1664.

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Tax Policy

Taxes and tax policy are important to nonprofits because taxes finance government programs and services, many of which are delivered by nonprofits or received directly by those served by nonprofits. Tax policy can also serve as an incentive for giving to charitable organizations.

  • MANP supports policies that protect the tax-exempt status of nonprofits.
  • MANP opposes tax initiatives that would result in dividing 501(c)(3) organizations based on subject matter and philosophy.
  • MANP supports tax policies that increase charitable support for the sector.

Examples of policy work in this area:

  • Employee Retention Tax Credit: During the COVID-19 pandemic this key provision supported nonprofits to retain staff during a time of high demand and workforce shortages. MANP has lobbied to expand and extend this credit beyond 2021, as it has proven effective in providing relief to strained nonprofits. 
  • Property Tax Exemption + Service Charges: Almost every legislative session brings challenges to nonprofit property tax exemption. As municipal budgets are squeezed, nonprofit property tax exemptions are scrutinized. MANP lobbies on behalf of the sector to preserve current property tax exemption laws and improve them when prudent. MANP served on a Nonprofit Tax Review Task Force in 2014, after a proposal designed to raise funds from nonprofits was rejected by the 126th Maine Legislature and the issue was turned over to the Task Force for further review.
  • Charitable Giving Incentives The tax treatment of charitable contributions has a significant effect on charitable giving. MANP has supported a variety of legislative efforts to preserve and expand access to tax exemptions for charitable giving, including consistent advocacy for a universal charitable deduction to expand this incentive to all filers, regardless of whether they itemize (which the vast majority do not). 

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Nonprofit/Government Relations

It is the role and duty of government to provide for and promote the safety, prosperity and general welfare of its citizens. The nonprofit community is dedicated to the same goals of public service and should be a leader in advocating for policies that recognize and support the fulfillment of this primary mission of government.

  • MANP supports nonprofit input on governmental policies, including the budget, that affect nonprofits or their constituents.
  • MANP opposes policies that place unnecessary burdens on the contractual relationship between government and nonprofit service providers.
  • MANP opposes policies that unnecessarily increase nonprofit business costs or interfere with their sound business practices.
  • MANP supports activities that strengthen nonprofits’ relationships with federal, state, county & local governments.

Examples of policy work in this area:

  • American Rescue Plan Act Funding: MANP educates partners in government about the important role nonprofits will play in recovering and rebuilding a stronger Maine after the COVID-19 pandemic, and how partnerships with Maine’s nonprofits will allow for funding to be distributed effectively and efficiently, leveraging resources, relationships, and strengths to serve communities even better. Learn more about ARPA in Maine.
  • Governor's Economic Recovery Committee: In May 2020, Governor Mills established an Economic Recovery Committee to develop specific policy recommendations to stabilize the state’s economy and build a bridge to future prosperity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. MANP’s Executive Director, Jennifer Hutchins, was honored to be one of 37 members of the committee. The committee’s work was based on the framework of the state’s 10-year Economic Plan. An overview of the committee's work and reports can be found on Maine.gov.
  • Partners in Health & Human Services: A large percentage of our membership contracts with the Maine Department of Health & Human Services to provide critical services to the most vulnerable among us. MANP has worked to coordinate feedback from the provider community to improve administrative processes for nonprofit service providers.
  • Small Business Advocates OfficeThe Small Business Advocate’s office manages the Regulatory Fairness Board and helps businesses, nonprofit and for-profit, resolve issues with state regulations. MANP has worked with the Board and the Advocate to find efficiencies in licensing and contracting and encourages our members to do the same.

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