Together SC Blog
Blog Home All Blogs

Perspective on Senator Tim Scott's Opportunity Agenda

Posted By Naomi Torfin, Senior Director of Public Policy, United Way of SC, Monday, June 19, 2017

Senator Tim Scott’s Opportunity Agenda represents key conservative efforts to tackle difficult barriers many Americans and South Carolinian’s face while struggling to move out of poverty.

Through avenues of empowerment and investment for individuals, communities, and employment, the Senator’s Agenda is an important opportunity for nonprofits across SC to become “Allies for Good” in key areas.

Senator Scott’s visit with nonprofit leaders from across the state served to build understanding for both the intention of the Opportunity Agenda, and how nonprofit leadership can align their efforts with the Senator’s national efforts to forge pathways out of poverty for millions of Americans. The vital work of the Opportunity Agenda also needs those of us who work with individuals in the community every day to make it a success on the ground. 

As SC continues to see growth in skill manufacturing and similar jobs in the state, the opportunity for nonprofits from all areas to partner and utilize these avenues to lift individuals and communities out of poverty will only continue to grow. 

The Opportunity Agenda is precisely toward that end, as Senator Scott articulated to nonprofit leaders, to lift families and communities out of poverty through training, apprenticeship, and education. It has already seen success through the passage of the SKILLS Act and hopes to see even more success with the Investing in Opportunity Act, currently in the Senate.   

More and more, those of us working in education and job training see the gaps between employee skills and employer needs. The SKILLS Act focused on modernizing programs to ensure education and training focuses on today’s in-demand jobs, supports young job seekers by reducing the age limitation from 18 to 16. It recognizes that not all graduates will move on to college, and seeks to ensure that our youngest workers find opportunities through alternative skills and don’t fall into poverty because of it. Nonprofits working in K-12 education and workforce development are most closely aligned with the work of this bill. In short, the SKILLS Act works to assure opportunities for financial stability for all. 

The LEAP Act seeks to empower Apprenticeship programs to assure individuals can receive income while they work. Many of SC’s workforce and basic needs programs serve people every day for whom these programs could transform their lives.  

The Investing in Opportunity Act focuses on developing communities – a effort many nonprofits across the state are invested in. It is similar to a tax credit, but uses capital gains as investment rather than individual donations, SC nonprofits working in community development can look at ways to partner on this effort that guide and support investments reflect the needs of community members and expand upon the great efforts of existing development and community finance work. 

The Opportunity Agenda is part of a growing conservative effort to become a greater participant in the poverty solution. Senator Scott’s leadership is an important part of this effort, as he understands the difficult road many trudge to break out. It is now up to us to recognize and align where we can to inform and act in our neighborhoods and cities – with our neighbors, clients, and partners to see how we can truly become Allies for Good. 

Naomi Torfin

Senior Director of Public Policy

United Way of SC

 

Tags:  Opportunity Agenda  Public Policy  Senator Tim Scott  United Way of SC 

PermalinkComments (0)
 

The Scoop on this Nonprofit Transparency Bill

Posted By Benjamin Bullock, Together SC, Monday, April 3, 2017

I can hear it now… “Not another report to file! We’ve already got so many! For-profit companies don’t have to jump through all of these hoops!”

But don’t fear! This bill is good for everyone, nonprofits and taxpayers, alike.

H. 3931 was introduced in the SC House of Representatives earlier this month, and has been making its way through the legislative process.

The bill, as originally written, would require any nonprofit organization that receives “public funds to submit a quarterly expenditure report to the awarding jurisdiction.” This applies to funds granted by state and local governments.

While this may sound like yet another burdensome report to file, there’s more to it than that. These reports would have to be made public by the public funder, not the nonprofit. In exchange, as long as the nonprofit files its reports correctly, it is exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Act. What that means is, when an individual comes to your organization with a FOIA request, rather than drop everything you and your organization are doing, you may politely direct them to the public entity that granted the funds.

This is good news for nonprofits. South Carolina’s FOIA law is very ambiguous, and leaves nonprofits vulnerable to those who would stretch its application beyond the law’s original intent. Nonprofits are left uncertain about which FOIA requests are legitimate and which are not, when they receive requests for their private grant reports and donor lists. This bill would end that ambiguity by requiring a report of public funds only, and putting the burden of disclosure on the real public body.

This is also great news for taxpayers! As it currently stands, the ambiguity of FOIA means that interested members of the public don’t know to whom to direct their questions. Nonprofits and Governments can point at each other, and make it very difficult to determine who is responsible for disclosure. FOIA requests can tangle up for weeks and more, and this law would clear that away, but putting the burden where it belongs: on public agencies, not on private organizations.

This is great for accountability! When a nonprofit seeks a grant from a foundation, a responsible funder requires reporting, not just on financials, but on impact. Government should do no less, and Nonprofits should expect no less.  In Guiding Principles & Best Practices for South Carolina Nonprofits we ask you to ask yourselves, “Do we openly and honestly communicate with stakeholders and the public about our mission, activities, finances and decision-making?” This bill will help give clarity on how to be more accountable for taxpayer dollars.

Your Together SC staff has been hard at work at the State House these last few weeks. We’ve been working with other interested parties and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Herkerbsman (R-Bluffton) to amend the bill to make the reporting annual, rather than quarterly, to acknowledge that contracts for goods and services already have reporting requirements under procurement rules, and other changes to improve organizations’ ability to comply.

The bill currently rests in the House Ways & Means Committee. We encourage you to please contact your House Member, especially if they are on the Ways and Means Committee, and encourage them to support H. 3931.

 

For the Greater Good,

Benjamin Bullock,

Director of Operations,

Together SC

Tags:  accountability  Guiding Principles & Best Practices  H. 3931  public policy  transparency 

Permalink
 

Together SC's new lobbyist: Ann Timberlake

Posted By Benjamin Bullock, Together SC, Monday, April 3, 2017

Advocacy is vital to the work of the Nonprofit sector. We all know this to be true, yet it is some of the work that is most difficult for us to engage in. It’s so easy to throw up our hands and say “Who has the time?” Your state Nonprofit Network, Together SC, is not immune to that feeling. A big part of our strategic planning, which led us to transform SCANPO into Together SC, was the recognition that we need to do more to advocate for the 25,000+ nonprofit organizations that do great work across South Carolina. We’ve just taken a big step to do that.

Together SC has hired a lobbyist. 

Ann Timberlake has been advocating for environmental conservation her entire life. She honed her advocacy skills in her early years volunteering in conservation campaigns to protect iconic places in South Carolina like the Congaree Swamp and the Chattooga River. She gained her first political experience in 1978 as a county coordinator for Dick Riley’s gubernatorial campaign.

After working as a sales representative for the Pillsbury Company, Ann opened a full service, neighborhood grocery, The Purple Cow, in downtown Columbia. In 2003, she returned to conservation and political work as the founding executive director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina.

Over thirteen years, Ann worked with Board members and donors to grow CVSC from an initial budget of $60,000 to a fully staffed, thriving organization with a budget over $600,000. She made bi-partisanship a trademark for conservation in South Carolina, elevated CVSC as a force in state electoral politics and helped the conservation community unite in support of “common agenda” priorities at the State House.

She is a lifelong resident of South Carolina and a graduate of Newcomb College of Tulane University. She and her husband, Ben Gregg, have two adult children. 

 

Tags:  Advocacy  Collective Voice  Public Policy 

Permalink
 

Changes Coming for Nonprofits in the New Congress and Administration

Posted By Benjamin Bullock, Together SC, Thursday, January 5, 2017

With the likely change from government gridlock to fast and furious legislating in Washington this month, many nonprofit and foundation professionals are struggling to see how the pieces fit together and where their advocacy efforts can promote positive solutions. Our national network, the National Council of Nonprofits*, just published a look at six federal issues of sector-wide importance that will likely be taken up in the coming weeks and months, and lays out what they mean for your nonprofit. We encourage you to read the article Nonprofits Need to Stand Together to Push for Smart Public Policies,” share it with your board and other stakeholders, and be ready to stand up to defend nonprofit missions. Working with our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits, we will keep you informed on developments in our nation’s capital that affect the work of nonprofits in South Carolina.

*SCANPO member organizations are also members of the National Council of Nonprofits!

Tags:  Advocacy  Congress  National  National Council of Nonprofits  Public Policy  Trump 

Permalink