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Census 2020: A policy issue that we can all get behind.

Posted By Chynna A. Phillips, MSW, MPH, Saturday, May 11, 2019

Guest blog by:
Chynna A. Phillips
Research and Policy Manager
Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina

APRIL 1, 2020 is Census Day. What are you doing to prepare?

Before I begin, please note that this blog post is not meant to make its reader proficient on all things Census. My purpose is simply to share that no matter how daunting the task is of achieving a complete and accurate count of all individuals living in South Carolina, there is a role that everyone can and should play in preparation for Census 2020.

The Rationale

Long before there were Ted Talks explaining the power of courage and vulnerability, and blogs outlining the steps to effectively use ones’ voice, nonprofits have been leading by example for years. Through compelling stories and exposure to the truths of the work their organizations do, nonprofit leaders evoke action from potential donors, build trust with their clients and communities, and motivate their staff and volunteers alike. When large systems fail to meet the needs of the collective, and misguided leaders defund services; nonprofit leaders step in. Nonprofits step in to advocate that their communities and the individuals within them are supported and seen through a lens of power and resilience. On a daily basis, nonprofit leaders challenge, advocate, and push boundaries.

It is this daily drive, that leaves us to wonder, what would happen if nonprofit leaders and those around them collectively worked toward a goal that had political implications? For many reasons, all of which hold some level of validity, policy is an area that many nonprofits choose not to venture. Our separate missions and organizational values present unique challenges making it difficult for many to see a shared topic worth working toward. While we can wrestle with finding what that topic is for weeks or even years, I have a thought.

I submit to you, that the upcoming Census is an issue that cuts across all sectors, missions, and communities. Assisting in this effort does not pull us away from our missions, but draws us closer to the very individuals our missions calls us to serve. For better or worse, we are all impacted by the results of each census. According to the US Census Bureau:

“The population totals from the census determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. States also use the totals to redraw their legislative and school districts. The population totals also affect funding in your community, and data collected in the census help decision makers know how your community is changing.”

The community impact that the upcoming census may have is vast, and the list of ways the census information is used is extensive. (See Appendix A: 50 Ways Data Are Used.)

Spoiler Alert: You may be the leader you’re looking for…

As you begin to question and search for who is doing the work around Census 2020, you may find that no one has started. And that’s ok! What lead me to be appointed as the chair of the Complete Count Committee for the City of Columbia is simply asking questions and not stopping until I found an answer worthy of the community I serve. After being informed that the City of Columbia was already making this a priority (no surprise there), I offered to lend my gifts in whatever way I can. Of course, I have experience in community organizing and other assets to bring to the table, but at its core is the heart and passion for the task at hand. And that is equally important if not at times more important. 

Actionable Steps...Steps you can take!

Whenever new topics are thrown into the mix, the question of organizational capacity is always one that rises to the top. Here are a few quick tips that may resonate with your organization.

1. Arm yourself with trusted Information

In the age of information, it is hard to sift through the wide birth of data being generated every day. Here are a few tools to consider. 

  •  Census.Gov - Your one stop shop for all of your Census needs.
  •  2020census.Gov - Access to official Census 2020 operational plans, FAQs and more.
  •  Response Outreach Area Mapper (ROAM). Find out how well your state is doing by assessing the hard-to-survey areas.
  •  Hard to Count 2020 - Another tool that can assist in identifying hard-to-count areas.
  •  Confidentiality -  Did you know it is a crime to share identifiable information given on the census? Individual records are protected by law (Title 44, U.S. Code) and confidential for 72 years!
  • American FactFinder - Ever wonder where all that information goes? This is an easy way to pull the data you need from the American Community Survey.

2. Educate your staff and board

Getting buy-in from all those involved not only leads to better outcomes but also increases the number of people in the community who can speak to the importance of Census 2020. 

  •  Request a presentation or the information of the representative working in your county. Contact the regional office for your state. For South Carolina, it is The Atlanta Regional Office. This office is also responsible for North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
  • Host a Census Solutions Workshop (See Appendix C): Businesses, city officials, community-based organizations, or any other persons or groups can host a workshop. The Census Bureau created a toolkit that gives step-by-step guidance on how to host a workshop. The toolkit is available at www.census.gov/partners. For more information, please contact U.S. Census Bureau at census.partners@census.gov.

3. Educate your constituents/clients.

With the changes being made to Census 2020. The more we can dispel myths and prepare communities for the upcoming Census, the better we will all be. 

4. Make the information you share available to all of your clients.

While the U.S. Census Bureau has done their best to provide clear and concise information on their website, access to that information presents a challenge for all communities.

5. Develop an organizational plan

How will your organization send out the information? Will it be by mail, Facebook page, flyers in waiting rooms, in bathroom stalls, etc.? No way is right or wrong. This plan will depend on the organization and where you get the most engagement. The Census will be different this year, so having an understanding of the process and changes in advance is key.

  •  This step is especially important for organizations that serve hard to count populations (Examples of hard to count populations are; children, those experiencing homelessness and poverty, those who reside in rural areas.)

6. Serve as a partner for your local Complete Count Committee (CCC).

Many complete count committees will need trusted members of the community or organizations who will be willing to share information they develop to educate the community about the upcoming Census. 

7. Help the U.S. Census Bureau recruit new talent.

Help is needed at all levels. There are part-time and full-time options for all who apply.

8. Don’t stop there!

These are just examples, and there are many more ways
you can get engaged and help those that need the information. 

  • For assistance with strategies call your local CCC or County US Census Bureau Rep., etc. For additional information about the CCC Program, please contact your regional census center. South Carolina: Atlanta.rcc.partnership@2020census.gov
  • You do not have to be an official CCC to advocate for the Census. There may be other organizations and efforts taking place in your community. I have heard a buzz in various areas across the state, so this is exciting news. Happy searching! 

 

If the road ahead looks too daunting, I will leave you with this, “It is easy to get overwhelmed by the level of need. But you must take it one issue and one ‘grant’ at a time. Doing something will always be better than doing nothing. The risk is too high, not to do something,” Tom Keith, President, Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina.

My friends the risk is too high not to be engaged in this work! The future of South Carolina is relying on a complete and accurate count of all that reside in our state. And we are just the people to help make that happen. Happy Counting Everyone!

Let me know what you are doing to support Census 2020. I would love to know. Let’s keep the conversation going. #SCCounts 

 ABOUT CHYNNA A. PHILLIPS

When she speaks, people listen. Whether she is talking about the latest thing her baby boy learned, or telling the staff about the latest research she found, people listen because of Chynna’s fierce and passionate voice.

Chynna cares deeply about health equity and advocating for vulnerable populations, and uses her gift of voice to speak for and with others. Not only is she passionate about serving others, but she does it well. Chynna’s belief of “excellence is the standard by which you should operate” has been passed down from her family, and is evident in her work as the Foundation’s research and policy manager.

Lastly, Chynna has the ability to light up the office when she walks in. Making even the grumpiest morning person smile, her laughter and kind spirit is infectious. Ironically, she mirrors the character of her hero, Dorothy Irene Height. Height was a lifelong Civil Rights and Women’s Rights activist. Chynna admires Height’s commitment to what she believed in, her humility, and her poise. It is safe to say that Chynna is following in her footsteps.

Favorite Quote:
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced,” James Baldwin

Education: M.S.W. and M.P.H. (University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC); B.A. in Sociology (Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH)

Community Engagement: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and Phi Alpha Social Work Honors Society

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The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina is a statewide foundation that works to reduce poverty through action, advocacy, and leadership. Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina is located in Columbia, South Carolina.

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Tags:  2020 Census  Advocacy  Census  Guiding Principles & Best Practices  Leadership  Public Policy  Sisters of Charity 

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Sign on to this Letter to Congress! Repeal the Parking Tax on Nonprofits!

Posted By Benjamin Bullock, Together SC, Thursday, March 28, 2019

It was in a paragraph somewhere...

One of those "little things" in the sweeping 2017 Tax Reform Act was a new 21% "Unrelated Business Income Tax" (UBIT) on charitable nonprofits on "Parking Benefits", designed to somehow "maintain parity" for the repeal of such tax deduction for for-profit companies.

What Parking Benefits?

Does your organization provide parking for your employees? Perhaps some spaces in a garage or parking lot? Or perhaps you provide bus passes or Uber/Lyft credits for your employees? For-profit companies used to be able to write such expenses off on their taxes, while nonprofits were already exempt. When Congress repealed that deduction, they decided that it was "only fair" to make nonprofits pay an extra tax, where there was none before. Taxes for 2018 are due on April 15, 2019.

We don't think that's fair at all.

Why should our donors' contributions go to pay an income tax on an expense, and one that for-profit businesses don't have to pay? Together SC's position on this is: 

“Charitable nonprofit organizations provide services and social good for all South Carolinians, and in recognition, are exempted from income and other taxes. These exemptions allow the contributions of citizens to be used completely to further the missions of the causes they care about, and not to have a portion of their contributions be diverted by taxes.”

Most of Congress Agrees!

Repealing this tax isn't very controversial, but it's pretty low on Congress' priorities right now. A national coalition of nonprofits is asking House and Senate Tax leaders to make repealing this tax a priority, through this sign on letter. Will you sign on behalf of your organization before April 3? 

Learn more about this new tax on nonprofits.

Tags:  Collective Voice  Congress  National Council of Nonprofits  Public Policy  Sign-On Letter  Tax Reform  UBIT  Washington 

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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 

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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 

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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 

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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 

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