New Essay Serves as Call to Action for Forging a New Compact in Illinois

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

BlogPic How do we move from a system weighed down by mistrust and inefficiency to a new agreement in which all stakeholders work together to provide effective, high-quality services that truly reflect the needs of Illinoisans? 

A critical component to ensuring the sustainability of Illinois communities is advancing a three-way partnership between government, philanthropy, and nonprofits.  To begin this dialogue, Donors Forum commissioned an essay from the publication Illinois Issues.  Entitled “Renewing the partnership between the state and nonprofits” and written by Brent Never, the essay reframes Illinois’ fiscal and systems failures and gives us a new opportunity to engage with lawmakers, foundations, and nonprofits to forge a path ahead.

The work of nonprofits and government is interdependent – our system has developed in such a way that one cannot function without the other.  But, as Brent shows in the excerpt below, when the relationship is unbalanced, neither party can achieve its mission: to create a healthy, vital, and economically viable state.

As the consequences of fiscal imbalance sweep from Springfield across the state, Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens and others who rely on nonprofits face the specter of fewer services, longer wait times, and greater worry about the future. While the economic downturn eroded the ability of Illinois government to pay for services, it also forced more people to turn to human service providers and other nonprofits.  The strain of those twin pressures has stretched the bonds between state government and its contractors to a near breaking point….The social compact between Illinois government, its nonprofit service providers and the citizens who count on those services has been seriously damaged.


To make real, lasting change in Illinois, it is important that all stakeholders be flexible, open to change, and learn from others exemplifying best practices.   Never highlights (page 9) innovative solutions from New York City and England, which have both tackled problems similar to those we face in Illinois.  He also examines factors (page 7) that have allowed, over the long term, government to form strong compacts with institutions such as the military industrial complex and programs like Headstart.

To advance this three-way dialogue in Illinois:

Nonprofits must

  • attempt to break down the silos that have typically stymied cross-sector solutions,
  • engage in sustained dialogue with lawmakers, and 
  • take a comprehensive look at the services it provides and engage in evaluation and improvement to maintain the trust of the public and state leaders. 

Government must

  • recognize the central role nonprofits play in the delivery of service and
  • involve nonprofits and philanthropy in the planning and development of progress metrics.

Philanthropy must

  •  be willing to lead by bringing its best practices, innovation, and research and development expertise to the table as models for leveraging public-private partnerships.

As Donors Forum advances the development of this three-way partnership in Springfield, we want your input to achieve a healthier, stronger, more livable Illinois.

~ Laurel O'Sullivan, Vice President, Public Policy