Nonprofit FOIA: Donors Forum Defends Transparency + Accountability

Friday, March 30, 2012

4882227235_ce15d5a2d2How does one unify a diverse sector and catalyze a grassroots awareness raising effort? Introduce a bill to include private nonprofits in a definition of ‘public bodies.’ Last month, Illinois State Senator Martin Sandoval introduced a bill (SB3773) in the Senate last month that would have expanded the definition of ‘public bodies’ in the Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to include nonprofits who receive state funding. Not only would this bill undermine nonprofit privacy and represent a serious breach in the partnership between nonprofits and government, it is unconstitutional and unnecessary.

Thanks to a concerted advocacy effort led by Donors Forum and a coalition of 75 individual nonprofits and nonprofit associations representing thousands of organizations across the state, SB 3773 has stalled in the Senate Executive Committee. But further vigilance is still needed; the bill sponsor has continued to push for the bill and our advocacy is still needed.

Because much of the sector depends on a strong partnership between nonprofits and government, it is in the sector’s best interests to support efforts to improve transparency and accountability in government through common sense reforms to the budget process and state contracting. At the same time, the OIG Report on DCFS contracting should be recognized for what it is: A failure by state agencies to utilize existing laws and their managerial responsibility to oversee state government contracts.

But while isolated scandals are calls to action for government leaders worried about the loss of taxpayer dollars, they are also opportunities for our sector to educate lawmakers about the many ways the sector is a champion of transparency and accountability. Through federal reporting requirements, the Illinois Attorney General’s charitable registry and the Illinois Charitable Trust Act, which makes our highly detailed tax returns available to the public, among other disclosures and consumer protections, nonprofits meet a high standard for transparency and accountability and ensuring the public trust.

How can you help close the awareness gap of our elected officials?

Please share your thoughts and feedback at advocacy@donorsforum.org. For more on nonprofit transparency, accountability, and resources for your donors and legislators, please visit the Nonprofit Transparency and Accountability section of our website.

~Delia Coleman, Director, Public Policy, Donors Forum

 Image via Creative Commons