We can’t go back to the future …

by Kristen Merrifield

If you lived through the ‘80s, you will definitely remember an iconic moment from Back to the Future. It’s the moment Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, realizes his future is at risk of never happening as his siblings begin to disappear from a family photo. Much like young Marty, we can’t forget what the picture of our future as a community might look like if we don’t remain vigilant about protecting the sustainability of our local nonprofits.

What if no one stood up for the nonprofit sector?

In 2014, the nonprofit sector contributed more than $22.4 billion to Arizona’s Gross State Product (GSP), positioning its contribution on par with the state’s entire retail trade. Arizona’s 21,137 registered nonprofits collectively generated approximately $28 billion in revenue, approximately on par with the annual revenue generated by the construction sector in the state. Also, Arizona nonprofits are responsible for 325,000 jobs and constitute the fifth-largest non-governmental employer.

Nonprofits are critical to the overall health of the Arizona economy and our communities.

But what if nonprofits aren’t being compensated for the full cost of providing services? What if politics is allowed to creep in and cloud the support of charitable work, and nonprofits are no longer “safe havens” for every Arizonan? What if nonprofits and their boards don’t know they have a right to advocate on their behalf? What if …? What if …? What if …?

Unfortunately, we don’t have a DeLorean to take us “back to the future” to fix things that might go wrong. We have to act now.

That’s where we come in. The Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, now 1,000 members strong, works tirelessly to ensure the voice of nonprofits is loud and clear on issues impacting their critical work on behalf of all our communities. And we make sure nonprofit professionals and their boards have access to information, resources and training to help them advocate on issues specific to their missions.

The Alliance has worked tirelessly to protect and promote the nonprofit sector by rallying forces to communicate the dangers of eliminating or reducing the incentive for charitable tax deductions, educating lawmakers on why keeping politics out of nonprofit work is the right thing to do, and making sure nonprofits can continue to operate in a way that sustains the impact of their missions for future generations.

Just like George McFly finally found the courage to stand up to Biff Tannen outside the school dance in Back to the Future, we can stand up for nonprofits when we join together and unify our voice. Whether you work for a nonprofit, serve on a nonprofit board or donate your time or money, we all play an important role in ensuring our nonprofits are poised to continue to serve and support Arizona.

Kristen Merrifield, CAE, CNAP
Chief Executive Officer
Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits

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