Tennessee Nonprofit Network

Advocacy & Public Policy

Public policy decisions at the local, state, and federal level can have a significant impact on nonprofits and the communities that we serve.

The Tennessee Nonprofit Network (TNN) is the preeminent leader in the state, representing 501(c)3 organizations in advocacy, government relations, and policymaking at the state and federal levels of government. TNN recognizes the current lack of coordinated efforts and lack of advocacy engagement overall by the nonprofit sector. There is a gap between members of the nonprofit sector and the informed shaping of policy by policymakers. TNN will close this gap by committing and focusing on government relations activities through empowerment and amplification of the voice of the nonprofit sector and strengthening relationships between nonprofits and policymakers to ensure that policymaking decisions are informed by nonprofit perspectives.
Our 2024 Policy Agenda

As the trusted resource for leadership, education, research, and action on behalf of the charitable nonprofits in Tennessee, Tennessee Nonprofit Network’s Policy Agenda is built upon our board-approved Public Policy Principles.

Nonprofit organizations are the backbone of our society providing communities with the services and jobs to build and sustain a civil society. We must ensure that nonprofits continue to have access to the support they need to continue their work from federal, state, and local governments.

Beyond our policy agenda, Tennessee Nonprofit Network will expand our efforts to communicate with our elected officials, at all levels, and their staff the importance of the nonprofit sector. We will provide real-time data and research on the sector’s economic and societal impact to all Tennesseans.
The Tennessee Nonprofit Network will maintain our existing working relationship with our partner the National Council of Nonprofits, for our federal policy work. In 2024, we will follow the lead of the National Council of Nonprofits as we advocate for:
  • Supporting tax and other incentives at all levels of government that encourage individuals to volunteer their time and contribute resources to the missions of charitable nonprofits. This includes, but is not limited to, supporting universal or non-itemizer charitable deductions and opposing floors, caps, or limits that weaken existing charitable giving incentives.
  • Promoting nonprofit relief and recovery efforts of nonprofits through temporary, targeted tax incentives for contributions to charitable nonprofits affected by natural disasters or states of emergencies, refundable payroll tax credits and other mechanisms that will help charitable nonprofits retain and pay their employees so that they may continue to serve their communities in the event of disruption of operations after natural disasters, and automatic extension of tax and other governmental filing deadlines for nonprofits affected by disasters.
  • Opposing the imposition of taxes on tax-exempt organizations, unreasonable fees, or involuntary fees or payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs).
  • Maintaining and – where appropriate – expanding nonprofit sector exemptions from paying state and local property, sales, and use taxes and from collecting sales and use taxes.
  • Supporting and preserving the longstanding federal policy limiting the ability to receive tax-deductible charitable donations only to tax-exempt organizations that refrain from participating in or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.
  • Opposing the offloading of government services onto nonprofits without paying nonprofits the cost of providing these services.
  • Endorses policies that promote job creation in the nonprofit sector and incentivize employment at charitable nonprofits and promote workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion, and pathways to growth and advancement.
  • Supporting reforms to government-nonprofit grants processes that streamline policies and procedures to avoid duplication and waste, develop standardized definitions for contracting and grant language, ensure that payments to nonprofit organizations for direct and indirect costs from the federal government through state and local governments are applied consistently, fairly, and in a timely manner, and eliminate from federal statutes and regulations arbitrary caps on reimbursement of nonprofit indirect, administrative, or overhead costs.
  • Supporting the adoption of reforms that help make the federal government a more productive and collaborative partner with nonprofit organizations.
  • Supporting and preserving the longstanding federal policy allowing 501(c)(3) nonprofits to engage in nonpartisan voter registration, voter education, and get-out-the-vote activities so long as organizations are not coordinating their activities with political campaigns, political parties, or political action committees.
  • Correcting misperceptions and clarifying lobbying laws and regulations to empower 501(c)(3) nonprofits to advocate fully and freely within the law.
  • Oppose policies and practices that prevent individuals from exercising their civic responsibilities.
The Tennessee Nonprofit Network will work with state partners to advocate for nonprofit organizations to receive policy consideration and relief that is equitable to what for-profit organizations receive. Specifically, TNN’s priorities for 2024 are:
  • Laying a solid foundation of trust in perpetuity between policymakers at the state level and the Tennessee Nonprofit Network to achieve goals that will benefit the nonprofit sector or oppose efforts which would intentionally or unintentionally destabilize the nonprofit sector.
  • Expand the reach of the nonprofit sector by educating and empowering the nonprofit community about their important nonpartisan role in civic engagement, public policy, and voter engagement.
  • Promoting fair representation of the Tennessee nonprofit sector at all state policy discussions and grant programs.
  • Protecting the decision-making autonomy and self-governance authority of charitable nonprofits.
  • Protecting and expanding the allocation of state and local government resources into the nonprofit sector to continue the work of nonprofits in communities throughout the state.
  • The commitment of governments and nonprofit providers to collaborate in streamlining and reforming the existing flaws within grants and contracting systems. Periodic review, timely payments and process improvements can ensure individuals receive services they need and put taxpayer dollars to work so nonprofit organizations can maximize their impact. This commitment extends to supporting adequate funding for government for management staff and technology upgrades that promote improvements to application processes (e.g., document vaults) and promote processing of contracts and payments to nonprofits with government grants and contracts.
  • Collaboration between state and local governments and nonprofit contractors and grantees to ensure full and fair implementation at the state and local levels of the cost principles and other federal grants reforms contained in the Office of Management and Budget Uniform Guidance, adoption of a uniform system based on the federal cost principles and reforms in the Uniform Guidance, and elimination from state statutes and local ordinances arbitrary caps on reimbursement of nonprofit indirect, administrative, or overhead costs, or other unreasonable and burdensome statutory or procedural requirements.
  • Ensuring that personal information about individual donors to 501(c)(3) nonprofits remains protected from public disclosure while also ensuring that government agencies that regulate 501(c)(3) nonprofits and other exempt organizations have access to information they need to protect the public and the integrity of the nonprofit sector by providing oversight of nonprofits.
  • Setting reasonable thresholds for state-mandated audits of nonprofit finances.
  • Supporting programs that promote volunteering activities that mutually benefit individuals and the people served through nonprofits but opposes proposals to condition receipt of government-provided benefits on requirements that individuals volunteer at nonprofit organizations, a policy known as “mandatory volunteerism,” which imposes increased costs, burdens, and liabilities on nonprofits by an influx of coerced individuals.
Public Policy Principles

Tennessee Nonprofit Network (TNN) works to build the momentum of the nonprofit sector in Tennessee to create equitable, measurable, lasting change. TNN is the premier resource for leadership, education, research, and action on behalf of the nonprofit sector in Tennessee. As a nonprofit membership association, TNN works on behalf of nonprofits to educate public officials about the value and needs of nonprofit organizations and to advocate for public policies that promote, protect and advocate for the sector as a whole.

Tennessee Nonprofit Network will develop a public policy agenda guided by our public policy principles and through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion on behalf of the sector and our community. We will actively work to include all voices with an emphasis on individuals and communities historically underrepresented or excluded.
Nonprofits are a critical component of the economy, providing valuable services and enhancing civic life. However, far too often, neither elected officials, their staff or the public, understand the impact nonprofit organizations have on their community’s economy and vibrancy. Additionally, nonprofits are generally not able to compete with for-profit corporations in terms of the benefits or wages offered and are not always able to attract and retain much needed talent. Tennessee Nonprofit Network supports policies that will enable the government to collaborate more closely with the nonprofit community – as it does with the business sector – to pursue innovative initiatives and funding intended to strengthen and sustain the sector.
Government delegates responsibility for vital programs and services that serve its citizenry to nonprofits through grants and contracts. It is imperative that funding and compensation for the delivery of these programs and services be fair, timely and cover the full cost of the services funded. Tennessee Nonprofit Network supports efforts that seek to reform the funding relationship between government and nonprofit service providers, including through the development of best practices.
Tennessee Nonprofit Network supports policies that encourage charitable contributions and volunteer service. Tax policies that broaden incentives for all donors to give, and to give to charities of their choice, are also an important means of encouraging long term support for the sector.
Tennessee Nonprofit Network supports public policies that promote the effective management of charitable resources and nonprofit organizations. Transparency, governance, ethical conduct, responsible philanthropy and corporate giving, and reasonable access to information are underlying values that are integral to achieving this principle. Laws and regulations should not impose overly burdensome obligations or costs that will require nonprofits to invest additional time and money for compliance and take away their ability to provide much needed resources.

Help us create equitable, measurable, and lasting change in Tennessee.

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