Meet Our Members: Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) is a member of the Initiative to Accelerate Charitable Giving and a state association of nonprofits in the United States working to inform, promote, connect, and strengthen individual nonprofits and the nonprofit sector. This week we sat down to chat with Jon Pratt, MCN’s Former Executive Director, and Marie Ellis, MCN’s Public Policy Director.

This week, we are celebrating the importance of Giving Tuesday and nonprofits in our communities, including the thousands of nonprofits represented by Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN). What are some of the triumphs and challenges facing nonprofits today?

For Minnesota nonprofits, the COVID 19 shutdown and uprising following the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police combined for a massive challenge to operations and opportunities for public advocacy.  Through 2021 the social sector made remarkable adaptations from tele-health to hybrid service delivery. Nonprofits are continuing to deal with unprecedented workplace health, safety, and technology costs, skyrocketing demand for services, staff and volunteer shortages, lack of financial support, and increased budget pressures, while also confronting at a deeper level the larger contradictions of prosperous communities with gross inequality and inequity.

From your experience, how would accelerating resources to charities help nonprofits and communities in Minnesota?

Like much of the Midwest, Minnesota’s economy has gone through remarkable shifts over the last 10 years – growing, but growing unevenly, with low and moderate income and families that are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) largely left out.  Charitable organizations that aim to address this unbalance often have the least access to resources, at the same time the total assets of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors are at an all-time high.  Speeding the distribution of already committed (and tax deducted) contributions is necessary to make a dent in housing, health and youth development disparities.

The Initiative to Accelerate Charitable Giving proposes several reforms to address the problems within our current tax structure. Why did you join this effort?

Maintaining public trust in the open and effective use of charitable funds is essential.  More than 50 years since the 1969 Tax Act, what better time than today to reexamine the underlying structures that have helped make the U.S. one of the most generous populations in the world?  The ‘69 legislation was the first to require accountability, reporting and payout – now it needs a serious update.

If these proposals become law, what short-term and long-term benefits would you hope to see in the sector and in the communities you serve?

In the short-term, restoring the transparency and timeliness for transfers of foundation funds to DAFs would bring sunshine to large sums of tax-deducted money that are currently in a shaded corner of limited reporting requirements. Over the long run, recalculating when tax-preferred contributions actually reach their intended public benefit will rebalance a longstanding temporal gap, and restore trust that these funds are properly used for their exempt purpose.

And finally, Thanksgiving was last week and 2021 is coming to a close. What is something you are thankful for this year?

Every day millions of Minnesotans do things together in their local communities that they could not do apart – volunteering, contributing, serving on nonprofit boards, and donating blood and organs.  At MCN we get to see this in so many ways across our 2,300 member organizations and their leaders, staff and boards. This voluntary spirit truly benefits us all, and for that we’re thankful.