Cuomo can strengthen New York through its nonprofits

Working together, NY’s government and nonprofits can help maintain the state’s primacy as innovator, incubator and magnet for investment. Here’s how.

Appearing in this week’s Crains New York Business:

Nonprofits Have Big Role in State

As Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo and legislators shape their plans for New York next year, they should pay close attention to the state’s vibrant not-for-profit sector, as it is the standard-bearer for innovation and service to the state and its people. The 80,000 not-for-profit organizations in the state play crucial roles: leading efforts to prevent or cure disease, alleviate poverty, advance education, address environmental and social concerns, and ennoble through culture.

New York’s robust charitable sector, including such powerhouses as Columbia University, Sloan-Kettering, the Red Cross, the Ford Foundation and Lincoln Center, as well as community-based organizations, such as local drug-prevention programs, small community theaters and religion-based charities, help fuel the state’s economy, generating over $150 billion in revenue annually and employing hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Second in size only to the government as an employer in the city, the nonprofit sector provides more jobs than the financial and insurance industries combined. 

Working together, state government and nonprofits can help maintain our state’s primacy as innovator, incubator and magnet for investment. Here’s how.

* Adjust taxes to encourage more giving. For example, reward taxpayers for increases in year-over-year charitable giving and incentivize artists to donate their work to charity auctions in support of good causes.

* Promote regulatory, administrative and legislative reforms that make it easier to start and operate nonprofits, especially in high-tech, medical research and green industries.

* Encourage and facilitate partnering among nonprofits and between them and for-profit businesses. For instance, provide a clearinghouse so that environmental groups can pair up with green-tech businesses or so arts-in-education organizations can collaborate with founders of charter schools.

* Incentivize nonprofits to hire recent college graduates to fill needed roles while they learn important lessons about professional development and social responsibility.

* Rearrange state budgets with existing charitable resources in mind. For example, recalibrate school aid and Medicaid expenditures so that public spending on students, the elderly and the disabled complements and stimulates private nonprofit resources and support.

* Safeguard against encroachments on sales- or property-tax -exemptions, which would hurt already-stretched hospitals, elder-care facilities and YMCAs.

* Promote visibility for worthy nonprofits by providing voluntary check-offs on state tax forms.

* Include nonprofit destinations in the state’s promotion of tourism and convention activity.

* Make nonprofits part of New York’s federal lobbying strategy.

The public’s trust in state government may be at a low ebb, but public support for nonprofits endures. By recommitting himself to the well-being of our valuable nonprofit institutions, Mr. Cuomo can take important steps toward reclaiming the state’s role as a national beacon and perpetuate its highest ideals.

Lesley Friedman Rosenthal is vice president and general counsel of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Author: Lesley Rosenthal

LESLEY ROSENTHAL teaches, writes, and talks incessantly about the law. She has developed a curriculum called Advocating for the Rule of Law: A Practical Approach, and she has designed and conducted workshops for artists, lawyers, writers, and others seeking to learn more about how to activate democracy. She is the Chief Operating Officer & Corporate Secretary of The Juilliard School and the author of Good Counsel: Meeting the Legal Needs of Nonprofits (Wiley 2012). Ms. Rosenthal holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a bachelor’s in philosophy, magna cum laude, from Harvard College. She is president of the New York Bar Foundation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook @GoodCounselBook and @LetUSROL

3 thoughts on “Cuomo can strengthen New York through its nonprofits”

  1. "Safeguard against encroachments on sales- or property-tax -exemptions, which would hurt already-stretched hospitals, elder-care facilities and YMCAs."

    I don't see an argument for *any* sales or property tax exemptions. They use city resources, they should pay city taxes just like the rest of us. In fact, as long as the expansion of nonprofits means the replacement of taxpayers by nontaxpayers, I'd prefer that they didn't expand. A smaller tax base for the city means more taxes for everyone else.

    Sure, they provide jobs and perform services, but so do for-profits.

    Can you defend these exemptions?

  2. I'm not particularly happy with the tax deduction for charitable giving. Hospitals, okay. Michael Milken giving tens of millions for prostate research? Well, as the possessor of a prostate, I guess I like that okay. Somebody deducting for the upkeep of his charitable museum of 1940s Packards? Why is this something that the rest of us should kick in for? When you rely on nonprofits to do things, what you end up with is favoring the charitable tastes of the rich. And the tax relief that people get for those deductions mean that those tastes get favored while the rest of us pay more, and basically no public oversight on that spending.

    Lincoln Center for Performing Arts - I like high culture. I pay for some of it. But I don't think it's fair that burger flippers in Skaneateles have to pay higher taxes for the sake of events in New York City which don't interest them.

Comments are closed.