Nonprofit New York Testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Government Operations on March 22, 2022

To: New York City Council Committee on Government Operations

From: Chai Jindasurat, Vice President, Policy, Nonprofit New York

Date: Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Re: FY23 Government Operations Budget Testimony

Good afernoon Chair Ung and members of the City Council Government Operations Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on behalf of Nonprofit New York. Nonprofit New York is a membership based organization of approximately 1,000 nonprofit organizations in the New York City area. Our mission is to strengthen and unite the nonprofit sector, through our member services, capacity building work for the sector, and policy advocacy to promote nonprofits.

I am testifying this morning in support of two campaigns relevant to Government Operations: 1) A Place at the Table; and implementation of Our City Our, Our Vote.

A Place at the Table1 seeks to increase nonprofits’ ability to advocate by reforming the lobbying expenditure threshold

All nonprofits have a constitutional and legal right to engage in lobbying.2 However, according to the National Council of Nonprofits, fewer than 3% of nonprofits engage in lobbying.3

Nonprofits offen represent under-represented communities, and deeply
Nonprofits offen represent under-represented communities, and deeply understand the challenges faced by the communities nonprofits serve. In a time when New Yorkers and nonprofits face economic uncertainty, record unemployment, racial injustice, a looming eviction crisis, affordability, and other challenges, policymakers need to hear more from nonprofits, not less.

The expenditure threshold prevents nonprofits from engaging in advocacy
During a listening session three years ago with nonprofits and legal practitioners, the $5,000 expenditure required for nonprofits to have to register with the city clerk as lobbyists was the most common barrier shared with us. An organization that plans to spend $5,000 in a year doing legislative advocacy must: register as a lobbyist and submit bi-monthly reports on their activities to the state (and city); file a minimum of 6 reports each year; and risk paying late filing fees ranging from $75 to $2,000 per filing.4 This causes many nonprofits to decide not to lobby at all - taking their voices, and the voices of their communities, out of the conversation. Reporting lobbying activity can be expensive - big lobbyists spend upwards of $500 a month on reporting alone. Small nonprofits simply canʼt afford that.

We are hopeful a new bill will be introduced to raise the expenditure threshold to $10,000
New York City currently allows architects to spend up to $10,000 before registering and reporting as a lobbyist,5 and we seek the same standard for nonprofits. During the previous City Council class we were successful in getting a bill introduced, Int. 2148-2020, but it unfortunately did not pass. We are hopeful the new City Council will again introduce legislation to raise the threshold and create a place at the table for grassroots and under-resourced organizations to make their voices heard.

Nonprofit New York supports implementation of Our City, Our Vote

Nonprofit New York is also a proud supporter of Our City Our Vote (OCOV), Int. 1867. We recommend as part of OCOVʼs implementation:

  1. The creation of a $25,000,000 fund to be distributed to CBOs, particularly the Our City, Our Vote Coalition, to conduct truly expansive city-wide voter registration, voter education, and GOTV.
  2. An increase in the budgets of every City agency, department and office that will be involved in the implementation of municipal voting, including:
    1. $25,000,000 for the Board of Elections
    2. 10% increase from the FY22 budget of the Civic Engagement Commision, the Campaign Finance Board, and the Mayorʼs Office of Immigrant Affairs
    3. 5% increase from the FY22 budget of the Department of Youth & Community Development and any other relevant City agency, department and office.