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The 2016 Election and the Nonprofit Sector

Whatever your politics, it was certainly a nail-biter of a night and an historic election.

The people spoke. The winner vowed unity. The loser vowed support for the voters’ choice and a continued commitment to the issues. Everyone prayed for the nation. It is at times like these – a too-bitter and too-brutal campaign followed by calm lines of voters followed by shock followed by people back at work like the day before and leaders praising the effort of their supporters and committing themselves to the nation – it is at times like these, that we see the brilliance of the Founders and should take pride in democracy.

So, what now?

A Trump presidency is hard to predict; the President-elect has no governing “fingerprints,” no policies that precede him, no legislation with his name on it. The Cabinet nominations and the first tier of political appointees will tell us much more than we can know right now.

From a nonprofit and philanthropy point of view, we can likely expect:

An economic emphasis on business, investment, and tax reduction. The Tuesday night market was down 700 points and yesterday it closed up over 250 points. So, there is no impact on nonprofit assets, and there is the possibility of economy-fueled resources newly available for philanthropy, should the charitable instinct of the people continue in its historical path.

A social emphasis on non-Federal action, with greater reliance on state and local policies and private initiative. For nonprofits, that could mean less in the way of Federal cause-driven dollars (but any change will take time), perhaps more variability in service conditions and policies at the state level, and perhaps less emphasis on the public side of public-private partnerships.

A legal emphasis on “strict constructionist” views of the constitution, and, over time, perhaps a more conservative Supreme Court, which obviously could impact some nonprofit causes.

But remember that Donald Trump defies categorization. He may be a fiscal conservative, but he is a social moderate with a long history of a middle path on many social issues on which his more consistently conservative colleagues have a harder view. So, on many issues there is likely to be no real change at all, at least from a policy point of view. He will face opposition to the middle path in parts of the Congress, but by and large the electorate did not vote for conservative social policy.

There will be action on his hot button issues — defense, border safety, health care, and regulation. Of these, for nonprofits, the action on border safety and health care will likely have the greatest impact. Depending on what is done, it may affect Federal dollars and the operation context of programs, but even that is not likely to be immediate. One can rescind Presidential actions that were not undertaken with Congressional votes, but implementation takes time. There may have been a voter revolution, but any policy revolution will not be instant in its effects.

So, breathe. And let’s get back to the hard work we have to do in meeting the needs of the nation on the societal commons of what is, after all, a nation of people, however differing their views, who are committed to democracy and to taking the nation forward to a better future for all.

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About Susan Raymond, Ph.D.

Susan Raymond, Ph.D. is Chief Innovation Officer and Vice President of Program Integration at Edmundite Missions in Selma, Alabama and Chief Operating Officer of Edmundite Missions Enterprises, the social enterprise arm of the Missions.  She is also Senior Advisor to […]

About Brian Crimmins

Brian Crimmins is a global leader in social impact, a popular public speaker with the world’s foremost speaking agency, the Washington Speakers Bureau, and the former Chief Executive Officer of Changing Our World, where he spent more than 22 years […]