Amy Rome on Philanthropy

Every time a new president gets the keys to the White House, questions pop up about how businesses and nonprofits will be financially affected by the new administration’s agenda. Which sectors will be favored, and which will see cuts to important funding? Amy Rome, founder and principal of The Rome Group consulting firm in midtown, is well aware of the challenges faced by nonprofits that receive support from government agencies. She offers some words of caution—and hope—for nonprofit leaders scratching their heads about the availability of future funding.

Rome notes that the full federal funding picture is still hazy at this point, but nonprofits should think strategically now so they know where else to seek support if government funding gets reduced. “The current administration has provided some details about its priorities,” she says. “What gets funded is subject to its interests and agenda. Early talk about preliminary budgets suggests that funding could be shifted away from programs with real consequences for our community, including the arts, domestic violence prevention and even the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).”

Rome says some nonprofits in the areas of environment, social justice and women’s health already have begun ramping up their nongovernmental funding efforts in response to the new administration’s priorities. But turning to private philanthropy alone isn’t enough to replace government funding, she says. Whenever there’s a period of instability, more families turn to nonprofits for more services, and that increases the burden on organizations that already stretch their dollars quite a bit. “That includes basic areas like health care, housing and putting food on the table,” Rome says. “Nonprofits may have to change or limit their service priorities if they lose government support. They’ll need to be more strategic about what they can and can’t do for people.”

She adds that nonprofits should pay attention to their state’s spending plans, too. “For example, Missouri governor Eric Greitens’ proposed FY2018 budget shows big cuts to early and higher education,” she notes.

Regardless of how the landscape unfolds, Rome advises area nonprofits to do three things in the coming year: 1) Communicate their priorities often to elected officials; 2) Stay in even closer touch with donors and supporters so the group’s needs stay top of mind; and 3) Take advantage of nonprofit management courses and seminars offered by organizations like the Regional Arts Commission, Arts and Education Council, United Way, Jewish Federation, Nonprofit Missouri, Network for Strong Communities and local universities. Their offerings can teach nonprofit staffers how to tap new funding sources like foundations and grant programs, and how to work effectively with local legislators to advance their causes.

“There are a lot of resources out there,” Rome adds. “It’s a matter of reaching out to these organizations, getting on their LISTSERVs and staying up on their news.”

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