REPORT: Improving Relations with Nonprofits

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View the Report & Legislative Recommendations to 83rd Texas Legislature
Prepared by Task Force on Improving Relations with NonprofitsSubmitted to House Committee on Human Services, House Committee on Public Health & Senate Health and Human Services Committee – December 4, 2012

reportcoverThis report is the result of intensive interaction by Task Force members with the leadership and participants within the Interagency Coordinating Committee, its sub-committees, and other state agencies’ representatives; and independent Task Force discussions informed by the individual Task Force members’ extensive connections within the overall Texas nonprofit community.

The Texas nonprofit community plays an essential role in providing health and human services and social services to Texans in need throughout the state. As the needs of Texans have grown, so too has the nonprofit community, which has had a demonstrable and widespread impact on many critical economic sectors within this state. The nonprofit community and State government are in the position of providing mutual support that will improve the lives of tens of thousands of Texans by expanding and strengthening sustainable partnerships between state agencies and nonprofit organizations.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), established the Task Force on

Improving Relations with Nonprofits, as directed by House Bill (H.B.) 1965, 82nd Legislature,

Regular Session, 2011 “to help direct the interagency coordinating group in carrying out the Inter Agency Coordinating Group’s duties” as defined therein.

The Task Force organized itself to participate in all Interagency Coordinating Group (ICG) meetings, assigned liaisons to all ICG committees, and actively participated in both group and committee deliberations. A key result was greater familiarity of all with the language, perspectives and needs of both state agencies and their staff and nonprofit organizations and the populations in need they serve.

Many of the recommendations of the earlier Task Force on Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity require technical solutions; resolvable through already established procedures, resources and processes.  Others require adaptive solutions; resolvable by changing attitudes, values, and behaviors among and between the state’s representatives and nonprofits.

During the past year, working closely with the Interagency Coordinating Group and its sub-committees, our Task Force on Improving Relations with Nonprofits has brought an influential external perspective to all of the ICG participants and state agency program staff with whom we have interacted.  This has changed attitudes and exponentially improved communications among key stakeholders.  New relationships have been fostered and a stronger common agenda between the state and nonprofits has evolved.

The evidence of our effectiveness is in the various initiatives already being implemented including, but not limited to:

(1)   Increasing user friendliness and therefore utility of state materials relating to nonprofits and individuals using state services;

(2)   Using Task Force members’ extensive networks within the Texas nonprofit community to reach and communicate with more FBCOs so as to get greater participation and fill gaps in state services;

(3)   Developing training modules to address barriers to compliance with Federal rules, with future training modules addressing other challenges facing the state – nonprofit relationship;

(4)   Creating a specific FBCO website that educates and communicates partnership opportunities for nonprofits with the state of Texas; and

(5)   Identifying strategies and implementable approaches to reduce perceived barriers to nonprofits seeking to obtain state contracts and grants.

Task Force members have been welcomed into all of the ICG and its sub-committee meetings and encouraged to engage in a two way dialogue whose value lies in the concrete outcomes described above and in the remainder of this Report.

As Texas moves forward in its faith-based and community organization initiatives, it is breaking new ground for our state and for our nation.  To reflect that, the Task Force asked the National Council of Nonprofits to compile a report on Collaborations for Government – Nonprofit Contracting Reform – attached here as Appendix D.  Among other matters, it outlines the Lessons Learned about the Collaborative Process.  Here in Texas we are systematically and successfully applying these lessons learned, especially:

(1)      Fostering true public-private collaboration

(2)      Establishing clear common goals

(3)      Implementing collaboration as a process, not an event

(4)      Achieving real change in organizational culture

Legislative Recommendations

The National Council of Nonprofits report emphasizes that in every state making significant progress in strengthening the nonprofit sector, meaningful change requires sustained effort over time . Based on Task Force members’ experiences within both the earlier Task Force on Strengthening Nonprofit Capacity and the current Task Force on Improving Relations with Nonprofits, the extensive interest among the ICG participants and nonprofits we relate to throughout the state, and the importance of building on the current work of the ICG and Task Force we offer the following recommendations:

  1. Legislators should establish a permanent Nonprofit Partnership Council comprising representatives from a broad range of nonprofit perspectives. The co-chairs of the Council should serve as ex officio members of the ICG. The Council should work with the ICG, lawmakers, and local communities to strengthen collaboration between public programs and the nonprofit sector.
  1. Legislators should establish a nonprofit legislative caucus to serve as a legislative focal point for nonprofit policy, and to provide resources and information on the nonprofit community for legislators and their staffs.