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Nonprofit Group Urged to 'Keep Government Accountable'

NEW YORK — “Nonprofits need to be alert because there are threats to our rights,” keynote speaker Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, said yesterday at the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation's 2004 New York Nonprofit Conference at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Her remarks focused on government oversight of nonprofits.

Aron's first piece of advice was for nonprofit organizations to ensure that their own houses are in order. The few bad apples make Congress look at further regulation, she said.

“Know what the rules allow,” said Aron, who urged attendees to practice disclosure, transparency and outside review.

She then told attendees to “keep government accountable” by participating in the process, attending hearings and being vocal.

All groups should pay attention to hearings held by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, regarding charity oversight and reform to ensure that more onerous burdens are not placed on nonprofits, she said.

“The government needs to protect small nonprofits,” she said, noting that 82 percent of nonprofits have budgets of less than $1 million, and many have no lawyer.

Aron also alerted attendees that the Federal Election Commission would again be looking at a proposal to redefine some nonprofits as political committees, thereby limiting donations they may receive from some entities.

Aron also urged supporting lobbyists.

“Most people think it's illegal for nonprofits to lobby, or are just afraid of lobbying,” she said.

Aron directed attendees to her organization's Web site, www.afj.org, for information on lobbying rules.

“In the name of integrity, nonprofits hurt their own causes,” she said.

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