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Valentines and Tiffs: Maine Nonprofits at the State House

PHOTO: The day before Valentine’s Day is Nonprofit Day at Maine's State House, aimed at warming the sometimes rocky relationship between lawmakers and nonprofit groups in the state. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
PHOTO: The day before Valentine’s Day is Nonprofit Day at Maine's State House, aimed at warming the sometimes rocky relationship between lawmakers and nonprofit groups in the state. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
February 12, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine - On Nonprofit Day at the Statehouse, nonprofit leaders "make nice" with public officials to help increase awareness of their contributions to the state's economy and well-being. While the valentines are being exchanged, there are - as in any relationship - some rough patches.

At the Maine Association of Nonprofits, public policy director Brenda Peluso has been working to deflect efforts to limit tax deductions on charitable giving and resisting attempts to charge service fees to nonprofits. She said she understands why legislators are feeling pressure from financially strapped communities.

"They don't understand the structure that's already in place to ensure that an organization that gets tax exemption is truly a public benefit," she said.

Among the Nonprofit Day exhibitors in the Hall of Flags will be the Washington-Hancock Community Agency. Its executive director, Mark Green, said he'll be there not just to "buttonhole" legislators.

"I also see it as an opportunity for them to pick our brains a little bit,” he said, “because those poor folks are hit with so many complex issues, and there's a lot of things we can help them with and that we're knowledgeable about."

Peluso said the underlying theme of the day is "Nonprofits Matter."

"Everything from clean air and water to services for people with disabilities, or education,” she said. “And it's just such a much richer place to live because of these great volunteer organizations."

She said participating nonprofit leaders can show a little love on the day before Valentine's Day.

"Nonprofit Day is a great way to get them familiar with the Statehouse and get them to know just how friendly and open legislators are," she said.

Nonprofits earn their tax exemptions every day, she said, by contributing to the common good in partnership with community, county, state and federal governments.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME