Story at a glance

  • Nonprofits play a vital role in building and maintaining healthy communities and protecting resources.
  • With a brand-new decade ahead of us, we take a look at a few of the critical topics projected by top nonprofits to tackle in 2020.
  • Nonprofits like Amnesty International and C40 believe the highest priority issue to be tackling climate change, while Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign want to see more rights and protections for women and LGBTQ+ people.

Just as the world around us continues to change at breakneck speed, so must nonprofits — when it comes to their priorities and fundraising methods — in order to adapt. From 2001 to 2011 the number of philanthropic organizations in the U.S. grew by 25 percent. That’s in comparison to for-profit businesses which rose by only half of 1 percent, according to the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.,-based think tank that conducts economic and social policy research. In 2012 the nonprofit sector provided 5.4 percent of the nation’s entire GDP at $887.3 billion.

Besides providing employment, nonprofits also possess a combination of strong community relationships and intimate local knowledge, and thus are able to provide the grassroots support for low- and middle-income communities that only these organizations can. Outside of these hyper-local efforts, nonprofits are now able to call upon a much wider community for support — social media users. This #GivingTuesday, nonprofits raised a whopping $511 million online in the United States, an increase of almost 28 percent from 2018. There were more than 20 billion social media impressions as #GivingTuesday was among the top trending topics on Twitter through most of that day, according to the Nonprofit Times.

We talked to a few of the top nonprofits that provide valuable resources in the United States and abroad to see what they consider to be the most important issues of 2020 — the first year of a brand-new decade. To learn more about each nonprofit and to make a donation you can click on their websites.

Amnesty International USA

Amnesty International, a global movement comprised of millions of people that demand human rights for all people, is the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization. Joanne Lin, national director of advocacy and government affairs at Amnesty International USA, shares AI’s top priorities for 2020.

Tackling the climate crisis: “There are no human rights on a dead planet. It is all too clear that the climate crisis is already having an impact on basic human rights and disproportionately affects people already facing marginalization and discrimination. The crisis will only intensify unless we act immediately to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and phase out fossil fuels well before 2050 through a human rights-centered transition to a green economy. The U.S. government must stop denying the crisis exists and enact policies that can preserve our future. It is essential that communities already most impacted by the climate crisis — including indigenous peoples, people of color and people with disabilities — are centered in deciding on climate solutions. Time is of the essence — the failure of governments to act on climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence may well be the biggest inter-generational human rights violation in history.”

Ending gun violence: “One of the biggest issues in human rights in the United States is the rampant gun violence, which has become so prevalent that it amounts to a human rights crisis. There are too many guns, insufficient laws to keep track of them all and keep them out of the hands of people who intend harm. This leads to relentless violence. Communities have the power to end gun violence, but they need long-term financial and political support. What we should all be tackling in 2020 is advocating for a country where our loved ones and communities can feel safe, and this means common sense reforms at the federal, state and local levels to protect everyone’s safety, including background checks for the sale of every gun.”

Welcoming refugees and asylum-seekers: “If we want to live in a country where we look after each other, and everyone is treated with dignity, respect and fairness, we must all take steps to welcome refugees and asylum-seekers to this country instead of supporting policies that keep them out or detain them. We can and we must respond with compassion and respect for the people who arrive at our borders. People can support refugee resettlement and community sponsorship for refugees and helping those seeking safety establish new homes. People can also stand up for human rights in 2020 by condemning the separation of families, the detention of asylum seekers, particularly children, asylum agreements with other countries that force people to seek safety in countries where they will not be safe, asylum bans that limit people’s ability to even ask for asylum, and policies that force people to wait in dangerous conditions in other countries as they fight for their asylum cases in this one.”

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood is one of the United States’ leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care, and the nation’s largest provider of sex education. Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy, shares Planned Parenthood’s top priorities for 2020.

Access to abortion is at stake: “Support for abortion may be at an all-time high, but certain politicians are doubling down on their goal of trying to end access to abortion in America. Already, too many people across the country cannot access abortion, even though legally they have the right to do so. And from the statewide unpopular abortion bans sweeping the nation — many of which disproportionately impact women of color — to the Supreme Court taking up cases that could render Roe v. Wade virtually meaningless, abortion is on the line for 25 million women of reproductive age nationwide.

“Protecting access to abortion is about more than just one court case. We also need a strong ecosystem of providers, good state-level laws, judges on the courts who will protect our rights, ways of overcoming barriers for those who are low-income or face discrimination, and reproductive rights champions holding office. That’s why we need to fight like our rights depend on it, whether it’s volunteering for a local abortion provider or voting for candidates who will protect and expand reproductive rights.”

The attacks on birth control and Title X: “Though access to abortion is often one of the most-talked-about issues in reproductive health, access to birth control across the country is also at a critical point. Last year, the Trump administration imposed an unethical gag rule on Title X, the nation’s program for affordable birth control, the 50-year old program which helped ensure millions of people who were struggling to make ends meet could still afford birth control, cancer screenings, and other reproductive health care. The result was that it forced Planned Parenthood and a number of other providers out of the program, putting access for millions of people at risk. Not only that, but in 2018, the administration released sweeping new rules to cut the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee for birth control coverage, through which 63 million women access birth control. Courts have blocked the rules for now, but as with the attack on Title X, the administration will continue trying to put birth control out of reach.”

Sex education and accurate information for all: “In 2020, people of all ages need accurate information about sexual and reproductive health so they can make decisions — about their own health and about their elected officials — based on fact, not misinformation and misconceptions.

“As the nation’s largest provider of sex education, Planned Parenthood knows that every young person has the right to information and skills they need to protect their health. However, too many young people still aren’t getting any sex education at all, or they’re getting shaming, stigmatizing, and inaccurate abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. A 2016 study from researchers at the Guttmacher Institute found that the percentage of teens who received sex education dropped significantly over the last decade, particularly for those living in nonmetropolitan areas.

“We need to do better — and that starts with advocating for good sex education policies and funding, in every community. Over 90% of parents support sex education in both middle and high school, and the vast majority of parents, including Democrats and Republicans, want this education to include topics like birth control, healthy relationships, abstinence, and sexual orientation. This should be a non-issue in this country.”

Policies impacting global reproductive health care:  “For better or worse, U.S. foreign policy has a huge impact on global health, and the worse comes as anti-abortion politicians use U.S. policy to aggressively push their extreme views on the rest of the world. The global gag rule is one such policy that has devastated sexual and reproductive health, and health systems across the globe — breaking down critical health systems, shuttering clinics, and even dissolving programs for HIV testing and treatment. This policy needs to be ended once and for all and prevented from ever being reinstated again.”

Democracy reform and voter suppression: “There is no question — democracy reform is critical. Voter suppression, from voter purges and the closing of polling places, and partisan (and often illegal) gerrymandering have left us with a small vocal minority pulling the levers of power. That’s how we end up with harmful and unpopular abortion bans — many of which disproportionately impact Black women — getting passed even though 77 percent of the American public supports access to abortion. It’s also how we see politicians push other harmful policies that hurt communities of color like mass criminalization. Reproductive justice groups on the ground have long understood this and have centered their fight for reproductive freedom around the barriers that Black women face, including voter suppression. And this isn’t happening in a vacuum — it’s happening while Trump is stacking the courts with anti-abortion judges positioned to chip away at our rights for a generation. We need fundamental structural democracy reform to ensure that every person’s voice is counted and that communities that have too long kept from the seat of power now have a seat at the table.”

Human Rights Campaign

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality. Alphonso David, their president and a nationally recognized LGBTQ+ civil rights lawyer and advocate, shares HRC’s top priorities of 2020.

The battles over non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people: “In 30 states, LGBTQ+ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are. That's wrong and that's why HRC has been working with our partners on the federal level to pass landmark legislation like the Equality Act — which passed the U.S. House — and working with our partners in states across the country. This upcoming election will be critical to determining the path forward for LGBTQ+ equality. We must elect a pro-equality president and Senate to ensure that LGBTQ+ people are given the protections we deserve and desperately need. But HRC isn't just waiting until 2021, we will continue to fight in states across the country to pass non-discrimination protections and pick up where President Trump has failed.”

Combatting violence against the transgender and gender non-conforming community: “In 2019, at least 25 transgender and gender non-conforming people lost their lives due to acts of fatal violence — a majority of these victims were black transgender women. We weren't even 6 hours into 2020 before we saw the death of a transgender man in Oklahoma. HRC and our allies across the LGBTQ+, racial justice and gun law reform movement have been continuing to honor the lives of those lost and put forward commonsense policy ideas that can have a real impact on improving the safety of our community. And our efforts are bearing fruit: in 2019 attention to this issue hit a fever pitch with Presidential candidates addressing the issue on a debate stage for the first time in history. We are already hearing the conversation about those policy ideas and combat these attacks.”

Improving voting rights and access to the ballot: “Our election systems in some states are broken — where only some have the opportunity to truly have their voice heard. While we saw some progress in 2019 with multiple states restoring the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals, in too many states people are still being unnecessarily turned away from the ballot box. Voter ID laws hit the LGBTQ+ community particularly hard, especially transgender and non-binary individuals. We recently announced a partnership with Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight to boost our efforts to ensure that every individual, especially transgender and non-binary voters, has the ability to cast their ballot.”

C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

C40 Cities is a network of 96 cities worldwide committed to delivering on the highest ambitions of the Paris Agreement and to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. David Miller, their regional director of North America and director of international diplomacy, shares C40’s top priorities of 2020.

Bridging the income gap: “From the perspective of a climate organization, what we're seeing are more and more extreme weather events in the United States today. It’s having a huge impact on people, particularly those who are from lower income communities. It’s a really significant social justice and equity issue, and also reinforces the need to act boldly on climate, which many of our member cities are doing.

“The weather events we’re seeing range from extremely serious and unprecedented fires to floods and everything in between. It's clear from the lived experience in the United States over the last decade that the resilience of communities to respond and recover is really challenged when people suffer other challenges like being low income or being marginalized from power. It took years for some parts of Queens, low income neighborhoods, to recover from Hurricane Sandy. Yet, Wall Street recovered pretty quickly. This trend is going to get worse, and it speaks to a need to build resilience — to think about social equity and inclusion as we build our climate plan so the needs of the most vulnerable are met. It also speaks to the need to act much more aggressively, and quickly to mitigate climate change in the first place.”

Carbon neutrality: “I think we need to build on the kinds of principles that our organization has outlined in the discussion of a Global Green New Deal, and those principles are about doing what science says is necessary to combat climate change in urban areas. We must address building, transportation, how you generate electricity and how you deal with your waste.

“We need to pay commissions [on carbon prices] this year — that's the biggest issue. The absolute number one thing that needs to happen on our path to having them by 2030 and being carbon neutral by 2050, and it’s entirely possible. The second principle we have is that you have to include people from every community, including ones that are traditionally disempowered. In order to address these challenges so their needs are met, including employment needs. We need to build that coalition beyond just the city governments to include neighborhoods and business.

“A few years ago, it was deemed inconceivable that the United States could convert its public transit fleets from diesel to electric, but because Los Angeles and others brought together a coalition of cities, we're now seeing that it is less expensive over the lifetime of a bus to use an electric bus in a busy public transit fleet, and we've got at least three manufacturing facilities in the United States creating jobs, building electric buses. Those are exactly the kind of actions that build partnership with business, while thinking about the economic impact and doing the right thing for climate change mitigation.”

Having a climate plan: “The key issue is for all the major urban areas [in the U.S.] to have a climate plan by the end of this year, one that's consistent with science. For the bigger cities that means picking your missions this year on the path that I mentioned, and those plans are only going to succeed if they’re done in a way that is inclusive of all people, and addresses social equity and inclusion. It’s important because this decade needs to be the decade of climate action between 2020 and 2030. The good news is we're building on a strong base — there's a lot of leadership from cities and mayors across the US, but we need to take that activity and build it to the scale needed to really address the problem.”


Note: these interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.

Published on Jan 15, 2020