May 15, 2017; Washington Post
Right now, the presidency of the United States is widely seen as being in disarray, with a commander-in-chief who at the least appears incautious and at most, as some media outlets are calling him, incompetent. Last week, he fired the FBI director for being a “showboat,” and he then went on to grab bizarre headlines this week with the revelation that he used classified information to boast to Russian diplomats about how much he knew. That boasting, many analysts say, violated a relationship with a valuable international ally.
But that’s not all! Only one press representative was allowed in the meeting—the state-owned Russia Today (RT). All U.S. media were excluded. Incidentally, the White House claims it was hoodwinked by the Russians, who claimed the Russian photographer was a foreign ministry employee and not representing RT. To us, that doesn’t sound like hoodwinking—that sounds a lack of understanding of, or failure to provide for, state control of the press in Russia, which is equally alarming.
But, wait—there’s more! In what may be an unprecedented scene, posing for cameras on the way out of a meeting with Rex Tillerson, later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov exhibited his own in-your-face arrogance by joking about Comey’s dismissal.
Needless to say, there’s a sense that things are out of control at the White House and no one’s sure how they might resolve. Putting fears of constitutional and international crises aside, nonprofits have to anticipate an extended period of uncertainty. Many of our budgets depend on a mix of government and philanthropic sources; with what is happening now at the federal level, we must plan for disruption even if it does not actually materialize.
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What that means is that first of all, nonprofit executives and boards should review all possible risks—not from a doomsday point of view, but systematically, so you are prepared for whatever comes. This is a time to marshal and conserve resources, which means building reserves, delaying taking on additional fixed costs, etc.
The second thing nonprofits must do is to ensure that networks are functioning well. This allows for information about any changes that might affect you to get processed early and perhaps collectively between peer organizations. Your ability to connect with constituents should also be checked.
The third thing nonprofits must do is remain active in advocacy efforts. Governance in this country is essentially dependent on a spirited healthy and active civil sector, and nonprofits are a very big part of that.
The fourth thing to do is to actively protect and support the powerful elements of our democracy: the press, legal advocacy groups, and nonprofits.
That said, we welcome suggestions from others.—Ruth McCambridge