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Shannon McCracken thinks about nonprofit employee retention and key legislative issues

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The road ahead for nonprofit fundraisers is paved with uncertainty—with inflation and a potential recession at the forefront. In this series of Group Thinkers episodes, we're sitting down with guests who have a unique perspective on our current landscape and who can share how nonprofits should be preparing in the coming months. 

On the second episode of this series, we sit down with Shannon McCracken, CEO of The Nonprofit Alliance (TNPA) and founding member of Chief, to discuss the uncertainty surrounding nonprofit employee retention and key legislative issues impacting the sector. Tune in as we chat about:  

  • Nonprofit employee retention strategies (6:45) 
  • How TNPA is investing in the next generation of talent (14:17) 
  • An update on the Universal Charitable Deduction (19:05) 
  • The current landscape surrounding national data privacy legislation (25:04) 

Meet our guest 

Shannon McCracken-1

Shannon McCracken 

CEO, The Nonprofit Alliance 

“We’ve been working to build more awareness around the public service loan forgiveness program. College graduates who then go into jobs in the nonprofit or government sector and stay in those roles for 10 years—does not have to even be 10 consecutive years—and make loan payments consecutively, once they do that … then there’s loan forgiveness. It’s an amazing benefit when you’re talking about the competition between a for-profit salary and a nonprofit salary.” 

Podcast transcript 

Justin McCord: So, Ronnie, I was thinking in advance of our conversation this morning. I think one of the things that I wanted to be as a kid was David Letterman. Like, I always stayed up. I wanted to always get through his monologue. Like, that was kind of bedtime for me, after Letterman's monologue. But something that was so interesting over the years and years and years that I watched Letterman was that someone like a Bruce Willis would just be a constant presence on the show but also, like, a meaningful presence. It wasn't just like he just kind of showed up, like he was wandering down the street, he was at a deli nearby and wandered into the theater, right? There was a point to it, right? And so I was thinking, and I think our guest today is our version of Bruce Willis.  

So not, I mean, look, she might be an action star in her downtime, but I think outside of you and me and Tim Kersten, I think Shannon has been on the show more than anyone. So. 

Shannon McCracken: I'm honored to be here. I'm not sure if we'll have quite as much excitement and explosion as Die Hard, and all the Die Hards. But we'll try. We'll try today.  

Justin: We're going to try. We're going to try. And we're also not going to involve dunk tanks. I feel like there was a constant, like, Bruce Willis and a dunk tank sort of thing.  

Shannon: I appreciate that. This would be a really short call if you were sharing that now. 

Justin: Actually, Abby comes in from the side with the dunk tank. 

Shannon: My doorbell rings, yeah. Right. 

Ronnie: And not to derail on tangents here, but Justin, I don't think you know this, but I actually attended the Letterman show the first time I visited New York. I had to answer a question. I think it was about “Know your cuts of meat,” if you remember that sketch. I had to answer that on the phone and got to attend the show. And if I remember right, it was Brendan Fraser and The Kids in the Hall on the show, so.  

Justin: Awesome. 

Ronnie: Pretty dynamic duo there.  

Justin: That would be a worthwhile ... that would be a very worthwhile episode for me.  

Ronnie: Yeah, it was.  

Justin: Yeah, so welcome to Group Thinkers. I'm your host, Justin McCord. I'm not David Letterman. My beard is nowhere close to David Letterman's at this point in his life. With me, as always, is Ronnie Richard. And we are thrilled today to welcome back for her third appearance, our Bruce Willis, Shannon McCracken, CEO of The Nonprofit Alliance. Shannon, how are you?  

Shannon: I'm wonderful. Thanks for being here. It is great to be back. I always enjoy these conversations. And I've been looking forward to today. So thank you.  

Justin: Yeah, no, thank you. Thank you so very much. Shannon, one of the things that we really value about you is your perspective as a leader and an influencer and a connector. And we really do believe that you sit in all three of those spaces based off of your work at The Nonprofit Alliance, but also your background from Charity Navigator and from Special Olympics, etc., etc.  

And so, you know, Ronnie and I are in the midst of some fairly complicated conversations right now around uncertainties. And there are times where I question, why did we want to tackle the topic of uncertainty? Because it feels so heavy, but it's helpful to give perspective. And that's something that we, again, we value that you bring to these conversations. And so, we've previously talked about your background. And today we're going to talk about a couple of different aspects of uncertainty that loom in the nonprofit space right now, around the uncertainties of employee retention and the uncertainties of legislation and what's happening in those two areas.  

But as a jumping off point, something that I was hoping you might brief us on is something that's relatively new, or new at least from the last time that you appeared on the show. And that's your role with Chief. And I feel like Chief actually gives us a really good jumping off point in talking about organizational development and leadership practices. So, would you mind giving us a little bit of an overview of, as a founding member, your role as a part of Chief, what it does, its mission, etc.? Then that can help us get into some inside organization speak.  

Shannon: Absolutely. I'd love to talk about Chief. Chief is an organization of women and for women, ensuring that women rise into and stay in leadership positions, executive positions. And so from C-suite and senior leadership roles, the membership spans the country across all industries, all sectors. A lot of diversity of roles, a lot of diversity of perspectives. And just a fantastic, amazing group of women who are coming together to build each other up. And it's a wonderful resource to just put out all … there are truly no bad questions because everybody in this space within the community, our subject matter experts, have taken leadership roles in their fields. And there are lots of things we don't know about other areas. And so, being able to just reach out and share and learn from each other and create some of the construct to ensure that the women coming behind us have the same and greater opportunities than we do.  

Justin: And it's such a powerful community. And a community that I see so much of the content that you and others put out on LinkedIn about it. And, and it's inspiring to see groups come together with the intent of both sharpening each other and paving the way for those to come, right? The people that we're going to ultimately hand the baton off to. So, thank you for your part in that.  

Okay, so I was looking ... so the work, I think some of the work, certainly, with The Nonprofit Alliance and also some of the mindset and approach from Chief, it was helping me think about some of the employee retention challenges that we're facing just because it's kind of a big gnarly issue in the nonprofit space. And I was looking at an article from The NonProfit Times and the talent retention practices survey from Nonprofit HR, which is a D.C.-based organization. And so, the retention strategies most employed by organizations that responded to this study that Nonprofit HR put out were tied to benefits. 80% of respondents used benefits as a way of improving employee retention. Second was compensation. Third was learning and professional development. Fourth was culture. Fifth was engagement.  

And it kind of slides down the scale, you know, 80%, mid-seventies, low seventies, sixties, fifties in terms of the respondents. And it was so interesting that benefits is such a strong aspect of what people are doing to kind of combat or strengthen their bond with employees. Can you share a little bit of what you have seen and some of the things that are happening in the space that can help people strengthen their benefits or the way that they're connecting with their employees. And, you know, I know your answer, but like, there's things around benefits, there are things around professional development, there are things that people don't know about that can help as we're still in, maybe, the end of or the close-to-the-end of this great resignation era. Talk a little bit about that for us.  

Shannon: Sure, and there are, I mean, uncertainty, number one, probably uncertainty, number one. Two, three on your list are around how to attract staff, how to retain staff. And then as part of that, how to develop staff, right, because we don't want to just bring people in and say, like, oh, check the box, fill that seat, obviously. Part of retention is culture. And part of retention is that development, that professional development piece and the engagement, some of those other measures that you mentioned.  

I was in a cohort meeting with our Essential Leadership Lab this morning, which is our group of leaders that get together once a month. And we were talking about this very issue or very concern, actually, Justin. And I said something to the effect of, “It will be interesting to see what happens as the coming recession takes effect and what that does, what that does to the job market, what that does to...” and it was like the conversation killer in the room, they just went to total silence. So, but it is, I mean, the recession in and of itself is an uncertainty that we need to start thinking about. And to your point, it will change the curve on the Great Resignation, which can sound like a positive, perhaps, to employers. But there's certainly the negative part. People staying in roles because there aren't other opportunities is not the best reason, the best why, for somebody to stick around. 

You know, I'll call out a couple of things here. One is, we've been working to build more awareness around the public service loan forgiveness. So, college graduates, student loans, big topic right now. There is a slice of that. And this is not a new program, but there's not a lot of awareness or use of the program right now. College graduates who then go into jobs in the nonprofit sector or government sector and stay in those roles for 10 years—it does not have to even be 10 consecutive years, they do need to make those 120 payments on their loans consistently, and there are a couple other parameters around the types of loans—but once they do that, they work in the sector for 10 years, they've remained consistent on paying those loans down, then there's loan forgiveness.  

And part of the reason why this isn't well known and well used is because it used to be really burdensome. And a lot of people, a lot of admin work, a lot of paperwork, a lot of frustration, a lot of at the end not getting the result that you expected or anticipated, meaning the loan forgiveness, and the current administration has done a lot to smooth that out. And it is an amazing benefit when you're talking about the competition between a nonprofit salary and what a for-profit could be offering. Talking about this pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, particularly if it's somebody who's already put in a couple of years in the sector, really wants to stay, but has this competing financial interest or offer, being able to talk about that loan forgiveness is big. And I don't think most organizations are doing that. It's not part of that HR conversation, and obviously it doesn't apply to everyone, but it applies to this, particularly this rising group of talent coming into the space and how we can attract and retain and develop them.  

It is this great, great opportunity that now that it is a bit easier, we should really be talking about and using the mutual benefit.  

Justin: Yeah, you, when you referenced this, when we were chatting, you know, a week or so ago, I said, Wait a second. Like, you mean like the Teach for America model? And you were like, yes, exactly. And so you're right, there is not broad awareness of that for those working at a nonprofit, so not necessarily like RKD or other commercial based firms that work in the nonprofit space. But for those working at a nonprofit, like, that fits within the parameters. And, you know, just a stat when thinking about this, the federal student loan portfolio currently totals more than $1.6 trillion owed by 43 million borrowers.  

So that's weighty, but it's powerful to know, as you said, that nonprofits have ... that they have access to even this as an ancillary benefit and way to strengthen recruitment. I mean, it is, like, that's a tremendous benefit. There's a lot of times where we have these conversations and we ask people, you know, how did you end up in the nonprofit space? And more often than not, it feels like someone kind of fell into it, right? They didn't necessarily chart their path from the get-go. But this is a super enticing way to have someone that is charting their path from the get-go. And to your point, like, with that 120 payments, and with the 10 years, I mean, it's a way to strengthen your talent all the way around. 

Shannon: Absolutely, absolutely. And it's not, it's not coming out of the nonprofit organization's pockets, right? It's not something they have to offer. There are a lot of benefits that are growing right now that do have a cost to the employer sometimes. And sometimes that cost is very justified. A good investment. This is one that it's really just about promoting it, right? And then the employee takes the steps to benefit from it.  

Justin: Yeah, it's so interesting. Whenever we find these little kind of wrinkles or pockets like that, it's almost like the same thing as an employee matching program, you know, matching gift program with an employer. People just don't, they don't know about these things or how to take advantage of them.  

One thing that I really love that the TNPA is working on is leaning into that next generation. So, you know, you mentioned the Essential Leadership Lab and the work that you're doing there with a broad section of leaders. But that's not the only aspect of leadership development that TNPA is working on. Talk about training up young leaders and the work that you and your team are doing for the next generation.  

Shannon: Yes, as you said, a lot of our work to date with TNPA or a lot of our program focus has been on senior leadership level. And we need to be talking about the next generation. Who's coming next to fill those seats? How are we developing them, and how are we developing them early? And opening those doors and ensuring that they will be strong, even better than the roles they're coming into, the people they're following. And that has to start now, has to start sooner rather than later.  

So this fall, we are hosting our first Rising Leaders Summit. We've done a couple of leadership summits for the senior leaders. This is the Rising Leaders Summit. So, who are those future executives? Who's coming next? Who's really now being recognized as subject matter experts, who have additional responsibility, who are leading teams or have some reports? That piece alone, most of us would say that step of going from not being a people manager to being a people manager, that promotion didn't happen because, all of a sudden, somebody said, “Hey, you're really good. You're going to be a really good mentor for people,” or “You've gone through this development to be in that role, right?” 

We moved into that role because we went from manager to the director, or whatever that is on the org chart, because of the other work we were doing. And then, “Oh, by the way, on the org chart, you now have these lines that come in to you.” And that's not always trained or developed. And if we had good managers, great, we have a model to follow. And if we didn't have good managers, then we're probably going to follow that path too.  

So, thinking about some of those skills that may not be in the day to day and are so important to build up as part of that professional development whole person. And that's really what this Rising Leaders Summit is about. So, September 22nd, a one-day event in New York City. We have a total of 90 seats, and more than a third of those are already sold. I would love to have your listeners join us for that; you can find information on our site,, under ‘Upcoming Programs.’  

But we have a speaker coming in to talk about promotability and do a workshop on that with some self-assessment and to see where individuals have room for growth and where there's already strength. We have a panel of some senior leaders coming in to talk about insights and do some mentoring, networking and then some workshops throughout the day, which is really what TNPA is known for, some of the wisdom from the room, learning from each other, peer consulting. So, it will be a packed day, lots of networking. We're really looking forward to this first event.  

Justin: It's super cool because, you know, one of the premises from the outset in the launch of TNPA was to give the nonprofit sector a strong voice. And there was a lot of that, you know, that rightly is focused towards legislation. But, Shannon, I think that you and your team are also doing things to give us a strong voice within nonprofits themselves and helping broaden the awareness of things like public loan forgiveness and its application towards employee retention, or creating leadership labs and development programming that can, like I mentioned earlier, sharpen each other along the way. It's necessary work, right? You've got to refresh and renew yourself and continue to stretch yourself to grow. So, thank you for leaning in and helping organize and formalize those things. Like you said, September 22nd, and is where you can find out more information about that.  

So, interesting aspect there in terms of just some of the things that are happening on the employee retention side. There's another looming area of uncertainty, and it looms a little heavier. And so I think, Ronnie, I'm going to let you tackle some of the more, more complicated aspects of it than to sit back and then just chime in with questions.  

Ronnie: Give me the hard stuff, right?  

Justin: Exactly, it's a part of your, it's a part of your professional development, Ronnie.  

Ronnie: I appreciate that.  

Justin: This is actually your leadership lab. We invited Shannon to be a part of it.  

Ronnie: I feel like I got conned into this, like, brought into the room. We need to talk. No, Justin mentioned legislation, and that being a key part of The Nonprofit Alliance and what you do. Yeah, I just want to kind of unpack some of the uncertainty around legislation that's out there in the industry.  

So first, Shannon, if you could kind of tell us a little bit about the Universal Charitable Deduction, which expired in December 31st of 2021. If you could, I'm sure most of our listeners know, but maybe just give a brief overview of what that is, why it's important to the industry. And then, is it something we'll see reinstated soon, or is there going to be kind of a long tail effort to try and get that back in place?  

Shannon: And we're getting, Ronnie, you're bringing in some of the wonky stuff here. So, we'll step through it and hopefully not lose anybody along the way. But yeah, the Universal Charitable Deduction, the value of this is that it gives all tax payers, regardless of income level, the option or the ability, the benefit, of taking a deduction for charitable contributions. So right now, 88% of taxpayers take the standard deduction. And that means that without a universal charitable deduction, there's not a distinct benefit, tax benefit, for charitable contributions.  

Now, the 12% of taxpayers who do get that distinct benefit, they are itemizing. They're not taking that standard deduction. They do get a separate charitable deduction. That 12% are the wealthiest Americans, the ones ... they're generally the highest income, right? So 12% of Americans are getting that benefit; the other 88% are not. And that's why this universal charitable deduction is important. It's really about democratizing giving, right?  

We all know the trends. We all know the data points around decline of number of donors. Fewer households are giving; those who are giving, the average gift, the amount that they're giving, is going up. When we think about that 12% of donors who are giving, their gifts are less likely, or the largest share of their gifts are less likely, to go to, for example, the local community organizations than everyday givers’ donations would be. Larger gifts go to a very small number of bigger organizations. And so it's just, it's so critical to make sure that every American, every everyday giver—again, we all know the power of the everyday givers, the $35 and the $50 and $100 donors empowering nonprofit missions of all shapes, sizes and sorts—ensuring that everybody has those same tax benefits or access to those benefits.  

So that's the value of the deduction and why we focus on this. So much in terms of forecasting for this. You want me to just keep rolling, Ronnie?  

Ronnie: Go for it.  

Shannon: All right. So, in terms of forecasting for this, the good news, we can’t say this about too many things these days. The good news is that this is not a very partisan issue. Right, so there's a bill that exists right now. There are nine Republicans, there are eight Democrats signed on. So, very balanced. Democrats like this because it is really about encouraging charitable support to help people who are in need. Very much aligns with their values, those progressive values. Republicans like it because, as Senator Lankford says—he's one of the big champions on this and a Republican—he said there are really three legs to the stool and helping people in need. First is family, second is charity, which means donors, and a distant third is government. Right, so Republicans like that; this encourages individual taxpayers to support people in need and less reliance on government. So, maybe for slightly different reasons, but both sides of the aisle can really get behind this.  

So you're saying, OK, why isn't it just done already then? And the challenge is that it's wrapped up in a legislative package with other expired corporate tax credits. Corporations don't care when this package gets through. There's no urgency as long as it happens before December 31. It's retroactive for the whole year; there's no urgency. There are pieces where there's a little more urgency. So, if this passes in a lame-duck session in December, it is retroactive to January 1st. So, any contribution made during 2022 can count towards this. The framework will look very similar to 2021, which is that individual taxpayers can take up to a $300 deduction, married couples filing jointly, $600. It'll look very much the same. It's not only about contributions made in December.  

But wouldn't it have been nice for our donors and our nonprofits to have known this was in place all year instead of waiting until December? And we can debate a little bit about how much the tax benefit really is a factor, a determining factor, in somebody's decision to give. But let's just accept a truth that it is a factor for some people. It may not be the only reason they give. It may not be the biggest reason they give, but it is a consideration, that financial transaction step. And so, again, ensuring that it's there for people who are giving not just in that year-end rush, but all throughout the year is, we think, important, to just have that layer of truth out there and not kind of have to wait until December to be able to talk about it as a real benefit.  

So again, we do expect it to happen in December, of course, then the page turns to January 2023, and it's gone again, and we're starting back over. So, our focus has really been on how do we make this permanent, how do we get this in place and keep it there? We do have some good champions on that, and that will continue to be our drive.  

Ronnie: It's so important to get that done. And it sounds like a little certainty in our realm of uncertainty right now that we feel pretty confident that it's going to happen.  

Now, a little less certainty around another topic here, and that's data privacy. I know The Nonprofit Alliance has been looking at this for a long time now, of trying to establish some sort of uniform application toward how data privacy is handled. And this is at nonprofits, but also other organizations. Take us through what the landscape looks like right now. We have this patchwork of laws at the state level and how that impacts a nonprofit, and just where do we go from here, and what does the landscape look like there as well?  

Shannon: Yeah, thank you, Ronnie. So you just rolled up my soapbox, and I'm going to step up here, and you can get a cane from the side here, and it's too much, but ...  

Well, first of all, very timely conversation because we're talking right now. It's July 21st. Yesterday on the house or at the house, the Energy and Commerce Committee reported out the American Data Privacy and Protection Act. So, after years of not making any progress of getting anything to move forward, all of a sudden, there's something that is out there for consideration. I will say it is a little bit of a Hail Mary, right? Because the reason it hasn't moved forward, first of all, there were other priorities that got in the way, COVID and lots of other things that have come along that have sidelined data privacy a little bit, which is why states have been getting ahead of national on this or federal on this.  

But this is a bit of a Hail Mary pass as both parties are looking at what is likely to be the outcome of the midterm elections, how there could be shifts of power next year, and trying to get something passed before kind of starting all over again with different scorecards. So, things that nobody's been willing to compromise on, or the two sides have not been able to meet in that pretty big gap in the middle, all of a sudden there are some compromises there, and not all to the greater good.  

Right, so this bill does … it is a clear national or it is a national standard, but there are 15 carve outs. So, that's sort of an oxymoron. Like, you can't really be a national standard and have 15 carve outs. You're not really meeting the goal there. So, and there are some other concerns with it too. It's really unclear at this point if the bill will be taken up on the House floor before the August recess, which is likely to start at the end of next week or after next week. And even then, what will happen with it between now and the end of the year. You know, not really predicting that it's going to pass, but it is interesting that this stake is in the ground, right, and we're finally seeing something. And that will be a starting point for whatever happens in 2023.  

Justin: So, do you anticipate … when you referenced earlier the lame-duck session that will occur post midterm, so mid-November through end December and where with the Universal Charitable Deduction, it's likely that is rolled into some level of Tax Act or tax work that's done in that session ... this, although there's a stake in the ground, it's not that it's a soft steak, but it's just kind of like a pencil, right? It's just kind of there. And it sounds like there's a lot more that has to be done, and that it's a first step, but it's the first step of multiple steps to get to something meaningful in terms of nonprofit direct marketing and how we go about our day to day.  

Shannon: Yeah, exactly. Precisely. Precisely. And after years of not making progress, not getting this far, to know that this is now out there on that, coming from the house, also not in the Senate. And the likelihood that this would pick up speed and get all the way through in the weeks that are left, it's just hard to foresee that, so.  

Justin: What impact does the midterm have on this overall? Like, is it a flip of the coin? And so, heads and tails looks very different. Or is it somewhere in between?  

Shannon: It's … so let's do some scenarios. Let's talk some scenarios here because this gets really interesting slash nerdy. Right now we have a 50/50 Senate, right? Tiebreaker goes to the Democrats; 50/50 Senate. The committee of jurisdiction on this issue is in the Senate, is the Commerce Committee. And Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat, chairs that committee. And she has been very clear on not entertaining a federal preemption.  

So, there may be a federal law, but it is going to defer all of the authority, the rule setting, the compliance oversight, to the states. And for other legislators to really see that the number one value of a federal privacy standard is, in fact, that it's National. And that's the position we take as well. That position, Senator Cantwell's position on that, is a nonstarter. So right there, total impasse. And that's where we've been for this period of time.  

The highest ranking member, Republican member, on that committee is Senator Roger Wicker. And he's really been an ally with us on this issue. He is moving to the Armed Services Committee next year, so he will no longer be sitting next to Senator Cantwell. Senator Ted Cruz is moving into that top Republican seat. So, after midterm elections, let's say the Democrats keep control of the senate, we have Senator Cantwell retaining her position. If the Republicans take control of the senate, which is kind of the favor or the assumed outcome, Senator Cruz takes the chair. He may come along on this issue eventually, but he's bringing a lot of displeasure with Silicon Valley. So that, we'd have to work through that baggage first. It's not going to be a quick path forward.  

So, the conventional wisdom, insider forecasting: Republicans will take the Senate majority after the November midterms. Lots can happen between now and November, but let's play out that scenario. 

And this is a really good time to pause and acknowledge that nonprofits, by the, simply by the causes that they work on and many of the people who work in this sector, are progressive, are leaning more progressive. They are more in that blue side of the aisle in their own politics. So, on this topic of data regulation for the next few minutes, it might feel a little antithetical to be talking about favoring some of the Republican positions on these for some of your listeners. So, we'll just acknowledge that. And it's exactly why The Nonprofit Alliance has to really maintain our good relationships on both sides of the aisle because we have issues that affect us from all sides. So, putting that out there as our ‘Everybody just take a breath around that knot in your stomach.’  

Justin: Yeah, I was going to say that's a good way to frame it. Just take a breath. Like, we're walking through the scenarios and say ...  

Shannon: Yes, don't start canceling me on your social media. Just take a breath here and talk through some of the scenarios.  

So, we're at 50/50. Let's say that the Republicans gain two seats in the Senate. Let's just use that. So, it's 52/48. Data privacy is easily an issue that could get snarled in a filibuster on the Senate floor. And so, the only way to get a vote is with, only way to get past that, is with 60 votes. So, if we had all 52 Republicans in favor of a national privacy bill, we still need at least eight Democrats that would join all 52 Republicans in order to get it to a vote. At most, right now, we have four Democrats in the Commerce Committee that could reasonably expect to be on board. So, Senator Rosen …. Senators Rosen, Peters, Sinema and Hickenlooper, we could probably count on to take that role, right? That gets us to 56. We still need four more. And this is where the climb gets really hard. Senators Coons and Carper from Delaware, perhaps Senator Welch. Senator Manchin, who like Sinema often tips the scales one way or the other. Maybe, Senator Warner, maybe one more. Truly, that's it. That's our universe on this. So, you know, that's still even if Republicans retake the senate, there is still a climb there.  

Now, if Republicans really run away with November and they get up to, say, 54 seats, then that climb is a little bit less. There's a little more breathing room on that. Again, there's no sudden slam dunk that we're going to see this move really fast just because we're past the midterms. 

Justin: Which means that there is a tremendous amount of work from not just the TNPA but your members, those of us who are tied in to the work of the TNPA to be a part of this. And I appreciate, by the way, the geeking out, it gave me all sorts of West Wing feels. And so, now I'm going to restart West Wing from the very beginning.  

Shannon: Perfect. Good use of time.  

Justin: It's a very good use of time.  

So, OK. So then, let's talk about some practical things that, you know, it sounds like there is a case in this considering that, you know, no matter which way the midterms go, there's a lot of work to be done on this front by TNPA’s advocates. Of which we want to encourage people to be a part of. So, what does that look like? Like, how can we help? How can our listeners help? What can we do to get even further up to speed? Stay up to speed, or act in some way?  

Shannon: Yes, so a couple of layers of that. Engagement. Just staying up to speed, as you just said, is important because we need to be having these conversations. We need to be having them within our organizations. We need debate. Nonprofits need to be talking to their partners like RKD about what's coming down the path. We need to ... some of the state laws … so four out of five at this point do exempt nonprofits. Colorado's law right now does not exempt nonprofits. So, there is some exemption there, but that's not a free pass, right?  

First of all, there's still just some look at the spirit of why, as a country and as a world, we're even having this conversation around consumer privacy. And we should be good stewards of our donors’ and stakeholders’ and constituents’ data. So, making sure those best practices are in place, being clear about not just putting our privacy policy somewhere on our website and a little link in the footer. But truly thinking about the, why are we collecting data? Do we even need it? How are we storing that? What's the purpose? Are we disclosing what we're collecting and why? How are we deleting that? How are we updating it and ensuring that it's correct? What are our parameters around sharing that data, accessibility to that data? And putting some rigor in place, not just around thinking through those things but documenting it and documenting the permissions we're receiving. Because as new laws come into place at the state level or at the federal level, at the global level, for those with international presence, some of that documentation of permissions is critically important. And not starting those until a law … effective date means that a lot of that data you collected before that is at risk, right? And so, doing the good work and tracking that within our systems, which I know is really easy to say and gets really hard to do for all kinds of reasons.  

So, … but having those conversations, staying informed. So, back to your question off of my little circular route there, Justin. So, staying informed, you know, we have lots of information on our website. We have a legislative roundup email that comes out once a month that you can sign up on our home page to receive our emails, and you'll receive that. Participating in the industry events like Bridge Conferences coming up next week. And I think there's a session on data privacy there. So, really staying current because it is changing. It is changing every month. So, knowing what's happening out there, what has happened and what's coming and understanding that impact.  

And then, if you're ready to get more involved than simply monitoring and talking and really ready to get more involved, TNPA has a couple of opportunities where our Capitol Hill days, which traditionally were in person, have switched to virtual, and we're keeping that for the time being. It's been a great way to get people involved without having the travel component to D.C. They are, we do about four of them a year. And you can, when they come up on our events calendar, you can register to participate. And it is a Capitol Hill Day. We're meeting with electeds and their staffers. We're talking about issues like universal charitable and data and sharing that nonprofit perspective.  

Because, put ourselves in the legislative seats right now. If we were in those roles and we were crafting the rules of the road, we'd be thinking about the big tractor trailers on that road, right? We'd be thinking about the big data companies, the Facebook’s and the Google's ... and then also the ones that feel to us like shady characters, like, who's sort of hiding in the dark and coming up out of the mist and using our data in ways that we don't know. And it's, therefore, scary.  

What's generally not considered is impact on nonprofits. And, while we love nonprofit exemptions, that's wonderful. When our for-profit partners and our data providers and our processors are not exempted, then there is pretty swift downstream impact on nonprofits too. In our ability to fundraise, our ability to reach new audiences, our ability to deliver our best services.  

So, so getting involved and being able to tell that story is so important for the legislators to hear. It's not an easy solution, right? It's not a clear cut, like a carve out doesn't solve it. But at least there's consideration of how nonprofits are impacted. And that can be part of a rational, balanced, reasonable federal solution.  

Justin: Here's the thing that I'm struck by as we talk about this, and even, Shannon, as I kind of reflect on the conversation as a whole: There's a lot of big, scary things out there, right?. There's a lot of uncertainty. And like I mentioned at the outset of the conversation, there are sometimes, too, where Ronnie and I get in these conversations, and it can feel heavy. And you know what I'm refreshed by as a part of our conversation? It makes me think about a conversation I regularly have with my 11-year-old daughter. That's that, you know, there are lots of big kind of scary things in the world, and there are a tremendous number of things that are not in your control. And so, there's a lot of life that is reacting to outside circumstances and outside forces. But, Shannon, what I appreciate about what you've brought to this conversation today is that these are things that you can be a part of. You can be an active participant and have some measure of control and influence.  

Whether or not that's in the way that you shape and discover and unlock benefits for your employees to strengthen their retention and their loyalty to your organization, whether or not that's the way that you help develop leaders within your organization, whether or not that's the way that you take on a leadership role and advocate on behalf of your nonprofit and nonprofits as a whole. Like, those are things that we can control. And I don't want people to miss that because I think that's an important aspect right now in the midst of uncertainty of something that's certain that you can do.  

Shannon: Absolutely. Since we're taking lessons from our kids here, I'll share that my son is a baseball player. And his varsity coach, one of his lines is control the controllables. Boys, you have to control the controllables. And so, it's like, moms, you have to control the controllables. I've taken that and adapted and come back to that mantra. I've used it with my team. There are things that we can't solve. We can't, but there are lots of things that we can put into place and be proactive on or reactive on. Let's focus on those things and having that sense of control and focusing on the right stuff instead of just sitting and worrying or waiting to see if the sky falls. That's not helpful or productive for us as individuals, us as leaders and mentors or us in leading the missions that we all collectively support.  

Justin: So well said. Control the controllables. That may come up more than once in my parenting today. So yeah, yeah, we'll give the credit. So Shannon, thanks so much for being a part of this conversation today. As always, we just appreciate you giving your time and the way that you give to the space overall. 

And just a reminder, we mentioned it earlier, but the rising leader summit that is coming up in September. If you catch this on the front part of the Bridge Conference, Shannon and Abby Graf are going to be leading some sessions at the Bridge Conference and be around the Bridge Conference. So be sure to connect with them there. And we appreciate you just offering up your wisdom today and giving us an insight into things that are happening in the legislative space as well.  

Shannon: Fabulous to be here, and I look forward to seeing you next week at Bridge.  

Justin: Yeah, that sounds great. Ronnie? Folks want to check out other episodes of Group Thinkers. They can find us on Spotify and on Apple and all the places where you get your podcasts. You can also find it on RKD’s website, along with all sorts of other content that Ronnie helps shepherd. So, I think that's it. Did we miss anything?  

Ronnie: I just have one. This might be the toughest question yet for Shannon, and that's being our Bruce Willis of our show, is Die Hard a Christmas movie? 

Shannon: Oh what if I admit that I've never seen Die Hard? It's hard for me to have an opinion. 

Justin: Then you win. Then you win.  

Ronnie: You get to avoid the argument.  

Justin: Well played. Well played. She's taking a bipartisan approach.  

Shannon: That's it. That's right. I offend nobody. Or everybody. Yeah, yeah.  

Justin: And she's controlling a controllable in this case.  

Ronnie: There you go.  

Justin: All right. Thanks, everybody, for checking out this episode. We'll see you next time.  

Group Thinkers is a production of RKD Group. For more information, visit Special thanks to our production team, including the talented Ryan Mellinger for his work on mixing every episode. Also, a shout out to the content team that helps pull together research and guests, puts the marketing efforts behind the Group Thinkers, Suzanne, Ronnie and others for their work on this and every episode of Group Thinkers. 

RKD Group

RKD Group is North America's leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, social service, disease research, animal welfare, rescue missions, and faith-based charities. RKD Group’s omnichannel approach leverages technology, advanced data science and award-winning strategic and creative leadership to accelerate net revenue growth, build long-term donor relationships and drive online and offline engagements and donations. With a growing team of professionals, RKD Group creates breakthroughs never thought possible.

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