Officials with the Kentucky Nonprofit Network hosted a regional forum at the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday afternoon.

They discussed a wide range of topics, including public policy and legislative priorities for the upcoming session and ways in which nonprofits can help with the 2020 Census.

First, however, they shared statistics that show the economic impact of Kentucky's nonprofits. For example, they employ 9% of the state's workforce and own assets worth $43 billion.

"We know Kentucky's nonprofit sector is growing," Danielle Clore, the state association's CEO, told the crowd of about 40 nonprofit leaders.

KNN statistics show the state has more than 19,000 nonprofits now, a 9% increase since 2012.

The OSO joined KNN about three years ago, said Gwyn Payne, the symphony's deputy CEO. The statewide network helped the orchestra and other nonprofits navigate the 2018 sales tax expansion that taxed admissions to performances and the purchase of items at fundraisers.

Earlier this year, KNN successfully lobbied the legislature to rescind the sales tax for nonprofits, and legislators exempted them.

KNN's work on behalf of nonprofits is invaluable, Payne told the crowd at the end of the forum.

During her presentation, Clore encouraged local nonprofit leaders to invest time in building relationships with state lawmakers.

"We believe the incredible amount of work done last (legislative) session creates opportunities for next year," she said. "We built a lot of goodwill with the legislature."

As its top legislative priority, KNN will advocate for a universal charitable deduction, which would allow taxpayers to deduct donations whether or not taxpayers itemize deductions on income tax returns. KNN officials believe a universal charitable deduction would increase donations to nonprofits.

Next year is a legislative budget session. KNN officials oppose across-the-board spending cuts.

"We have to be thoughtful about what is going to move Kentucky forward," Clore said.

According to KNN's website, it opposes "the imposition of fees, payments in lieu of taxes and other taxes and fees on tax-exempt nonprofit organizations."

Nonprofits can play an important role in making sure every Kentuckian is counted in the 2020 Census, Clore said. KNN is asking its members to help with the effort.

"Those dollars are vital," Clore said. "(The census) has implications from Washington to your state legislature."

For each person who goes uncounted, Kentucky loses $2,021 per person per year for a decade, she told the crowd. "It's money Kentucky cannot afford to leave on the table."

KNN launched a Kentucky Counts campaign with resources for its members.

Clore recommended that nonprofit staff members wear census stickers on their clothing and hang census posters in lobbies. Nonprofits might consider placing a computer in their public spaces so they can assist patrons and clients with their census forms.

"Think of some simple things," she said. "There is much at risk."

Bryson Morrow, development director at St. Joseph Peace Mission, attended Tuesday's forum. Morrow said he learned a lot, especially about KNN's legislative priorities.

The meeting helped him see the value in forming relationships with legislators and contacting them about the impact of various laws.

"If we're not being the voice for our nonprofit, no one is going to speak up about that," Morrow said.

For more information about KNN's public policy and legislative priorities, go to kynonprofits.org.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

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