Celebrating 30 years of advocacy at Maryland Nonprofits

30 years of advocacy at Maryland Nonprofits

2022 is Maryland Nonprofits’ 30th Anniversary Year, and we are celebrating this milestone with a series of reflections on where we’ve been and what’s ahead. We’re beginning this journey by looking at a core element driving our work: advocacy and public policy.

Maryland Nonprofits is the only organization in our state that focuses specifically on promoting public policy for the nonprofit sector statewide, and our advocacy work has shaped the nonprofit landscape in Maryland for decades.

Our mission is to strengthen organizations and networks for a greater quality of life and equity. For decades, we have seen to it that nonprofit organizations have the resources they need to be effective agents of change, and advocacy has been a fundamental part of that work. Since our inception, we have advocated for the nonprofits of Maryland. Now, 30 years later, we have made powerful strides toward strengthening our communities and assuring that nonprofits have the necessary tools and resources to serve them equitably.

Before anything else, there is no discussion about nonprofit advocacy in Maryland without mentioning our Public Policy Director, Henry Bogdan. Henry joined Maryland Nonprofits in 1997 after a 20-year career in policy analysis, advocacy, and government relations for the City of Baltimore. He is the face of nonprofits in the halls of the Annapolis statehouse and is renowned for his dedication to supporting Maryland residents.

In 1998, the year after Henry joined the organization, Maryland Nonprofits launched the Maryland Budget & Tax Policy Institute. The Institute was created to help build an equitable Maryland state budget and tax system with allocations to support nonprofits and benefit vulnerable Marylanders; it provided non-partisan state budget and tax analysis. From 2007 to 2013, it was directed by Neil Bergsman, who Maryland Nonprofits was delighted to welcome back to our staff team in 2021 as our current Senior Policy Analyst.

Today, Neil shares, “At Maryland Nonprofits, we have enormous support and goodwill from our board members, our Policy Council, and our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits and our sister state organizations. It’s rewarding to be part of this community of diverse, smart, civic-minded, and just plain-old-nice people.”

In 2013, the Institute became the Maryland Center for Economic Policy (MDCEP) and was established as a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit to grow and extend its impact. State and federal budgets are tools that lawmakers use to allocate resources to key priorities and make investments for the future, so MDCEP conducts research and analysis on budgetary decisions and policy proposals. Maryland Nonprofits now works closely with MDCEP to advocate for policies that foster prosperity broadly at both the state and federal levels, particularly investments in education, infrastructure, and access to affordable health care.

There are countless reasons why Henry Bogdan is a vital asset to furthering the success of the nonprofit sector. Using his wealth of experience and knowledge, he has taught numerous courses on advocacy, ethics, and 501(c)(3) lobbying rules, written more policy briefings than can be counted and counseled hundreds of nonprofit leaders to equip them with the tools and confidence they need to advocate effectively. In the thick of the pandemic, when nonprofits needed a fierce advocate to represent their work shortage and resource needs, Henry did not skip a beat. His recent legislative priorities have focused on ensuring nonprofits are included in COVID-19 relief, closing the digital divide, establishing the Maryland Efficient Grant Application task force, and requiring state contracts to cover nonprofit overhead costs.

As David Thompson, Vice President of Public Policy of the National Council of Nonprofits, said, “Henry Bogdan of Maryland Nonprofits is not only a star within the National Council of Nonprofits network of nonprofit state associations, he is a generous mentor to others, an essential resource for colleagues throughout the country, and a creative problem-solver to whom many turn for inspiration.” As we reflect on the amazing progress of our advocacy sector, we honor that Henry is an enduring key player in leading Maryland nonprofits to advocate for the public policies that transform communities.

Our organization advocates for state budget issues annually to ensure nonprofit resources do not get cut. Our successes have resulted in securing increases in government funding that account for roughly 1/3 of nonprofit revenues in Maryland. Further, our decades-long efforts in reforming state procurement efforts have led to new rules requiring timely payments of invoices and improving old-fashioned, costly, and burdensome grant and contract requirements. In 2017 we successfully advocated for the Nonprofit Interest–Free Micro Bridge Loan program to help nonprofits provide essential community services between the date of being awarded a government contract or grant and actually receiving the associated funding.

When nonprofits do take our seats at the policy-making table, we are tremendously impactful. With the dedicated support of Maryland State Senator Cheryl C. Kagan, whom we have informally dubbed the ‘Senator for the Nonprofit Sector,’ Maryland’s nonprofits have won notable policy victories in recent years:

  • In 2017, the Maryland Efficient Grant Application Council was established by the Maryland General Assembly to create uniform grant application forms, financial controls, and reporting requirements.
  • In 2019 we supported HB 166 and SB 280 to increase the state minimum wage to $15 by January 2025. We supported the bills contingent upon requested amendments to provide for reimbursement adjustments for most service providers.
  • In 2022, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan committed $5 million in his state budget proposal “to launch the Nonprofit Business Accelerator Program, which will help organizations across the state develop more back-office capacity to get off the ground administratively, operate more efficiently, and leverage additional resources.”

Senator Kagan reflected on the recently concluded 2022 Legislative Session: “Henry Bogdan was an invaluable partner in three bills to support our critically important nonprofit sector. He and Neil Bergsman offered analysis and advice throughout the process. Henry’s shoe-leather and years of trusted relationships with legislators and senior staff made an enormous difference.”

Despite the best efforts of nonprofit sector advocates, “nonprofits are often on the “outside looking in” when federal-level policies are decided, according to As of January 3, 2022, the Small Business Administration provided 11.47M in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans totaling $792.6B, and retaining 89.9M jobs; yet, because PPP was designed first and foremost for for-profit businesses, many nonprofits were systematically excluded from participation in this aspect of COVID-19 relief. The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) awarded over $41 billion to Maryland nonprofits; however, a requirement for fixed seating excluded many of Maryland’s nonprofits from receiving awards.

Nonprofits have the skills, tools, and trusted status needed to make a lasting difference in the diverse communities we serve. But to ensure nonprofits are “off the menu,” we need a seat at the policymaking table of every level of government. The Nonprofit Sector Strength and Partnership Act of 2022, to be introduced by Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Fred Upton (R-MI), ensures a seat at the table and an opportunity like no other to advance the partnership between government and the nonprofit sector. Learn more about and support The Nonprofit Sector Strength and Partnership Act of 2022.

Partnerships are paramount to successful advocacy work, and Maryland Nonprofits is fortunate to have forged significant collaborations during the last decade. In 2016, the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth (MARFY) became a program of Maryland Nonprofits. MARFY advocates on behalf of the provider community through its lobbyist in Annapolis and its member-led coalitions to improve the state’s system of care for the youth and families it serves. The organization has furthered legislative interests such as rate-setting, labor laws, foster care and placement regulations, and procurement issues and is now considered the “go-to” group for state officials seeking provider input on the system of care in Maryland.

In 2020, in response to the Coronavirus emergency and its disparate impact on Maryland’s Latino community, Maryland Latinos Unidos (MLU) was established to unify efforts across the state to support all Latino and immigrant populations. Recognizing the benefits of joining an established organization, the founders of MLU entered into an agreement to become a program of Maryland Nonprofits. Today, MLU is a strong statewide advocacy network and support structure for organizations serving the Latino community and allies.

When looking to the future of advocacy for Maryland Nonprofits, we’ll approach our work through a lens of equity and inclusion, and community-based dialogue and data will inform our priorities. We will continue to demand a systemic seat for nonprofits at the policymaking table and ensure that table is equitably representative of the people most impacted by policy decisions. As always, we will champion adequate funding for salaries and benefits for nonprofit frontline and direct care staff, so that our sector can care better for our most important asset – our people.

Our association has made immense strides in its first 30 years, including the revolutionization of nonprofit work culture that we are working towards, in stride with our community, with our ‘This is The Moment to Care’ campaign. The seeds of care and equity that we plant today will tell the story of our next 30 years serving the nonprofits of Maryland.

Conner Wolfe is a nonprofit and development professional dedicated to advancing social justice and the common good. In his current position, Conner provides administrative, correspondence, fundraising, and technology support to the President & CEO of Maryland Nonprofits. Conner completed his Master’s degree in Museum Studies at the SUNY Oneonta Cooperstown Graduate Program in May 2018 and holds a background in development, capacity building, and public policy with arts and culture, higher education, and advocacy organizations. Originally from Western New York, Conner enjoys the outdoors and volunteers as the state-wide fundraising coordinator with the Maryland Green Party.