Step 4 (continued). Partnerships with Local Governments

Graphic showing a handshake between two people.An essential part of fundraising is building and sustaining strong partnerships with local elected officials and government agencies. Local government partners can provide support to nonprofit organizations in a number of ways, including:

  • Offering expertise to projects (e.g., GIS support, engineers, accounting)
  • Providing staff for projects
  • Loaning office space and equipment
  • Supporting grant applications
  • Giving matching funds for grants

In addition, local governments may have access to certain types of funding that are unavailable to nonprofits, such as income and property tax revenue.

Conversely, nonprofits have much to offer local governments as well. For example, nonprofits have access to other types of funding that are unavailable to governments, particularly foundation funding. Partnerships can help build the internal capacity in local governments and help them leverage grants (i.e. lend them credibility when demonstrating new technologies). Also, local governments may need the expertise of environmental nonprofits. By partnering, local governments and nonprofits can work toward mutual goals while maximizing resources and minimizing costs.

You can also partner with local governments to raise funds to achieve your goals through two main mechanisms: taxes and penalties. Note that these mechanisms often build external capacity, meaning that your group is not receiving the funds directly. However, the increased visibility from partnering with a government agency and achieving results can strengthen your organization's credibility, increasing your potential to fundraise.

1. Taxes
Taxes provide more than 40% of all state and local government revenue and are generated from three major sources: income, property, and sales. State legislatures regulate the taxing authority of both state and local governments. Citizen approval is sometimes required for local tax increases. Generally, taxes are deposited into the government's general fund. However, it is possible for state and local governments to designate a portion of tax revenue for a specific purpose. Twenty-three states earmark some tax revenues for environmental purposes. There are two major types of taxes:

Property Taxes
Property taxes use a rate structure that assesses taxes in proportion to the estimated value of the property. Communities typically use property taxes to finance general operation and capital needs, but many have established property tax rate structures that provide funding for environmental activities. For example, 163 local governments in New Jersey have used property taxes to establish land conservation programs.
Sales Taxes
Sales taxes are levied on the selling price of goods and services. Forty-five states have sales taxes; state governments generate the majority of their revenues with sales taxes. Thirty-two states allow counties, municipalities, or special districts to levy local option sales taxes. Sales taxes are often structured to dedicate funds for specific uses, including environmental uses. In some cases, the use of tax revenues is directly related to the activity taxed.

2. Penalties
Penalties are charges levied against governments, businesses, or individuals that violate federal or state environmental laws and regulations. These violations can be settled with monetary payments or with the completion of Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs). SEPs are environmentally beneficial projects that are part of the settlement of a civil or administrative enforcement action. They may be completed in addition to or in lieu of monetary payments.

Monetary fines from cases prosecuted by state officials have been awarded to nonprofits. Most states dedicate fines from environmental enforcement case to environmental programs. Many, including Delaware, Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, have established trust funds to receive environmental fines and distribute the revenues.

Additional Resources on Partnerships with Local Governments

<< Back Next >>