Dear Nonprofit Colleagues:

Thank you. You have stepped forward, yet again, to help innocent people who are being hurt by circumstances beyond their control. In normal times, you are reliably there helping others cope with everyday struggles and natural disasters. This time, however, it’s an unnatural disaster created by the President and Congress. Still you step up, helping people in their time of need. Please know that your actions are not unnoticed. We have been hearing from the public, journalists, and officials at all levels of government that your actions are very much appreciated and valued.

Like you, we recognize that the number of people being harmed by the federal government shutdown far exceeds the frequently cited number of 800,000 federal employees who are not being paid. Their family members – hundreds of thousands of additional innocent people – also are being hurt. So are the employees of hundreds of thousands of federal contractors not being paid – a number again expanded by family members swept into this avoidable disaster. Nonprofit employees and their family members are among those being hurt, as the shutdown also means that the federal government is not paying on many of the contracts and grant agreements made with nonprofits to provide various services.

Among those programs affected are domestic violence shelters that are not receiving payments the federal government agreed in writing to pay, which is forcing many of these vital shelters to lay off staff (e.g., in New York, North Carolina, and Ohio). At the same time, federal employees and others who supported the work of nonprofits in the past with contributions of time and money are instead now receiving assistance. The list goes on and on. But we know there are limits to what the nonprofit community can continue to do in the face of a big jump in demand at the same time that funding suddenly falls or stops.

The federal government shutdown is unacceptable. That’s not just our opinion. All three key segments of our nation’s economy – public, private, and nonprofit – recently sent letters telling the President and congressional leaders: end the shutdown immediately, because it’s hurting people, it’s hurting the economy, and it’s hurting individual businesses and nonprofits. See these letters from the National Governors Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Council of Nonprofits.

We all need to take action to end the shutdown and alleviate the pain it has been generating. We need to lift our voices to ensure our elected officials know the human cost of their political games. We ask that you share your stories with us – what you are seeing among the populations you serve and about the restraints your nonprofit is experiencing – so we can assess developments and elevate key issues. Share that same information with your U.S. Representative, your two U.S. Senators, and the White House. Then place a call to your local paper and TV station. If enough people know about the real consequences of this shutdown, the resulting public pressure will force the politicians to end this senseless shutdown.

As leaders of the nation’s largest network of charitable nonprofits, we thank you again for your commitment in taking care of even more people during this unnatural disaster. You are the embodiment of the American spirit of compassion, generosity, and reason. We hope politicians will learn from your positive example of putting people first. We’re proud to serve with you. For the public good. Every day.

Donna Murray-Brown, CEO, Michigan Non- profit Association and Board Chair, National Council of Nonprofits Tim Delaney, President and CEO National Council of Nonprofits