Latest News for Nonprofits


California state capitol buildingWe're now working on three budget requests and eight state bills that are crucial for nonprofits right now; find them below along with other pending state and federal legislation. Items with an " * " were added 4-13-22.

How does CalNonprofits decide what to support and oppose? Each year, CalNonprofits board and staff review budgetary and legislative activity through the lens of our policy goals, and with a focus on addressing inequities and supporting efforts to bring a more equitable distribution of resources to our communities and to our sector. (See our Policy Advocacy Framework.)

Budget requests we are supporting

Nonprofit COVID Relief

Inclusive tax relief for nonprofits - SB 114, signed into law earlier this year, requires employers with more than 25 employees to provide five additional paid sick days for employees who contract COVID or are caring for family members who are sick with the virus. The bill did not include a relief package to offset the costs this policy imposes on small businesses and nonprofits. While small businesses can take income tax deductions for these costs, that remedy does not work for tax-exempt nonprofits. CalNonprofits, with 17 other organizations, sent a letter to the Governor and legislative and budget leaders on March 11 (link to letter) asking for meaningful and accessible tax relief for nonprofits as part of California's ongoing COVID recovery programs. We are following up the letter with meetings with legislative leaders to discuss a possible payroll tax credit, which would provide relief for nonprofits as we continue to respond to the needs of our communities. A March 29 Bloomberg article on California tax relief plans includes our payroll tax credit idea.

*Addressing the workforce shortage in homeless services programs: 
A budget request by Assemblymember Luz Rivas would fund improvements to contracting processes, create career pathways and training, and provide grants to nonprofits to promote "job quality."

Outreach about PSLF (Public Service Loan Forgiveness):
The CA Department of Financial Protection and Innovation is requesting $10 million to do outreach, and sub-grant funds to nonprofits to do outreach, on the federal PSLF program and waiver. Because we know that many nonprofit employees have significant student loans, we are part of a coalition of organizations working to bring better information and support to student loan borrowers. In 2020 we supported a bill (AB 376 – Stone) that provides an ombudsperson and other resources for student borrowers in California. (Learn more about our work on the student debt crisis here.)

Funding a community-based approach to health equity and racial justice:
A statewide coalition of nonprofit advocates that engage in public health advocacy on behalf of underserved communities is requesting at least $100 million a year to support public-private partnerships to improve a wide range of public health outcomes in communities with less access to resources. The communities themselves will identify the issues they want to address with the funding; issues can include food security, environmental justice, community safety, and more. This broad definition of public health outcomes means that many types of nonprofits can support local efforts should the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund get a budget allocation this year.

The state Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) estimated in their January report that the Governor has $29 billion in surplus to allocate in this fiscal year’s budget process. Not included in the $29 billion in surplus is about $13 billion set aside, through a constitutional mandate, for schools and community colleges.

a bumble bee on a golden flower

Most of us have only recently begun to appreciate the crucial role bees play in pollinating nearly one-third of our food crops. And what a shame that it’s taken an international crisis of bee death to get us to finally pay attention.

In the nonprofit sector, volunteers are our bees. Contributing some 22 percent of all nonprofit hours worked, volunteers are often overlooked and even held in disdain by paid nonprofit staff. Particularly overlooked is the economic and social importance of all-volunteer organizations (AVOs) such as AA, youth sports leagues, PTAs, choirs, theaters, and local environmental justice groups.

If we take volunteerism for granted the way we have taken bees for granted, our nonprofit community — and the work we do — is surely in trouble.

Troubling signs

In California, volunteers donate the equivalent of 331,000 full-time jobs. And although hundreds of thousands of people stepped up to volunteer during the pandemic, volunteerism has been dealt some serious blows. Troubling signs include:

  • Nationally, volunteer rates have been in decline for 15 years
  • In California, despite some new efforts around volunteerism, two-thirds of volunteer centers have closed in the last decade, an indicator of decline in infrastructure and thought leadership in volunteerism
  • California has fallen to 47th from 34th among the states in volunteerism rates

Little attention is paid to volunteerism

Despite the importance of volunteers, there are shockingly few articles about them in nonprofit journals or news sites, or workshops addressing the issue. Foundations request information and data about nearly every aspect of a nonprofit’s work yet almost never about volunteers. And perhaps, as nonprofit staff have fought to be seen as professionals, we have become less enthusiastic about celebrating and championing volunteers.

This week – April 17-24 – is National Volunteer Week. It arrives at a moment when, finally, there is a bill in Congress to amend a tiny but symbolic bit of discrimination against volunteers: volunteer mileage rates. Currently, if a lawyer drives 10 miles to see a client, she can take off 58.5 cents per mile as a business deduction, or $5.80. If the next day she drives 10 miles to volunteer as a lawyer for a nonprofit legal clinic, she can cite only $1.40 in deductible expenses.

The Volunteer Driver Tax Appreciation Act of 2022, introduced by Congressman Pete Stauber of Minnesota, would mean that volunteers could deduct their volunteer-related mileage at the same rate as businesses do – as long as they are also transporting another person or property on behalf of the nonprofit. With these limitations and less than 10 percent of taxpayers itemizing on their tax returns, this benefit would not have broad impact. But it's still the right thing to do, and it's an important signal that a volunteer’s time has value too.

More policy work is needed

There is much more work to do in public policy related to volunteerism, including strengthening volunteer immunity laws and allowing all types of volunteer time to be included in audited financial statements.

And provocatively, Greg Baldwin of Volunteer Match poses this question: "If I take a bag full of old socks to Goodwill, I get a tax deduction. If I volunteer one day a week for a year at a preschool, hospice, or museum, I can't deduct even one cent. Is there something wrong with this picture?"

Just as the world is finally paying attention to bees, perhaps the (staffed) nonprofit and foundation world will recognize that it is as dependent on volunteers as our food supply is on bees!

– by Jan Masaoka, CEO, CalNonprofits

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Action Steps

Here are two small things you can do this week to recognize the value of volunteers:

  • Instead of saying to volunteers, "Thank you for helping us!" Say "Thank you for helping our clients!" or "Thank you for helping our audience members!"
  • Instead of saying "We're small so we have to rely on volunteers," say "Because we have so many great volunteers, we're able to get a lot done with a small staff/with no paid staff!"

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