Latest News for Nonprofits

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Wednesday, June 22
11am-12pm (Pacific)
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(Members Only) Save With Purchasing Point: Getting the Most From Your CalNonprofits Member Benefits
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Thursday, August 24
11am (Pacific)
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CalNonprofits Annual Members Meeting 2023 
What's on the horizon for CalNonprofits? How can you make the most of your membership and benefits? Join our board and staff to learn about what we're doing to support our sector, your organizations, and the communities you serve. Exclusively for members  

By last week’s deadline, 2,632 new bills were introduced in the California Legislature. Among these, we’re happy to report, is a package of bills aimed at addressing our work on improving nonprofit contracting with the state, as well as numerous other bills related to nonprofit services and causes. 

So far, there are eight new bills springing from the collaborative effort of CalNonprofits and the California Nonprofit Contracting Coalition. Taken together, these efforts seek to increase fairness and equity in state contracting as called for in the joint letter that 500+ nonprofit and community leaders sent the Governor and legislative leaders last October. 
Democratic and Republican lawmakers in both houses have stepped forward to champion various pieces of the contracting package. Our sincere thanks to Senators Monique Limón and Thomas Umberg, and to Assemblymembers Vince Fong, Gregg Hart, Josh Lowenthal, Luz Rivas, Corey Jackson and Avelino Valencia. 
The package of bills addresses a number of issues, each of which is critical to strengthening nonprofits’ ability to assist the state in working to improve the lives of vulnerable members of our communities. Each supports equity in contracting access, sustainability, and takes on racial, economic, and geographic disparities. The ambitious legislative package:
• Ensures that contracts compensate nonprofits for the full costs of delivering services, including administrative expenses, fair wages, and other costs
• Encourages multi-year contracts and expedited renewals for nonprofits that are meeting performance objectives • Requires the state to pay nonprofits in a timely manner
• Provides for up-front payments on contracts to extend access to smaller nonprofits and so others won’t have to tap into reserves or pay interest on loans in order to partner with the state
• Allows nonprofits to make adjustments needed to continue performing their contracted duties during emergencies
• Modernizes processes by allowing digital signatures, online invoicing and electronic payments • Streamlines the administration of very small grants and contracts for the benefit of both the state and nonprofits
• Prioritizes access to contracts and timely funding for nonprofits serving disadvantaged, low-income and under-resourced communities, and/or nonprofits with modest reserves
Our colleagues with the California Contracting Coalition are devoting many hours to helping draft bill language, meeting with our legislative authors, and researching details. But moving these bills forward will require a sector-wide effort, and we’ll need each and every one of you to join this important campaign! 
We are currently planning for a big public launch of this campaign in mid-March. Please keep watch for coming calls to action.

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 (update: April 16-22 in 2023). 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 65.5 cents per mile as a business deduction, or $6.55. 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, or .14 per mile.

The Tax Emergency Adjustment for Mileage Volunteers (TEAM Volunteers), introduced by U.S. Representatives Pete Stauber and Angie Craig 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

*   *   *

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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