CalNonprofits Articles

Never has it been more clear that nonprofits are the heartbeat of our society. And never have nonprofits needed more help.

More than 620 California nonprofits jumped at the chance to raise their voices to state government leaders about what they need to continue their work in the COVID-19 crisis. They responded quickly to a CalNonprofits questionnaire, and two key themes immediately emerged:

  • Nonprofits are adapting at lightning speed to serve their constituencies, whether delivering meals rather than serving them at a facility or having dentists at a nonprofit dental clinic do follow-ups and assessments via video.
  • Government, which provides about 30% of the funding of nonprofits, has acted inconsistently and unevenly to adapt contract requirements, invoicing procedures, and more, further adding to the burden nonprofits are taking on.

More than 1,100 nonprofits have signed onto a CalNonprofits-led letter urging specific actions from state government (you can sign on here), and this questionnaire focused more deeply on how nonprofits are impacted by the crisis and what government can do to help.

  • Among 622 respondents from 44 California counties, a remarkable 60% provide essential services as defined by state government, and about half (52%) support state programs through grants and contracts with state departments and agencies.
  • Nonprofits are hit hard by the widely reported shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE): 62% of nonprofits say they are negatively impacted by their inability to obtain necessary PPE and other supplies.
  • 86% reported needing changes in their contract deliverable requirements. For example, a foster care agency reported that due to shelter-in-place requirements, they cannot do home visits to confirm the health and safety of foster care children; as a result, they are not meeting the requirements in their contracts with the state.
  • More than two thirds – 68% – reported inconsistent guidelines from different departments or levels of government. Many respondents commented on getting different guidelines from county and state entities, causing confusion and added work to sort them out.
  • 69% reported needing to move money from one line item to another without going through the lengthy budget modification process. For example, a nonprofit may have a vacant state-funded staff position in accounting and they need to move the money for that position to increasing janitorial services due to disinfection procedures. Lengthy budget modification processes are hindering nonprofits’ ability to flexibly respond to ever-changing needs.

What do nonprofits need?

  • State-level, consistent guidelines on how to modify contracts and grants.
  • Immediate action to allow nonprofits to continue their work with confidence that they will not be penalized in government contracts for changing how they deliver services or for inability to meet previously established performance standards.

It's not all bad news: some government agencies are stepping up

Nonprofits also called out specific state, county, and city government departments for praise. For example:

  • Stanislaus County acted quickly to remove some certifications making it possible for one organization to continue staffing at required ratios despite many staff being unable to come to work.
    Government agencies praised for developing online invoicing systems included Los Angeles and Monterey Counties and the California Coastal Commission.
  • An artist-in-residence nonprofit praised a school district for flexibility in payments.

These examples and others demonstrate that government can and does move quickly and that they are listening to nonprofit voices. But we need these kinds of exemplary actions to be undertaken everywhere and at every level of California government.

In addition to services, the CalNonprofits questionnaire asked about organizations' ability to continue operations given changes in activities and revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis. Many experienced problems applying for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and/or an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).

Improvements in contracts and grants will help many nonprofits to some degree, but the nonprofit community is still at risk.

What can you do now?

We urge nonprofits to review and sign onto the letter that CalNonprofits has been using with legislators, outlining specific steps needed at the state government level. These same concerns are in a letter written by Assemblymember Luz Rivas (Santa Barbara) with 30 state legislators signed on.

If your state senator or assemblymember has not signed this letter being circulated by Assemblymember Luz Rivas, please forward it to them and urge them to sign it.

Stay strong and safe everyone. And don't forget to let us know how you are doing.

We have been touched by how many nonprofits have chosen to become new members of CalNonprofits in the past few weeks – especially given the hardships they are experiencing. It means a lot to us that nonprofits understand the importance of a strong, smart, and persistent voice at times like these! If you'd like to join our growing coalition, click here.


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