CalNonprofits Articles

More than 1,000 California nonprofits responded to our recent "We Ask the Community" survey.

TL;DR: Nonprofits are struggling, as are our communities. We are adapting with heroic energy and speed, and we are worried about the future. We aren't doing what we used to do, but we are prevailing: we are continuing to live our missions, lead with our hearts and values, and serve our communities well. And we're proud that we are doing so.

Your Stories

We expected to hear stories of financial fears, difficulties with government contracts, and deep suffering in communities. And we did hear those stories:

“Killed fundraising”
Lost more than $100,000 in contracts due to crisis”
PPE supplies are very difficult to obtain and cleaning services are very expensive”
Reduced hours by more than 50% for 3 months with most staff on reduced time or furlough”
“More people needing services, however less capacity due to COVID restrictions/precautions
"greatly reduced our ability to connect with clients in crisis”
“Our staff have been physically and emotionally taxed"

But we also heard pride in accomplishments and victories in the work, with many bright spots:

“Staff did not have the knowledge or resources needed to provide remote services, but for the most part, they have been willing to learn – despite their fears – because it's in the best interest of the clients with disabilities whom we serve"
“Moved 465 staff to remote work within two weeks. Continuing with all of our programming in a virtual environment”
“We found a solid partner, which will allow us to stream our fall dance film festival
“We were able to place 90% of our animals in foster care within the first two weeks of shelter-at-home”
“We have quadrupled our senior meals from 60k per month to almost 240k per month”
“We have been able to combine Census outreach with COVID-19 Response Team efforts for our Pacific Islander communities”
"I'm proud of how creatively and energetically we adapted to pandemic restrictions"

Partnering with government

Given the importance of government funding to human services, health, and education nonprofits, we were extremely disappointed that only about half of nonprofits find their government partners helpful.

"Concerns about getting paid for work we've already done for state agencies"
"[Government] agrees we can get PPE for staff, but not for 250+ volunteers"
"Good luck with county but still only funding 25% of the increase we've taken on"
"We have received early and generous local support from our City using Community Development Block Grant funds"
"State of CA and County are useless. Feds on the other hand have been helpful"
"Local school districts worked with us to let us complete contracts virtually"
"Government agencies have not increased funding to continue services in COVID environment including PPE, increased technology cost, frequent testing and quarantine of staff"

How much have Covid-19 relief funds helped?

To see if emergency funding has been received at significant levels, we asked whether nonprofits had received funding at 20% or more of their annual budgets. The responses showed that despite the pushes for emergency funding, relatively few nonprofits got significant help:

  • Received government funding at 20% or more of our budget: 13%
  • Received non-government funding at 20% or more of our budget: 11%

Anxiety about the future

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and local disaster giving have helped many nonprofits get from March to September. In fact, more than half of nonprofits (59%) report obtaining a PPP loan, and of these, 82% expect all or nearly all their loan to be forgiven.

But as nonprofits use up their PPP funds and as supplemental unemployment benefits end, we are likely to see greater human need in our communities and catastrophic-level decreases in funding for nonprofits.

This data echoes what we found in Causes Count: in an economic downturn, nonprofits are better than for-profits when it comes to keeping jobs and maintaining wages.

"Many of our funders have 'paused' their funding, as they decide how they want to invest their resources, despite the fact that we are a second responder and have increased families/numbers served resulting from COVID-19”
"PG&E wants to provide funds for food, gift cards – distributed by nonprofits – but they do not want to pay for staff to distribute, and they want nonprofits to provide the services up front for reimbursement afterward (who has cash on hand to front PG&E's expenses?!)"
"We have $35,000 in grant income tied to the completion of programs that are suspended or canceled. And, we anticipate earned income to be less than 50% of the projected amount. Although we are stable now, we are deeply concerned about our future"
"Our clients depend on those hygiene kits, so it's really disappointing when we are limited in what we can provide. We are hopeful that donations and in-kind gifts will start coming in soon"
"This has affected every business in every area, and the major donors we count on each year no longer have the resources to donate to help"
"Cannot get financial assistance, because funds are for nonprofits with employees"
"Everything takes longer, and our people are fried"

Urgent need for policy

While nonprofits have never been more visible in media and our communities, our needs must be heard in the halls of political power. And traditionally "non-political" nonprofits are finding that they are starting to advocate on public policy because their communities need them to do so.

Speaking out on political matters does not mean stepping out of the lines set by our 501(c)(3) status as nonprofits. As nonprofits, we can't endorse or oppose candidates running for office. But we can take positions on ballot propositions, register people to vote, educate people about issues, and help them get their votes in.

What are the priorities for CalNonprofits' advocacy?

When given a list of advocacy issues, nonprofits responded that every issue listed was important. But the four topics that nonprofits found most compelling were:

  • Ensuring that small business relief programs are available to nonprofits: 91%
  • Working on ballot propositions that support or harm nonprofits: 86%
  • Providing rent and mortgage relief to nonprofits: 84%
  • Getting flexibility in contracts with government: 75%

Thank you for helping us focus attention on what concerns nonprofits the most. And thank you to the more than 1,000 nonprofits that took the time to share their stories and information. In particular, the comments are so meaningful we wish we could print them all.

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