Nonprofit organizations play a critical role in providing essential social services, and they went above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new survey by the Nonprofit Finance Fund and the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA shows urgent action is needed to help them survive.
“Oftentimes, it’s almost as if we’re told, ‘We’re going to fund you, but we expect you to make miracles happen,” said Dr. Wilma Franco, the executive director of the SELA Collaborative, a Los Angeles-area nonprofit.
According to the survey of more than 200 organizations in L.A. County, 72% say there’s a significant increase in demand as a result of the pandemic.
That’s especially true for organizations led by Black, indigenous, and people of color.
“The nonprofit sector continues to say, ‘We’re not receiving the amount of resources that we need to meet the demand,'” said Franco.
One critical component is asking the right questions.
“I think one of the things for us that has been extremely valuable with this is that we are very data driven, right? And then so how do we utilize data,” said Franco
Franco and Derek Steele with the Social Justice Learning Institute point to the impact of research on thoughtful solutions.
“It’s really about the people-centered, the people-oriented solutions that we bring to the table,” said Steele. “Those are the things that are actually going to move the needle, and having surveys like this help to shape the conversation.”
Steele said the survey confirms what many already know and live.
“It showed, most importantly, BIPOC-led organizations are facing challenges when it comes to resources,” he said.
For example, a larger percentage of white-led organizations have a budget of more than $2 million.
That’s 56% compared to 27% of those led by people of color. Plus, only a quarter of Black-led organizations report having reserves.
“Oddly enough, or maybe not oddly, the bigger the organization, the better the chance of them getting more resources because you have to be able to hire grant writers, contract administrators, all the people who can interface with especially government, which can be very challenging to interface, but with also philanthropy and business,” said Executive Director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA Dr. Raphe Sonenshein.
The group is now engaging the county and philanthropic sector.
“Organizations like ours, like a lot of our partners, need unrestricted funding, because that allows us to really be flexible with how we strategize, how we have to shift strategies, how we have to rethink ideas,” said Franco.
In addition, staffing is a significant area of concern and the cost of living in L.A. compounds that challenge.
“It’s not just how much more you can do with, you know, $10, it’s how much more we can make sure that we can be sustainable in the long run as well,” said Franco.
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