Originally published April 1, 2022 in the Triangle Business Journal
A group of 1,500 nonprofits – including more than 150 organizations from North Carolina – recently sent a letter to members of Congress seeking policy solutions to address ongoing challenges charitable nonprofits are facing because of the pandemic and because of workforce shortages.
If these challenges persist, Triangle residents may start to lose out on some of the important programs and services that nonprofits provide like child care, arts programming, food assistance, affordable housing, senior services, and mental health care.
Business leaders can be important partners in helping local nonprofits find the financial and human resources they need to sustain and grow their programs and services.
Right now, local nonprofits are experiencing four major challenges:
Increased Need. More than half of North Carolina nonprofits experienced an increase in demand for their services during the pandemic. Record numbers of people in the Triangle are seeking help at food banks, crisis assistance centers, affordable housing providers, community health centers, domestic violence agencies, and consumer credit counseling services.
Revenue Challenges. Three-fourths of North Carolina nonprofits lost revenue during the first three months of the pandemic in 2020, and many are still behind on their budgets because of this shortfall.
Over the past two years, the federal and state government provided temporary revenue for nonprofits through economic relief programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and the Employee Retention Tax Credit and through special one-time grants to some individual nonprofit organizations.
Now that these government programs have ended, nonprofits are seeking additional private-sector investment to ensure that they have adequate and sustainable revenue in 2022 and beyond.
Lost Volunteers. Many local nonprofits rely heavily on volunteers to deliver their programs and services like afterschool programs, food assistance, free legal and tax help, student mentorships, and medical and dental clinics. Unfortunately, North Carolina nonprofits lost about 40 percent of their volunteers in 2020, and the majority of these volunteers have not returned. Many nonprofits have had to hire – or attempt to hire – additional paid staff to fill positions that are typically covered by volunteers.
Shortage in Paid Workers. On top of the decline in volunteerism, the nonprofit sector is now facing a severe workforce shortage. In a recent national survey, more than three-fourths of nonprofits reported having at least 10 percent of their staff positions vacant. The survey found that the two biggest causes of nonprofit workforce shortages were salary competition and lack of access to child care. Nationally, nonprofits had about 450,000 fewer workers at the end of 2021 than they did prior to the pandemic, according to a Johns Hopkins University report.
Overall, nonprofits today are being asked to provide more programs and services with fewer staff, volunteers, and financial resources than they had before the pandemic.
But there are ways business leaders can help. Nonprofits recognize that they need outside help in navigating these challenges. While government support – in the form of economic assistance for nonprofits and increased investment in social services – is important, businesses can also be a part of the solution.
Here are three ways your business can help strengthen the Triangle’s nonprofit sector:
Volunteering with Nonprofits. One of the best ways for businesses to support local nonprofits is by encouraging their staffs to volunteer. Businesses can maximize their impact if they can provide nonprofits with sustainable, reliable volunteers. If your business is looking to increase your volunteerism, a good first step is to identify local nonprofits that you would like to support. You might consider organizations where your staff has volunteered in the past, nonprofits with missions that are complementary to the type of services your company provides, or charitable organizations that are located in your neighborhood. Once you have identified, reach out to see what types of volunteers the organization is seeking.
Considering Offering Discounts to Nonprofits. Cost savings – even incremental ones – that reduce operational costs can make an enormous difference for nonprofits’ bottom lines. Businesses can help charitable organizations with both their financial and human resources challenges by offering nonprofits discounts on products and services.
Increasing Financial Contributions to Nonprofits. In recent years, charitable giving has not kept pace with growing community needs and with nonprofits’ increased operational costs.
One of the best ways business leaders can assist local nonprofits facing financial and human resource challenges is to maintain – and, if possible, increase – their charitable contributions this year, even if these contributions don’t lead to a tax deduction.
David Heinen is the vice president for public policy and advocacy for the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits. Reach him at email@example.com.