The pandemic drove home one crucial point: When the going gets tough, nonprofits rise to the occasion to push for the greater good and social impact. Now in recovery mode, Delaware nonprofits are laser-focused on emerging from this crisis healthier and stronger. But what we need is support. We need greater public investment in nonprofits — the very institutions solely focused on making our lives, environment, neighborhoods, towns and state better. That’s why we ask the Delaware General Assembly to support positive community change by raising state contract rates and grant-in-aid levels in this year’s budget bills.
Delaware nonprofits provide critical health and social services, educate youth and build skills for better jobs. They help move individuals out of poverty, nourish our souls and care for our pets. They steward the environment, preserve history and inspire us with art and culture. From the start of the pandemic, nonprofit staff worked tirelessly to support individuals who lost their jobs, students who struggled with remote education and families trying to keep their homes. They rallied to feed youth, families and seniors who couldn’t leave their houses. They lifted our spirits with art and entertainment and continued keeping our parks and waterways clean.
They didn’t do it alone. The broader community rose to help many Delaware nonprofits weather the pandemic storm. As volunteerism dropped, foundations and donors stepped up their giving. Federal aid, through the CARES Act and loans that could convert to grants, allowed nonprofits to keep their staff employed and continue to operate when fundraising dollars dried up.
We are asking the state of Delaware to increase its support, as well. Years ago, government made a policy decision to transition direct-care services from centralized, state-owned institutions to community-based organizations. The promise was that if nonprofits contracted with the state, they would get paid to provide these critical services. They do, but at rates established years ago.
Nonprofits are resourceful and utilize private donations and volunteers to deliver services at a fraction of what it would cost taxpayers should government directly provide those services. But it is not free. Nonprofit agencies have the same costs as businesses, and those costs have been rising for years and will continue to rise. It is time to raise contract rates and increase grant levels to cover these rising costs.
We are thrilled that the Joint Finance Committee voted to fulfill the commitment legislated by the McNesby Act to pay organizations that provide care to individuals with disabilities at least 85% of actual costs. However, these specific providers are only a fraction of the many contracted partners multiple state agencies rely upon to provide services to those in need — often the most vulnerable in our community. Given the healthy revenue projections for fiscal year 2022, the General Assembly should act now to increase contracts with nonprofits and raise grant-in-aid funding for Delaware nonprofits.
Dedicating additional state resources to sustain the good work of community organizations is necessary to strengthen our state’s vitality, prolong a strong economy and ensure quality of life for every Delawarean.
Sheila Bravo is president and CEO of Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement, an organization whose mission is to strengthen, enhance and advance nonprofits and the nonprofit sector in Delaware through advocacy, training, capacity building