CALL TO ACTION: Nonprofits urge elected officials, policymakers, and government partners to recognize and appreciate that the sector is a fundamental part of the New York City region -- critical for its survival and recovery and a key part of what makes our diverse and vibrant City special. 2020 exposed and exacerbated racial inequity and disparities that have defined our systems for too long. We see this in the data on COVID-19 fatalities, in the failures of remote learning, in the dramatic increases in food insecurity, in who was excluded from financial relief, and in which arts, culture and civic organizations are barely able to stay afloat -- and these are only a few painful examples.
Nonprofit organizations are crucial components of the communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and the economic devastation it has wrought. We are important employers, service providers, and community builders in these neighborhoods. As a sector, nonprofits employ 18% of the private workforce, and the majority of these employees are women and Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC). Our sector’s workforce plays vital roles in our organizations, communities and City. They deserve the recognition and respect warranted by their critical roles. Nonprofits are essential to New York City’s efforts to move from crisis, through an inclusive recovery, to become a more equitable, thriving place. Nonprofit organizations have displayed resilience, innovation, creativity, and grit in the face of multiple, overlapping, and compounding crises. Throughout the COVID crisis, the nonprofit sector has responded to increased needs with diminished resources and quickly pivoted to provide emergency services.
Nonprofits’ direct and effective crisis response was possible because nonprofit organizations are often best situated to assess community needs and amplify community strengths. Nonprofits reject any efforts to “go back to normal.” We are united and committed to rebuilding our sector and our City, in ways that make racial equity a fundamental condition of success.
Nonprofits play a critical role in every zip code across this City as a dynamic and intersectional sector that works across generations, neighborhoods, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, immigration status, disability, language, sexual orientation, class, education, employment status, and more. Nonprofits are drivers of multi-racial democracy and community building. A failure to invest in and value the
nonprofit sector adversely affects essential programming and services in every single neighborhood, with Black, Indigenous, Brown, Latinx, and Asian New Yorkers impacted most deeply. Nonprofits are fundamental to how community members support one another with lifesaving services, how we create and make art together, how we learn and grow, how we fuel our democracy, and how we create meaningful change.
I. Nonprofits are a key employer in NYC, employing a workforce of over 662,000 individuals, the majority of whom are women and BIPOC. The City must contract with the sector in ways that enable nonprofits to (1) compensate their workforce fairly and equitably and (2) implement internal policies and practices that promote equity and address disparities.
When City contracts underfund needed, and often legally required services, they are relying on low-wage nonprofit workers to implement important programs. When the City contracts with nonprofits to provide services aimed at addressing and ameliorating impacts of poverty, paying poverty wages is unacceptable.
II. Successful programs are based on substantive input and feedback from communities. The City of New York should engage nonprofits in policy, program, and funding decisions from the beginning.
Nonprofits are a source of invaluable expertise and critically important, intersectional community perspectives.. Nonprofits must inform decisions that will have an impact on the programs we deliver and the communities we serve. The pandemic has highlighted the essential nature of the nonprofit sector, with organizations proving they are able to respond quickly and creatively to meet community needs. We want to strengthen and enhance the relationship between the New York City government and the nonprofit sector:
III. Nonprofits are drivers of our multi-racial democracy, facilitating civic engagement and lifting up voices of communities that might otherwise go unheard. The City of New York needs to remove barriers that inhibit nonprofits from engaging in robust issue advocacy on behalf of our communities.
The regulatory framework currently imposed on nonprofits is based on racist, and paternalistic ideas about who is best situated to drive social change. Nonprofit staff members- who are disproportionately from, and serve, systematically oppressed communities - are expected to provide services, but refrain from challenging systems. Instead, “Benefactors” of nonprofits (mostly white and privileged) are often turned to by elected officials as sources of expertise. Nonprofits that are embedded in and accountable to the communities they serve are experts on issues that impact these communities, but too often lobbying restrictions and onerous reporting requirements limit nonprofits’ capacity to engage in robust, effective advocacy. Though federal and state laws are the primary drivers of these inequitable regulations, the City must not make matters worse by creating barriers and imposing further restrictions.
IV. Nonprofits are only able to fully serve diverse communities in inclusive, responsive, and innovative ways if they have flexible, predictable, and sustained funding. The City of New York must contract with nonprofits in a manner that promotes sustainability, recognizes the critical importance of operational expenses, and requires timely payment.
The current crisis of underfunded and undervalued nonprofit contracts is a racial equity issue, affecting the scope of accessibility of vital services. Going forward nonprofit City contracts and grants must provide: