Commentary: Delaware should value nonprofits with investment

By Sheila Bravo and Cynthia Pritchard

Nonprofits are institutions solely focused on making communities stronger. This is certainly true of our nonprofits in Delaware. In the toughest times, they do the toughest work.

Whether is it rebuilding our communities or restoring the well-being of those they serve, when called upon, nonprofits do the work it takes. Success is measured in terms of shared benefits, not private profits. We need this kind of community-minded perspective to champion the least of us, while promoting the best of us – now more than ever.

Nonprofits, when given the resources they need to do their work, improve the quality of our communities. And, in turn, this leads to economic recovery. Right now, our local communities are relying on nonprofit partners to address the impacts of COVID-19. We all need the expertise and experience of these community-based institutions in the recovery effort that lies ahead.

Sheila Bravo

We need to place great value on the contributions of our nonprofits.

While businesses, philanthropy and even individuals play a part in supporting our nonprofits, only government can channel public funding into helping provide what nonprofits need to do the work. We ask our policymakers to create positive community change while crafting the Delaware state budget. We ask that they do this by placing special focus on the nonprofit sector – not overlooking it.

Leaders in other states recognize the vital role nonprofits play in recovery efforts and have designated federal stimulus dollars to reimburse nonprofits for the expenses incurred while responding to the pandemic. We ask Gov. John Carney to do the same.

The resources we allocate now must also align with our vision for the future: a fair and just society. Our response will only be effective if government funding considers the places and the people who are most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, those who are left out by our current systems.

To get this right, everything we do now must take into account the issues that communities were facing before the pandemic. The work we do as nonprofits – and our relationships with our communities – have taught us that a focus on equity must be front and center.

Because this crisis is far from over, we need the state budget to consider the surge of people who need access to healthy food, resources to help them keep their homes and support systems to help those who struggle with the impacts of COVID-19.

If state government does not recognize these needs and step up with resources, who will?

Cynthia Pritchard

Before the pandemic, nonprofits were contracted by state government at set rates to serve Delawareans in need. There is no negotiation on these rates, despite these rates being far below the actual cost of service. To care for Delaware’s most needy populations, nonprofits had to accept the contracted rates and, subsequently, make up the difference in cost. Before the pandemic, a strong economy helped encourage donations to offset the shortfalls. Now, many nonprofits have exhausted their reserves and their very existence hangs in the balance.

During the recent shelter-in-place order, Delaware’s philanthropists, businesses and foundations donated millions to pay for food aid, shelter for the homeless, masks and other protective gear, digital access for schoolchildren and additional caseworkers to support those in crisis.

Now, as we begin to emerge, philanthropy is helping to reinforce nonprofits who are anchors in the community. But philanthropy alone cannot make up the deficit we expect nonprofits will experience with anticipated lower donations and higher demand for services.

We recognize that state revenues will be tight for this coming year, and we will continue to experience tighter budgets in the near future. Our nonprofits rose to the challenge of COVID-19. They ran into the face of the pandemic and served our state not knowing if they would be resilient enough to sustain their operations when COVID-19 subsided. It is imperative the state recognize the critical nature of our nonprofits and invest in their future.

Sheila Bravo is president and CEO of the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement.

Cynthia Pritchard is president and CEO of Philanthropy Delaware.