In 2019, Fair Chance released a Racial Equity Framework providing an overarching strategy to inform our annual goals and activities. The framework is organized according to different ways Fair Chance can affect change toward a more racially equitable DC. One of those ways is by serving as an “advocate” for small, BIPOC-led community-based nonprofits educating funders about the critical role they play in addressing the needs of children, youth, and families experiencing poverty. In this role, we use our platform to amplify the voices of nonprofits and share the story of how as a collective, these organizations have been under-funded and taken for granted by government and institutional funders unwilling to pay for the true costs of providing services to our residents of greatest need.
On February 17th, I testified in front of the DC Council Committee on Government Operations and Facilities that oversees the work of the Office of Contracts and Procurement. My remarks, as well as those of my colleagues on the Coalition for Nonprofit Equity, expressed deep concern about the failure of DC agencies to implement the Nonprofit Fair Compensation Act of 2020. The law was established to combat the common government contracting and grants management practice of arbitrarily limiting “indirect” costs or overhead on “charitable” nonprofit service providers. This practice has been tolerated by resource-starved nonprofits for years requiring the cobbling together of funds from other sources to cover the gap in government funding. Collateral damage has been the erosion of salaries, organizational stability, and general staff burnout from always being expected to do more with less. The passage of this law was a step in right direction but in practice, the Act lacks teeth. Government staff members have not been trained on the new requirements of the Act. In addition, it is critical that DC ensures agencies are funded to implement indirect cost requirements without reducing services.
The pandemic has increased the general cost of doing business in the District (cleaning, PPE, overtime, etc.) and has left clients traumatized and in greater need of services and support than ever before. This is fundamentally an issue of equity — and because most small nonprofits serve in communities of color — a racial equity issue. The current funding model and the failure to pay DC nonprofits the actual cost of doing business is reaching a tipping point and could lead to a crisis scenario— all while governments are building rainy day funds and now sit on huge amounts of American Rescue Plan funding. Without a robust nonprofit sector, government will absolutely fail to deliver on the promises it makes each year to its constituents.
We invite you to join with us in amplifying this story. If you are interested in advocating with us or joining the Coalition for Nonprofit Equity or the DC Out-of-School-Time Coalition, please contact Neel Saxena at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in Solidarity,
Gretchen Van der Veer, PhD
Chief Executive Officer