The Rhode Island nonprofit sector is essential to a thriving state. The pandemic made clear the myriad of ways that our nonprofits contribute to our communities. It also has had a devastating impact on organizations across the state. That is why it is critical for the Governor to include support and strategies to ensure that our nonprofits can thrive to 2030 and beyond.
In collaboration with community partners, we have drafted the following letter which we intend to send to Governor McKee and Lieutenant Governor Matos, calling for more supports in their Rhode Island 2030 plan.
If your nonprofit would like to sign-on to this letter, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page.
Letter to Governor McKee
The Honorable Daniel J. McKee
The Honorable Sabina Matos
Rhode Island State House
82 Smith Street
Providence, RI 02903
Dear Governor McKee and Lieutenant Governor Matos,
Thank you for the thoughtfulness that went into the development of Rhode Island 2030: Charting a Course for the Future of the Ocean State.
We appreciate the important priorities that are contained in the working draft, particularly the focus on equity and the need for long-term solutions to systemic issues like structural racism, climate change, affordable housing, social determinants of health, and education.
At the same time, we are concerned that the plan lacks a recognition of the crucial role that the nonprofit sector plays in the state’s ability to provide essential services and to build strong, equitable, resilient communities, and therefore the necessity to provide capacity building resources to ensure the sustainability and long-term impact of the sector.
Over the last 18 months, community-based organizations have provided vital supports and services, ranging from vaccine outreach, emergency shelter and food, access and navigation for federal relief programs, small business supports, physical and behavioral health services, out of school time programming to address learning loss, outreach to homebound seniors, workforce development, supplies for those in quarantine, voter information, and arts and culture programming.
In all of these areas and countless others, the sector provided services that state and local governments are not able to provide directly. The sector serves a foundational role in:
- the state's emergency response efforts in times of crisis,
- the state’s provision of essential social services on a daily basis,
- community resiliency and recovery efforts moving out of the pandemic,
- opportunities for residents and communities to grow and thrive, and
- the cultural richness that undergirds the state’s attraction to residents and tourists alike.
The nonprofit sector has been the backbone, hands, and feet of both public and private efforts to support residents and businesses in the last year and a half. And while increased vaccination rates have improved the circumstances for many Rhode Island businesses, the end of federal relief programs is resulting in even greater demand for social services from community-based organizations, which have been stretched thin from almost two years of crisis-level care for their neighbors.
The tireless leadership and support provided by Rhode Island nonprofits during the pandemic has come at great personal and organizational cost. Community-based organizations are facing unprecedented staff burnout and turnover, along with a dire financial formula of increased demand for services and decreased fundraising revenue (64% have lost revenue because of the cancellation of fundraising events).
According to a recent survey of 330 Rhode Island nonprofits conducted by Grantmakers Council of Rhode Island (GCRI) and United Way of Rhode Island (UWRI), 34% are operating at a deficit. Many others have used up reserves and have only been able to make ends meet because of PPP loans (received by 78% of respondents). Additionally,
- 49% have experienced additional expenses for service delivery due to issues such as PPE, cleaning, space configurations, lower staff ratios, etc.
- 46% have experienced a loss of at least 15% of their revenue during the pandemic.
- 28% have seen expenses increase more than 15%.
The nonprofit workforce, which employs over 68,000 people and comprises over 16.5% of the state’s workforce, is also in crisis:
- 86% of nonprofits in the survey say that some or all of their staff is experiencing emotional exhaustion, 78% say some or all of their staff is burned out, and 74% say that some or all of their staff is experiencing physical exhaustion.
- 54% cited inadequate staffing and difficulty in recruitment and hiring as pressing challenges facing their organization.
- 29% have at least some staff who have left the nonprofit sector completely, and 38% have at least some staff who are contemplating doing so.
Even before the pandemic, Rhode Island did not invest in this vital sector. Nonprofit job growth has outpaced overall job growth in virtually every state in the country, except for Rhode Island. While our New England neighbors experienced vigorous nonprofit job growth of over 15% from 2007-2017, and 25 states had nonprofit job growth of over 20%, Rhode Island was the only state in the country with negative nonprofit job growth during the same time period (-2.3%).
This lack of investment means that the state is losing out, not only on the essential services provided by nonprofits, but also the economic spark the nonprofit sector can provide. Nonprofits drive economic growth -- the nonprofit sector contributed over $1 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2016, comprising 5.6% of the country's GDP, and accounting for more than $826 billion in salaries, benefits and payroll taxes.
The sector is an economic engine in Rhode Island generating over $13 billion in annual revenues. Nonprofits provide care for children and seniors to allow family members to work outside the home. They provide job training and placement services for those who might otherwise have difficulty entering the workforce, and provide support for entrepreneurs and social impact ventures. They spur economic activity through creative placemaking, arts and cultural programming, and improved quality of life. Investments in early childhood learning, afterschool programming, and health prevention save the state millions of dollars in long-term costs. Despite this impact, nonprofits are not included in the state’s support for small businesses or economic development.
In light of these crises, and the central role that the nonprofit sector plays in the well-being, vitality, and prosperity of the Ocean State, we are requesting that an additional pillar be added to the Rhode Island 2030 plan focused on building the short- and long-term capacity of the nonprofit sector.
Several existing sections of the workplan include references to nonprofits as providers of key services, but it is also critical that the state recognize the foundational role that the sector plays in emergency relief, providing human services, strengthening and enriching communities, and making Rhode Island a desirable place to live. Without comprehensive, long-term supports and strategies, this vital “civic infrastructure” will be irreparably damaged -- the state will need to find a way to provide crisis response and direct services, and one of the largest workforce and economic sectors of the state will no longer be able to contribute to the vitality and prosperity of the Ocean State.
For many Rhode Islanders, it will take years to recover from the physical, financial, psychological, and educational trauma of the pandemic. Community-based organizations cannot continue to play their central role in providing essential programs and services to support our neighbors without targeted investment from the state in the form of immediate relief and a long-term, intentional strategies to support nonprofit workforce development, organizational and network capacity, and the civic infrastructure that undergirds the state’s emergency response, social services, and cultural and community resources.
Nonprofits have heroically shouldered the burden and responsibility of the state’s relief and recovery efforts for the last 18 months. They are the cornerstone on which thriving communities are built. This is critical work that cannot continue without significant, comprehensive support from the state.
We look forward to meeting with you to discuss the policy investments that can reinforce the foundations of this sector, to ensure that it can continue to serve as a cornerstone of much of the state’s most important work.
United Way of Rhode Island
Man Up, Inc.
The Empowerment Factory
New Urban Arts
Institute for Nonprofit Practice
Brain Injury Association of Rhode Island
Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation
Roger Williams Park Zoo
Grantmakers Council of Rhode Island
Anchor Recovery Community Centers
Volunteer Services for Animals
Cumberland School Volunteers
West Bay Community Action
YouthBuild Preparatory Academy, Inc.
Girls on the Run Rhode Island
South Kingstown CARES
Refugee Dream Center
Community Care Alliance
Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness
House of Hope
Women's Fund of RI
Communities for People
Lights and Sirens International
Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County
The Manton Avenue Project
Mt. Hope Learning Center
Center for Youth & Community Leadership in Education (CYCLE) at Roger Williams University
Newport Partnership for Families
15 Minute Field Trips
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island
Women's Refugee Care
Housing Works RI at Roger Williams University
West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation
Hamilton House Senior Adult Learning Exchange
Hera Educational Foundation
Pawtucket Central Falls Health Equity Zone
Providence Preservation Society
The Arc Rhode Island
Be The Change/Project Hand Up
Jules Hope Chest
One Neighborhood Builders
Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice
The MAE Foundation
2nd Act Org, Inc.
Gallery Night Providence
Providence Inner City Arts
Rhode Island Environmental Education Association
Dare to Dream Ranch, Inc.
Wilbury Theatre Group
Better Lives Rhode Island
Trinity Tabernacle, Inc.
A Leadership Journey
Audubon Society of Rhode Island
Center for Dynamic Learning
Global Science Envirotech, Inc.
Narrow River Preservation Association
Higher Ground International
Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council
The CORE Org
St. Mary's Home for Children
Community Boating Center
Rhode Island Parent Information Network
Economic Progress Institute
Books Are Wings
Providence Afterschool Alliance
Fresh Start Learning Center
Church Community Housing Corporation
Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families
Reentry Campus Program
Pawtucket Housing, Inc.
Sankofa Community Connection
Southside Cultural Center
Mental Health Association of Rhode Island
Federal Hill House
Opportunities Unlimited, Inc.
Youth in Action
Diversity Talks PD Inc.
Rhode Island for Community and Justice
Shri Service Corps
NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley
Southside Community Land Trust
Family Service of Rhode Island
Providence Children's Film Festival
Community Provider Network
Sea Rose Montessori School
Reach Out and Read Rhode Island
Providence Public Library
Robert Potter League for Animals
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
RI Black Business Association
Art League of RI
Community String Project
The Groden Network
Seven Hills Rhode Island
West Bay RI
J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center