The Santa Barbara Foundation released a first-ever report on the state of nonprofits in Santa Barbara County after over eight months of collecting and analyzing extensive data. According to the introduction, “This report provides the most up to date and holistic picture of Santa Barbara County’s nonprofit sector. After a turbulent and unpredictable global pandemic that shook the sector, the data reveal key insights to guide funders, practitioners, and government agencies in collaborating toward reopening and rebuilding. Additionally, these data serve as an important baseline for future research on the nonprofit sector in Santa Barbara County.”
The report is based on a compilation of data from the IRS Tax Form 990, a nonprofit leader survey administered by the Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego and focus group breakout session discussions with nonprofit professionals at the 2021 Partnership for Excellence Conference.
I highly recommend that you visit the Santa Barbara Foundation (SBF) website and read the report for yourself. It is packed full of fascinating findings and helpful reflections by SBF. A few of these reflections that I found most interesting include:
- Medium sized organizations will need to increase their capacity to maintain the increased service level. Likewise, smaller grassroots organizations need capacity building investments.
- Funders and donors need to be aware of an unbalance between North County and South County, with more people living in North County but fewer nonprofits serving these communities. These organizations need flexible funding suitable for growth.
- Due to nonprofits relying heavily on contributions, they were hit especially hard by the impact of the pandemic on those donations. Many had to change their revenue model, increasing the amount of income from government sources, and decreasing reliance on service fees, individual donations, and event revenue.
- Many nonprofits saw an increase in demand for services, even as they saw drops in funding and capacity. The strain on finances led some to resort to layoffs and furloughs. They will need increased support from donors to fulfill their missions.
- Nonprofits have shown amazing ingenuity, innovation, and determination to continue to achieve their missions and serve the community.
At the conclusion of this nearly 100-page comprehensive report, SBF made five excellent recommendations which will be helpful to funders, donors, and nonprofits.
Prioritize Workforce Wellness.
The nonprofit sector is finding it increasingly difficult to retain and recruit talent. To counter this, a focus on individual mental and physical wellness, fair wages, and innovative employee benefits is critical.
Codify Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Access.
Even though many nonprofits report their organizations have taken actions to engage DEIA principles, the focus should include the entire organization, rather than solely leadership and governing bodies.
Cultivate Underrepresented Leadership & Volunteer Capacity.
There is a critical need to fund and foster community-based organizations in underrepresented mid and north county. Investments should be made to help organizations engage volunteers in the new hybrid environment.
Prioritize Flexible Funding.
It is critical for all funders to continue to provide flexible funding such as unrestricted gifts, multi-year, and general operating support grants so nonprofits can regain their financial footing and improve their resilience.
Continue to Build Capacity to Adapt.
Funders and supporters need to continue to be empathetic and modify expectations to avoid causing additional stress on already overburdened nonprofits.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary Clark, the director for the Collaboration for Social Impact, on my TV show, 805 Focus. Clark has served our nonprofit sector in Santa Barbara County for many years, in various capacities. His oversight of this impressive process has been essential to its success.
Clark’s message to all those in Santa Barbara County who care about our nonprofit sector is, “Our nonprofit sector is incredibly innovative and strong, but the pandemic has exacerbated inequities and generated more unmet needs stretching many of them beyond their already maxed out capacities.
The only way nonprofits are going to address this challenge is if all of us value their vital role in strengthening the social fabric of our communities and support their sustainability and resilience.”
Calling All Donors
I invite all donors to continue supporting the causes that resonate with you and, when possible, to increase your contribution. Even though some of the pandemic restrictions are easing, many nonprofits are still navigating challenging white water.
Your support is always needed and appreciated, whether financial or as a volunteer. If you are new to philanthropy, folks at the Santa Barbara Foundation can help facilitate your donations according to your interests.