Home Charity association Why Some WA Nonprofits Face High Barriers to Federal Aid

Why Some WA Nonprofits Face High Barriers to Federal Aid

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Disproportionate Challenges

Government agencies have increasingly outsourced social and humanitarian services to the nonprofit sector in recent decades, but the pandemic has led to a historic surge in demand for relief programs across the country. Laura Pierce, executive director of Washington Nonprofits, said local organizations have seen unprecedented community need while facing a tight labor market and the loss of many volunteers.

“It’s been really, really tough,” Pierce said. “You have a nonprofit sector that’s so committed, still doing its job, but really tired, really exhausted.”


This story is part of Crosscut’s WA Recovery Watch, an investigative project tracking federal dollars in Washington State.


Washington Nonprofitsan association of around 600 member organisations, last month published a public procurement survey. More than 100 nonprofits, including 23 BIPOC-led and 30 rural organizations, shared their frustrations with government funding requests and compliance rules.

Two-thirds of responding nonprofits reported difficulties with applications and deadlines. The survey found that 59% found the funding rules too complicated. More than half of the reported contracts did not adequately cover administrative costs or increasing expenses over time. Many said short-term funding made hiring and planning difficult.

Nonprofits that identified as Black, Indigenous, or led by people of color reported higher rates of difficulty with application procedures and timelines (74%), onerous reporting requirements (70% ) and contracts that do not cover administrative costs (70%).

“For smaller organizations, the burden of this process is not worth the funding received,” the survey report states, “and it creates inequitable barriers to access for smaller BIPOC-led organizations.”

Pierce said local and state government agencies often consume much of the stimulus spending schedule developing specific program rules, drafting calls for proposals and reviewing applications, adding to the complexity of spending the money while leaving a shorter window for service delivery.

“If it was just federal compliance requirements, it wouldn’t be so bad,” she said. “But the money goes through the state and the city…and they’ve all added requirements at all levels of government.”

Funding often requires nonprofits to itemize expenses by line item, use money in narrow windows, collect customer demographics, register with government portals, file reports on deliverables or provide other complex documents. They may also require applicants to have a large sum of money or insurance coverage to qualify.

Joof and other nonprofit leaders said relief contracts can also include unnecessary restrictions that prevent them from using their community experience to invest money where they can do the most good. . Nonprofits must always create services based on government priorities and government timelines.

“Be flexible,” suggested Joof. “Give us leeway to do things that are consistent with our mission.”

Jose Ortiz, a regional network builder with Catholic Community Services and a volunteer at the Tri-Ward Food Bank in Skagit County, said local partners have helped the food bank get food and financial support, but some funding is falling behind. wrap up next month, and he doesn’t yet know how much money to expect after that.

Such funding delays can make long-term planning difficult, he said. Meanwhile, inflation has increased service costs to the food bank, which regularly serves 500 to 600 families.

“Any additional resources we had will soon be exhausted,” Ortiz said. “We don’t know what the future holds for us.”