The Pandemic, Nonprofit Workforce Shortages, and the Need for Volunteers
Two years into the pandemic, charitable nonprofits from across the country report experiencing significant difficulties in retaining staff and filling vacancies, resulting in challenges delivering services. The CT Community Nonprofit Alliance recently posted survey results finding that nine out of 10 nonprofits say it’s difficult to recruit new employees. The theme of a recent Connecticut Public Radio broadcast recognizes the challenge: as burnout surges, nonprofits struggle to recruit and retain employees. Go here to learn more about the nonprofit workforce shortages crisis.
Adding to the difficulties for nonprofits in advancing their missions, the decline in volunteerism remains a major concern. Nonprofits that rely on volunteers to provide services in their communities, such as tutoring and food delivery, are not seeing a return to pre-pandemic levels, citing multiple factors in addition to COVID-19. In Maine, for instance, volunteers expressed concerns such as transportation, limited internet access, and physical health/safety, according to survey results of Maine nonprofits. When schools were closed, students were not volunteering as part of their graduation requirements, either because the school district waived the requirement or students found alternatives. As a result, thousands of volunteer hours disappeared during a critical period. Another challenge is gas prices, which topped an average of $4.25/gallon nationwide last week, according to the American Automobile Association. These increases put additional budgetary strains on nonprofits that depend on volunteer drivers, like Meals on Wheels and the Independent Transportation Network, which have reported a decline in volunteers. Notably, the volunteer mileage rate remains at 14 cents per mile because it is set as a fixed rate that has not been updated since it was set 25 years ago, and volunteers reimbursed for their mileage may have to pay income taxes on any amount that exceeds that rate.
Funding the Arts and Humanities
State lawmakers have been introducing and funding new programs that support arts and humanities activities in their states. A Maryland Senate bill would require the Governor to appropriate $500,000 annually for a grant to the Maryland Humanities Council for a new Strengthening Humanities Investment in Nonprofits for Equity (SHINE) grantmaking initiative. A measure in Idaho would dedicate $766,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the Commission on the Arts for pandemic grants to arts organizations. A West Virginia bill on the Governor’s desk would establish the Coalfield Grant Facilitation Commission to review and approve awards of matching funds for federal, state, or private grants for projects in the public interest and for a public purpose. These could include projects promoting or developing an artistic or philanthropic purpose, creating or expanding recreation, preserving historic buildings, improving quality of life through childcare access and public transportation, and creating drug and substance abuse rehabilitation programs and facilities.