CalNonprofits Articles

Right now Congress is considering a comprehensive tax bill, with profound and long term implications for California and the nation. Passage of tax reform could have far-reaching effects on individual and corporate taxes, on the charitable deduction, and on employment, social welfare programs, the environment, and how wealth is distributed across the country. An important context is how California nonprofits are experiencing and adapting under the Trump Administration.

In March of this year, soon after the presidential inauguration, we polled California nonprofits on what they were doing and thinking in the first days of President Trump’s administration. Last month we revisited these same questions with nonprofits and are pleased to share our big takeaways from this latest survey.

Organizations less worried for themselves, more worried for their clients

Overall, nonprofits seem less alarmed and more calm and resolute than earlier in the year. However, deeper questioning shows that though respondents are somewhat less worried about the immediate future for their organizations, they are more worried about their communities and constituents than earlier this year. Fifty-eight percent of respondents now report themselves as “very worried” about the people they work with, compared to the 47% of respondents who described themselves as “very worried” earlier this year.

Nonprofits working directly with populations impacted by Trump Administration policies (e.g., immigrants and those in poverty, in need of affordable housing, or with health insurance concerns) report the highest worry and impact:

  • Fewer people show up to get food. People fear being raided by ICE at food pantries.
  • We are seeing more people in homeless situations.
However, other nonprofits have not experienced any major change in service demands for a range of reasons, or are even still hoping for the big changes promised by Trump:
  • I worry about our undocumented members of our community . . . But has anything changed for our org. since 2016? I can't say that anything has.
  • Lack of affordable housing has been of significant concern for decades and continues to be so.
Client demand graph

Higher anxiety, divide of opinions among nonprofit staff

60% of respondents report higher levels of staff anxiety and concern, while 13% are more optimistic about the future than before the inauguration. The anxiety, fatigue, and continued divide of opinions so prevalent among the American public is strongly reflected in our results, too:

  • People seem overwhelmed by the scope of needs, and we're seeing people withdraw from engagement due to that sense of impotence.
  • More anxiety among clients and staff, which demands more time and takes away from mission.
  • We are cautiously optimistic about the future, even planning to expand, well aware that sections of our government funding could be cut.

Government funding stable for now, but many are uncertain about the future

Nonprofits’ fear of immediate loss of government funds do not appear to have materialized. Many have renewed one-year contracts, and many are in the middle of multi-year contracts. But two-thirds of respondents are uncertain about future funding.

Government Funding Graph

Changes in foundation and individual donor funding -- is it about the effort put in?

Respondents’ outlook on foundation funding and individual donor fundraising, for the most part, remained consistent from the March survey to the October survey. Some respondents noted shifts in the priorities of some foundations they work with and increases in individual donor giving. The majority of respondents, however, ascribed anticipated fluctuations in their foundation and individual donor funding to increases or decreases in their organizational focus on fundraising.

Respondents step up their policy and client advocacy

As a policy coalition, we were heartened to see that 46% of respondents say they have increased their public policy advocacy since last year's election. Respondents report more advocacy engagement from their constituents, a willingness to go bolder on advocacy, greater emphasis on developing community engagement and support, and stepped up efforts to mobilize thier constituency.

Sixty-two percent of respondents say they have discussed how their constituents may be affected by federal policy changes. For instance, many are placing significantly greater program emphasis on protecting vulnerable communities, like immigrants, and have established new partnerships with local organizations concerned about the impacts of rhetoric and federal policy changes on vulnerable populations.

Where does your organization land?

No matter where your organization lands along these many divides, these issues affect each organization in some way. We all need to stay informed and alert in the months ahead if we are to be true advocates for our causes, values, and constituents. We’ll be there to inform you all along the way.

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