|Bloomberg Outlines Initiatives to Assist Nonprofits|
|Tuesday, 07 April 2009 06:17|
Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday today outlined a series of new initiatives to help New York City’s more than 40,000 cultural, health and social service nonprofit organizations survive the economic downturn. The Mayor’s plans focused on providing the struggling nonprofit sector with assistance in three major areas:
“Almost half a million New Yorkers who make up our nonprofit workforce contribute profoundly to the heartbeat of our city by helping residents across the five boroughs – particularly during these trying times,” said Mayor Bloomberg as he announced his plan before an audience of nonprofit executives and advocates at the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Affairs. “Whether by training people for jobs, providing access to arts and culture or building affordable housing, the nonprofit sector is a vital part of the City and our economy. As nonprofits face increasing challenges due to the economic downturn, it’s critical that the City take concrete steps to strengthen the sector and help it thrive.”
The Mayor noted that an estimated 40,000 nonprofits in New York City employ more than 490,000 people, or 15 percent of the City’s non-governmental workforce.
Reducing Fixed Costs
To help nonprofits reduce their fixed costs, the Mayor announced that the City will enable agencies to participate in group purchasing of goods and services. “The City will build on the success of a pilot program conducted by the Human Service Council that coordinated group purchasing among three nonprofit groups: the Children’s Aid Society, Urban Pathways and Barrier Free Living. Joint procurement of information technology will begin for all nonprofits this summer and a plan for insurance purchasing will be in place by the end of the year. The City estimates that group purchasing can save up to $5 million just for nonprofit groups with City contracts. The mayor also proposed to evaluate energy use by nonprofits in an effort to find further ways to reduce costs.
Improving the City’s Contracting Procedures
The Mayor announced several steps intended to improve the timeliness and efficiency of the City’s own contracting process.
To expand accessibility of contract information and increase agency accountability, the City post all contract status information on www.nyc.gov and update it weekly so that all nonprofits with City contracts can easily check the status of any contract to learn where it is in the pipeline. The Mayor’s Office of Operations will also report on each agency’s overall efficiency in processing contracts.
To address the increasingly critical cash flow needs of nonprofit agencies, the Mayor proposed that its Returnable Grant Fund be increased by 150 percent – from $8 million to $20 million -- for the next two fiscal years. Organizations under contract with the City use these bridge loans, administered by the Fund for the City of New York, to cover short-term costs. The Mayor is also proposing to expand the circumstances under which nonprofits can access the fund. In a similar vein, the Mayor is also taking other steps to assist nonprofits in accessing credit to help meet payrolls or other expenses.
Starting later this year, the City will begin soliciting human service program contracts using a new standard contract format. Multiple City agencies are collaborating to introduce one standard contract to reduce paperwork and ease the burden on nonprofits. The City will also employ a more flexible approach to the bidding process, modeled on successful reforms the City made to the design and construction contracting process. Organizations will be afforded more opportunities to demonstrate how their individual programs best meet the City's service needs and performance standards. With an emphasis on streamlining time frames and reducing burdens, the new process will encourage and reward innovation and program diversity while it reduces burdens on nonprofit procurements.
Support to Strengthen Nonprofit Management
The Mayor offered a number of initiatives to support nonprofit management. The Mayor’s Office of Contract Services has designated senior staffer Jennifer Walty as the Nonprofit Contract Facilitator to help nonprofits that need special assistance with City rules, regulations or policies affecting their ability to obtain City funding. Walty can be reached at NFPhelp@cityhall.nyc.gov or by calling 311.
The Mayor also announced that all nonprofits -- regardless of whether they have a contract with the City – can now call 311 to identify resources related to a broad range of management issues, such as: how to create a strategic plan, better manage financial resources, recruit new Board members, and learn about financial incentives. An “Executive Director Hotline” has been created in partnership with the Community Resource Exchange (CRE), where nonprofit executives can get immediate assistance through strategic advice, guidance or coaching.
Finally, the Mayor announced new offers assistance from the private sector, specifically a new initiative entitled Greater NY in cooperation with philanthropists Blair and Cheryl Cohen Effron and Gretchen and Jamie Rubin to pair business executives with nonprofit executive directors in two-year one-on-one partnerships.
Nonprofits Applaud Initiative
“It is an honor to work with Mayor Bloomberg and an Administration that so clearly values the contribution of the nonprofit human services sector,” said Human Services Council Executive Director Michael Stoller. “From the cost-of-living adjustments instituted early in the Mayor’s first term, to the unprecedented public-nonprofit partnership led by the Deputy Mayor and the Human Services Council dedicated to innovation in service delivery and fundamental improvements in the contracting process, Mayor Bloomberg has shown a deep understanding of our work and a commitment to the people we serve.”
“Mayor Bloomberg has shown unprecedented acknowledgement and support of the vital role that the nonprofit sector plays in New York City,” said Ellen Schall, Dean of the Wagner School. “I applaud the Mayor for focusing needed attention on the critical needs of nonprofits, which have been particularly hard hit by current economic conditions.”
“Although the nonprofit sector continues to struggle with budget cuts amidst increased demand for services, FPWA applauds the Mayor’s efforts to strengthen the sector with a host of new initiatives. Some of these, like doubling the size of the NYC Returnable Grant Fund for the next 2 years will offer immediate assistance to nonprofits in need of bridge loans, while those improving city contracting procedures will have a positive impact on the sector and city going forward.”
“It was wonderful to hear the Mayor recognize the enormous contributions made by the nonprofit sector to the City’s health and well-being,” said Nancy Wackstein, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses. “It is a tremendous validation of our work at a time when all nonprofits are feeling the stress of the economic downturn”.