Several community leaders — Mario Bueno of Progreso Latino, Anthony Hubbard of YouthBuild Preparatory Academy, Cortney Nicolato of United Way, and Daniel Schliefer of New Urban Arts — published a commentary piece in the Boston Globe on the importance of investing in the capacity and sustainability of the nonprofit sector.
Rhode Island can no longer overlook, and underfund, its nonprofit sector
Over the last 19 months, Rhode Island’s nonprofit organizations have been the heart, hands and feet of Rhode Island’s relief and recovery efforts. They provided food and shelter to Rhode Islanders in need. Helped underserved communities access testing and vaccines. Supported children and families with the challenges of distance learning. Provided physical and behavioral health care. Helped isolated seniors connect with loved ones and services. Provided support and training for small businesses and social entrepreneurs. Trained workers for new jobs. Uplifted somber days with beautiful music and art.
In some ways, the last year-and-a-half has been a story of unprecedented commitment and heroism. Faced with the confluence of health, economic, and racial justice crises, Rhode Island nonprofits rose to the challenge of skyrocketing need. At great personal and organizational cost, they overcame public health restrictions, inadequate staffing, physical and emotional exhaustion, and fundraising limitations to deliver services in innovative ways. They were a lifeline to thousands of Rhode Islanders during their darkest moments.
In other ways, the commitment and heroism displayed by our state’s nonprofits during the pandemic is completely normal. It is what happens when organizations are driven by mission and collective social benefit.
Every single day, pandemic or not, quiet, essential work is done across Rhode Island by nonprofit organizations. Skilled, dedicated, compassionate staff work with limited resources to care for our neighbors, empower our children, and build flourishing communities. Community-based organizations provide the expertise, energy, and innovation to make the state’s vision for strong, equitable, prosperous cities and towns a reality. Every. Single. Day.
And every day, whether in times of crisis or plenty, the state depends on these same nonprofits to make Rhode Island lives and communities better. Yet, at nearly every turn, this vital sector is under-resourced, stretched thin, and often taken for granted.
Like the steel beams that undergird our bridges, the crucial work of our state’s nonprofits is so integral to the health and well-being of our communities that it can easily be overlooked. But like our physical infrastructure, our “civic infrastructure” of unheralded nonprofits, collaborative networks, and community-based initiatives cannot continue to carry the weight of our state’s critical needs without comprehensive, long-term investment.