Science for a Blue Planet

Featuring cutting-edge work, discoveries, and challenges of our scientists, our partners, and the larger conservation science community.

Thank You Governor Newsom for Supporting Nonprofits!

By Liz Chamberlin, Director of Innovation, Point Blue Conservation Science; Julie Rentner, President, River Partners; Cam Tredennick, Executive Director, CA Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD)

As we head to Riverside to celebrate and share successes with partners all around the state this week for the statewide 30×30 Partnership Gathering, we are reflecting on the power of partnerships between nonprofits( like Point Blue, CARCD, and River Partners), public agencies and state decision-makers. In that spirit, we’d like to thank Governor Newsom for supporting non-profit organizations around the state by signing AB 590 into law over the weekend.

Nonprofits are an essential part of the social fabric of a healthy society, filling a “third space” with missions that are different from, but often aligned with, those of public partners. But while the rewards for our dedication are many, nonprofits face significant challenges. AB 590 reduces at least one of those challenges by allowing nonprofits to receive advance funding for a portion of the funds they are awarded from some reimbursable state funding sources. This will especially benefit nonprofits, like Point Blue, CARCD, and River Partners that serve historically disadvantaged communities.

Here’s how it works: Before passage of this bill, nonprofits were required to first complete the work agreed to under a state contract, and then invoice the state to receive payment. This meant that nonprofits were required to “front” the money needed to pay staff and vendors and cover all other expenses before being reimbursed by the state. For organizations that did not have large cash reserves, this made many state grants difficult–or even impossible–to receive. And even for those that could make it work, they sometimes have to take out loans to cover upfront project expenses and then pay interest and finance charges until the loans are paid off, which adds to the financial burden of taking on new state-funded work. With AB 590, nonprofits can request up to 25% of the funding in advance, which will go far in helping solve this cash flow problem.

Point Blue has been a strong supporter of this bill (as can be seen in our support letter here) and is thrilled to see that Governor Newsom recognized the disproportionately negative impact of the old structure on certain groups. In a letter Newsom released when the bill was published, he wrote: “I am committed to expanding equitable access to state grants and contracts, and the utilization of advance payments is a strategy that may support various nonprofits working with disadvantaged, low-income, and under-resourced communities.”

At Point Blue, we can see the direct impacts of this situation on many of the people and organizations we work with. We are honored to be trusted by the state to steward $50 million from the Wildlife Conservation Board over four years through the two restoration-focused block grants we received in January of this year. Our Roots Program is administering funds from one of these grants to farmers and ranchers who want to implement restoration projects on the lands they manage. In our first funding pool, 75% of applicants qualify as underserved–meaning it’s unlikely that they could work with a funding structure in which they had to fund a restoration project themselves before being reimbursed by Point Blue. And on our side of the equation, our cash reserves only allow us to fund a limited number of projects before being reimbursed while keeping a healthy “rainy day fund.”

Looking at another example, Resource Conservation Districts are not NGOs but special districts in CA that work closely with NGOs on projects funded through state grants for drought, wildfire and forest health, healthy soils, pollinators, wildlife protection and restoration, and much more.  Often, to optimize the systematic strength of RCDs toward implementation of California’s 30×30 and Climate Smart Goals, and to achieve greater equity by funding emerging RCDs working in underserved locations with less resources, CARCD and Point Blue work with partner state agencies to administer block grants that complement and fund RCD work.  Now that AB 590 has been signed, funding agencies have the flexibility to achieve important efficiencies through block grants that enable us to deliver more funding, more effectively than previously possible.

Point Blue and our partners have a strong commitment to shared responsibility and accountability in our stewardship of public funds. AB 590 will help us minimize the financial burden on the people we fund through these programs and help advance equitable work for social good across the state. Once again, we applaud Governor Newsom for recognizing the challenges of the old structure and taking steps to address them.