Turning the tables: HSC’s new survey lets nonprofits grade government agencies

Nonprofits have expressed their frustration with government contracting partners for years, including chronically late payments, lost documents and misunderstandings about program components. And these issues are not just nuisances. Nonprofits have to devote considerable time, expertise and money to navigating their relationships with government agencies.

To help address these challenges, the Human Services Council has announced a survey to inform the creation of GovGrader, the country’s first online scorecard for human services providers to share their feedback on government procurement and contract management processes. This scorecard will capture the business experience of nonprofit organizations that hold human services contracts with New York City and New York state agencies and give providers greater control in managing their own financial health by allowing them to analyze the viability of various opportunities.

The Human Services Council has extensive program, contract management and financial experience and served as the think tank and innovation lab for this new survey, which includes questions like: “How would you rate your experience and satisfaction with the agency’s approach to contract management?” It also asks providers to rank an agency’s responsiveness on a scale from very poor to exceptional.

The scorecard idea was born of findings gathered following the collapse of Federation Employment and Guidance Service, one of the city’s largest social services providers before it went bankrupt in early 2015. HSC convened a commission of nonprofit executives as well as civic and philanthropic leaders to examine the state of New York’s nonprofit human services sector and released a report that identified chronic problems and offered solutions to strengthen the sector.

One of the most important findings was that many organizations face extreme fiscal instability due to decades of underfunding. Much of this occurs because government contracts rarely cover the full cost of delivering services and the payments are often late and unpredictable. Many nonprofits are forced to take out lines of credit to cover late government payments, and financial and executive staff often spend time following up on repeated requests for information and re-signing documents that sat for too long in a government office and have expired.

When dealing with vendors in almost every other industry, the city bids out contracts based on the cost of performing services: It finds a company to do the work, and pays for supplies and labor. However, when it comes to the human services industry, that logic disappears and funding gaps result. Nonprofits are often stuck filling in the gaps at their own expense in order to ensure that communities are still supported.

Over time, this has eroded the stability of New York’s nonprofits. Nearly 20 percent of New York City’s nonprofit human services organizations are insolvent and 40 percent have little or no cash reserves. Meanwhile, most do not have the tools to adequately assess potential contracts and programs, so they aren’t able to identify and respond to the financial, operational and administrative liabilities that arise as they do business with the city and state. Not to mention that many nonprofits are understandably hesitant to challenge the administrative processes of an agency they’re hoping to partner with.

The Human Services Council’s FEGS report proposed a unique, crowdsourced solution that we are beginning to implement through the creation of this GovGrader survey. Organizations will anonymously provide feedback and ratings based on their experiences around four key dimensions of government contracting: responsiveness, proficiency, information management and overall user experience. The responses will be used to rate city and state government agencies based on a five-point scale. The resulting contract management performance scorecard will be released annually, giving nonprofits a tool to better understand the challenges among various government agencies and helping to highlight which agencies make better partners.

Recently, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council took the critical first step in addressing the extraordinary risks shouldered by New York’s human services providers by committing to increase the rate of reimbursement to more adequately cover the true cost of delivering programs and funding cost-of-living increases for human services employees. Albany must also act to ensure contracts from state agencies more adequately cover program costs. This is the solution that we need to reverse decades of underfunding that have threatened the survival of human services providers. Data from GovGrader will be essential as we continue this process of improving government contracting and instituting contract management reform.

We hope this tool will open new avenues for public dialogue, debate and advocacy, as we must work in partnership with government to find solutions that will guarantee the sustainability of the nonprofit human services sector.

 

Michelle Jackson is the Human Services Council’s deputy director and general counsel.

 
X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.