Group aims to bring more BIPOC vendors to nonprofits

The New York State Equitable Economies coalition formed to help organizations invest in services provided by diverse contractors impacted during COVID-19.

BIPOC vendors

BIPOC vendors Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Image

A group of nonprofit organizations has joined together to provide more opportunities for Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) vendors in New York City’s nonprofit sector. 

The New York State Equitable Economies Coalition said it has come together to broaden access to $77 billion contributed annually by nonprofits to the city’s economy. BIPOC vendors would be connected with nonprofit organizations to provide services such as waste management, landscaping, communications and fiscal auditing, among others. 

“For us, we want to be injecting money back into the economy that goes directly to supporting the livelihoods of BIPOC vendors, that would be huge,” said Diana Noriega, Chief Anti-Racism and Equity Officer at Good Shepherd Services, one of the coalition groups. “We hope to give them access to contracts they've not had access to like that alone. That could be an economic game changer with the amount of money that a bunch of us (nonprofits) are collectively spending. Are we supporting BIPOC vendors in a way that feels really meaningful and fruitful and giving them access to opportunities they normally would not have had?”

A dozen organizations, such as Henry Street Settlement and SCO Family of Services, have joined the cause and more are being sought. George Suttles, a board member with several nonprofits, including The Laundromat Project and New York Foundation, noted there was a focus on helping BIPOC businesses impacted by COVID-19. A survey conducted by H&R Block of almost 3,000 small businesses found that 53% of Black business owners saw their revenue drop by half, compared to 37% of white business owners, since the pandemic hit. Additionally, many Black business owners report being left out of the Payment Protection Program (PPP), a federal lending initiative for small businesses. 

The coalition will next survey businesses to figure out best practices for nonprofits to support BIPOC vendors and develop a resource guide for nonprofits to be able to find qualified vendors. The city already has a Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) program that hopes to foster a procurement process that is accessible for all businesses. However, in 2019 the city only contracted 5% of its budget with MWBEs. This inspired a new bill, authored by City Council Member Ben Kallos, to better track minority and women owned businesses that will allow for expanded data collection of contract services. 

The coalition organizations said their success hinges on empowering BIPOC vendors and business owners for the long run, while making sure contractors are also held accountable when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, efforts. 

“One thing is making sure that anyone who has a diversity, equity and inclusion agenda, embed it into their actual agenda, and a strategy and plan that has accountability metrics going all the way up to the board of directors,” Noriega said. 

Suttles added, “It's great that you're doing the DEI training and the programming and you're putting “Black Lives Matter” on your website, but where are you spending your money?” 

“I want to see the needle move on how the money is flowing, and I want that change to be exponential,” Suttles said. “I want it to go from 5% to 40% or 50%.”