Capture the True Value of Human Services with ReframingJanuary 23, 2020
Increasingly, philanthropic and government partners are recognizing the true value that human service organizations provide to our communities by building everyone’s well-being. One of the latest instances is observed by Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, in a December 18, 2019 “Commentary: Strengthening Human Services Community-Based Organizations” in The NonProfit Times. Dreyfus notes that several large foundations recently committed to paying grantees’ operating costs, which include payroll and rent. This development addresses some of the underfunding issues identified in the Alliance’s and American Public Human Services Association’s well-framed report, National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America.
As we’ve learned from the FrameWorks Institute, the public thinks that human services are kindness and charity and staff don’t need to be paid as professionals. The Building Well-Being Narrative provides the framework to demonstrate that human service organizations’ work is essential to thriving communities — in which everyone, at all stages of life, can reach their full potential — requiring qualified specialists with skills and operating resources just like any business needs.
In addition to uncovering the benefits of human services to society, the Building Well-Being Narrative’s explanatory construction metaphor allows us to highlight the skilled workforce and resources necessary to provide these services. Through rigorous research and testing, the FrameWorks Institute identified construction as the most helpful metaphor for providing a complete explanation of how human services, and the experts who provide them, promote well-being.
People intuitively understand that a building starts with a blueprint developed by an architect, is constructed by a team of experts, needs quality materials, and requires a well-planned budget and on-time payments. Talking about human services in the context of building well-being helps people to see the work our sector does as valuable, lifelong investments requiring a range of expertise and resources.
In fact, two of the National Reframing Initiative’s partners have had success using the Building Well-Being Narrative to achieve important policy victories in which local and state governments recognize the actual expenses incurred by human service organizations:
- The Seattle Human Services Coalition used reframing in a policy advocacy campaign that resulted in a city ordinance requiring an automatic inflation adjustment on all human service contracts issued by the City of Seattle Human Services Department — those funded by the city, as well as those funded by state or federal “pass-through” dollars.
- Human Services Council’s Strong Nonprofits for a Better New York achieved results with reframing for two of three asks: an investment of $15 million to fund the minimum wage increase for government-contracted nonprofit human service organizations and expansion of state and local government funding to include nonprofits as also eligible for capital investments.
SPOTLIGHT: Human Service CEOs Call for Universal Charitable Tax Deduction
National human service organization CEOs — in a January 3, 2020 Chronicle of Philanthropy column, “Congress Should Allow Everyone to Get a Tax Break for Giving to Charity” — advocate for a universal charitable tax deduction, noting that giving to human service nonprofits has been impacted negatively by the 2017 tax law. In making the case, the leaders invoke the shared value of human potential and rely on life cycle examples to show the benefits of human service organizations to society, while also using a reasonable, explanatory tone and solutions-oriented approach.