Most social workers choose their occupation because of a strong desire to help others and are employed in non-profit organizations that provide an array of services to communities. Oftentimes social workers would prefer to focus on their clients’ needs rather than their employer’s budgets, but the reality is the ability to provide services depends on funding. If you are considering becoming a social worker, it is a good idea to understand where the money comes from that pays your salary and supports the services you provide. Understanding where this information will help you serve your clients and advocate for new resources, as well as grasp how social service systems functions as a whole.
Who Funds Non-Profit Organizations and Social Services?
Types of Funding
Corporate and Individual Donors
Social work, non-profit and service organizations often receive significant support from donors who believe in the mission and work that they do. Organizations often reach out to such donors through telephone or online donation drives, fundraising galas and other events, and by maintaining ongoing relationships with donors and supporters.
Grants and Government Funding
Grants from foundationsand the state help to support many social work organizations. Usually, grants are secured by writing an application that explains the organization’s mission and operations, what the funds are being requested and how dispensing the grant to the organization will serve the community or ameliorate a social problem.
Social enterprise is the increasingly common practice of setting up a small business within the auspices of a nonprofit organization. Often, the business is staffed by disadvantaged community members who might otherwise have difficulty securing employment, while profits from the enterprise are funneled into the budget of the social work organization. Social enterprises can provide significant benefits to clients while also providing funding to the social work and non-profit organization itself.
Some social work and non-profit organizations also operate as private enterprises, directly charging clients for the services they provide. Some private enterprises provide more equitable care by charging for services on a sliding scale, while others only serve clients who can pay the full cost of services (or whose insurance will cover the cost).
While some foundations are focused on distributing grants, others focus on operating directly to promote their cause. Operating foundations can be funded by wealthy individuals, by donations or by a community pooling their funds.
Social Workers as Fundraisers
Some social workers have a direct role in securing funding for the organizations they work for through grassroots campaigns, grant-writing and other forms of fundraising. For this reason, students may study funding and fundraising strategies while earning a Master of Social Work degree. Social work organizations may also provide fundraising training or simply make information on funding sources available to social workers.
By understanding and participating in an organization’s financial life, social workers can arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of organizational structure, while also helping to ensure the organization’s financial health.