Island nonprofits are crucial to sustaining the Vineyard.
They touch almost everything we love
Historic Charm & Cultural Heritage. Alley’s, The Whaling Church, Illumination Night, The Ag Fair, the Flying Horses, and our Lighthouses, working farms and fishing villages: Island nonprofits and museums protect, maintain and let you enjoy and learn about so many iconic Island sites and experiences.
Vibrant Arts Scene. Film Festivals, Concerts, Galleries, Studios, Dance, Opera and Theater are all offered by Island nonprofits. Thanks to them, the Vineyard is a Mecca for creative people and there’s always something enjoyable to do no matter what your age.
Eating Local. The farmers market, the Shellfish Hatchery, the Agricultural Fair and the Mobile Poultry Processing Trailer are great examples of Vineyard nonprofits providing resources and infrastructure to help local farmers, fisherman, aquaculturalists and food entrepreneurs increase production of healthy food, make a living and create a vibrant food scene.
Camps, Sports & Recreation. The offerings of nonprofits like the Chilmark Community Center, The Y, the MV Sharks, the Skate Park, Sail MV and the Bass and Bluefish Derby, combined with the broad educational opportunities at our many nonprofit camps and youth programs, are a big reason the Vineyard is such a very family friendly place to visit or live.
Island nonprofits are also critical to sustaining Vineyard because they provide a safety net for the backbone of the island, our year round community. Its people are the heart of this place. Without them the Vineyard wouldn’t be the Vineyard. They steward the Island and provide the services and experiences people come here to enjoy.
But it’s hard living here year round and we risk losing our middle class due to our high cost of living and real estate. Forbes Magazine ranked the Vineyard as the most expensive places in the Country to raise a family. Unfortunately, the seasonal service industry jobs many Islanders have pay low wages and no year round benefits, so many island families with both parents working multiple jobs still have a hard time making ends meet. All it takes is a rainy summer or an extra cold winter and a family can find they don’t have enough to pay the fuel bill or rent or buy groceries. Many Island elders have low fixed incomes, high housing costs and also live at risk. These difficulties lead to our high rates of food insecurity, drug, alcohol and opiate abuse, domestic violence, homelessness and suicide.
Thanks to the support provided by our Health, Human Services and Affordable Housing nonprofits many island families are able to get by and find this is a great place to raise a family and live productive, healthy and rewarding lives, Many Vineyarders are still at risk, however, and these same nonprofits are challenged to find the resources needed to keep up with the growing demand for services and close the gap.
They Need resources to do their critical work
If Vineyard Nonprofits don’t have the resources they need to do their critical work, the Island we’ve all known and loved will lose much of its charm and character. Island nonprofits face the same challenges year-round Islanders do:
High cost of living.
The Vineyard’s high cost of goods and services means operating costs are higher but adding in the high cost of real estate has a much bigger impact. Conservation groups are especially hard hit as they compete with wealthy seasonal residents to keep our most attractive spaces from being developed. Any nonprofit that needs office space, or even more so a campus or outdoor space has to compete on the open market and raise additional philanthropy to cover the cost.
Lack of affordable housing.
The high cost of living and real estate also increases payroll and benefits costs. To attract and keep talented and skilled employees, many nonprofits have to pay higher salaries than on the mainland and this is even true for executives and professional staff (Doctors. Nurses, Therapists, Executive Directors, etc.) and many of these may also need housing allowances or loans to buy homes. There are many stories of School Principals and Nonprofit Executives who have been hired and then leave because they can’t find adequate housing on their salary. Some nonprofits are now buying housing for use by their employee. The housing issue is even worse for the seasonal workers nonprofits need to hire to meet the increased demands of the summer population and summer rentals on the Vineyard are priced on what wealthy visitors can pay, which is much more than summer workers. MV Hospital spends over $1 million a year renting housing for seasonal workers, doctors and nurses.
These costs require the raising of additional philanthropy, or a reduction in services, especially for health and human services nonprofits being paid/reimbursed on State and Federal contracts or by Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance companies, at the exact same rates as nonprofits on the mainland with much lower costs.
Our population mushrooms every summer so nonprofits have to have infrastructure and resources large enough to support the summer community, which is 5 times larger than the year-round population for the few months they are here. The resources required to meet that extraordinary increase far exceed what the philanthropy of the year round community can afford, so Vineyard nonprofits have depended on seasonal fundraising events and the generosity of seasonal residents and visitors to make up the difference. However, over the years with increasing demand for services, cuts in government spending and rapidly rising real estate costs, summer fundraising events aren’t enough anymore and additional philanthropy is needed. The year-round population is just too small to meet the extra need and that’s why today the future of the Vineyard is so dependent on the generosity of seasonal residents and visitors through annual giving, planned giving and capital campaigns.
No economy of scale.
Another major challenge for nonprofits is that we are a small, isolated community on an Island at sea. This means we can’t easily share resources with neighboring communities and take advantages of economies of scale like nonprofits on the mainland do. In fact because of our isolation and inability/difficulty to get off Island at times, Island nonprofits have to provide many essential services, like a Hospital with a 24/7 ER and maternity ward, that a community of 16,000 people on the mainland couldn’t support on its own and would instead use a regional hospital. Even then there are some services the Island has not been able to afford to provide historically like a full service detox facility or homeless shelter, so islanders have to leave their community and go to the Cape when they are at greatest risk.
Growing cuts in State and Federal spending.
The final major challenge is the growing demand for services and the ever growing cuts in State and Federal spending for health and human services, the environment and arts and culture makes it difficult for our nonprofits to do their important work.