Nonprofit organizations exist to help low-income workers and give them better opportunities in life but when it comes to the fight to raise minimum wages they are afraid their businesses will either boom or be led to their doom.

Candidates for the 2016 presidential election have recently brought attention to the wage hike conversation, arguing raises will either make way for a living wage or destroy job opportunities. A notable widespread wage movement is “Fight for $15” which recently provided a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers in New York. Looking away from the spotlight, one would see there are other worried sectors that employ vulnerable, low-wage workers. Nonprofits have not been on the frontlines fighting minimum wage, but behind the scenes they are nervous about the implications and raise same concerns.

More than two-thirds of the New York Council of Nonprofits member organizations currently pay their workers less than $15 an hour, according to a 2015 survey. Nearly half of those members fear their financial viability would be threatened as Governor Cuomo seeks to increase statewide minimum wage to $15 by 2021. Being unable to compete with higher-paying jobs that require less experience, these nonprofit organizations believe the state should increase all contract amounts and reimbursable rates to fully offset for the additional costs incurred.

If the state does not provide this additional funding, nonprofit organizations like Job Path will be driven into a deficit, says Job Path Executive Director Fredda Rosen. Through hired direct support professionals (DSPs), Job Path has helped people with developmental disabilities find jobs, live in their own homes and become connected to community life since 1978.

“Nothing good happens in our world without a great DSP. They are amazingly hard working, doing everything from actual physical work like helping people bathe, eat and get changed, to supporting someone on a job and everything in between,” Rosen says. “Those individuals deserve a wage far, far greater than we have the funding to pay them, so we would love to see the funding come to us to enable us to increase their wages.”

In 2010, nonprofits accounted for 9.2 percent of all wages and salaries paid in the United States, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. The second largest nonprofit subsector after faith-based organizations is the human services sector, which includes jobs such as social and human service assistants, child, family and school social workers and rehabilitation counselors. Nonprofit organizations across a variety of sectors may face the worse effects of wage hikes as many have limited budgets and are understaffed. 

“Unlike McDonalds, we can’t raise the price of our hamburgers—we’re limited to the dollars we get from the state and we’re already operating under very, very tight budgets,” says Rosen. “We’re very worried [in our sector of people with developmental disabilities] and that’s felt  across the human services sector. It’s an issue for those nonprofits that depend on state funding. In our sector, about 90 percent of our dollars are state dollars.”

New York has nearly 200,000 nonprofit workers and states raising the wage floor without providing new funding for human service providers “would spell disaster for many nonprofits,” according to the “15 and Funding” report from the Fiscal Policy Institute, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and Human Services Council. 

There are a lot of services that people don’t get as a result of not making a living wage, so a minimum wage increase would lead to a decrease in the need for those services, according to Alisson Sesso, executive director of the Human Services Council.

“In the big picture of life and policy in New York, we need this policy change and nonprofits, given the work that they’re doing in communities, would be better off and would have to serve less people in the community, less intensely,” Sesso says. “If we would be able to pay a better wage, there would be the ability to recruit and retain workers in a much more meaningful way and that would have better implication on the outcomes that we’re able to achieve with the people that we’re serving.”

Organizations are supportive of the minimum wage increase but they feel the state’s need to be responsible for matching the funding for nonprofit organizations.

“We’re in a bind now because if we’re using all of those [state] dollars now, there’s no way to pay the wages the governor is requesting without an increase in our funds,” says Rosen. “It’s not hyperbole to say many of us fear going out of business entirely.”