How is COVID-19 Affecting Nonprofits?
December 30, 2020
Things have been a little quiet for the Oasis Gives team since the pandemic began. We’ve noticed that many organizations have been forced to stop their volunteer programs or have had to place strict limitations on them to avoid spreading COVID-19. It got us wondering, how are these and other pandemic-related changes affecting volunteer and nonprofit organizations?
Why Should I Care?
The impact of nonprofits may seem abstract when you don’t know exactly where your efforts or donations go (“somewhere good,” right?), but nonprofits have more effect on society (and our personal lives) than you might think. “Somewhere good” equates to everyday things we enjoy—big and small. For example:
- Voting and education, among other rights we hold as Americans, are secured and protected by nonprofits.
- Most animal rescues and sanctuaries are nonprofits.
- Community organizations like the YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Girl Scouts, and 4-H are nonprofits.
- Charitable organizations serving those in need in our communities are non-profits.
- Historic monuments and many natural wonders are protected and conserved by nonprofits.
- Treatments and cures for diseases are often found through research done by nonprofits.
Nonprofits are huge operations that take a lot of work and determination to make a difference. In 2019, nonprofits across America constituted over 12 million employees, 64 million board members and volunteers, and over ten million donors.1 Without government grants and the donations received from corporations, foundations, and individuals, organizations like these wouldn’t be able to stay afloat, much less create a footprint.
Enter the Pandemic
Since COVID-19 has started, however, nonprofits are experiencing a drastic decrease in internal and external resources2 according to a survey of 110 varying organizations. Well over half have reduced their services, and a large number of people have lost their nonprofit jobs.
Sal Dababneh, Oasis Chief Operating Officer, and Dave Tiller, Director of Sales, checked in with the organizations they actively participate in to see what they’re experiencing.
The Food Pantry
Sal Dababneh works with the board of a food pantry that serves 5 cities in northeast Texas. Melissa Community Outreach (MCO) provides food and coats to families who have found themselves in crisis. MCO is not only working to meet the physical needs of neighbors but is also providing family events, educational classes, and a youth program to help the community’s youth learn how to serve and help others. MCO is completely managed and staffed by volunteers.
Fortunately, MCO didn’t have to close or stop its services because of the pandemic. Dena Norton, MCO Project Director, said, however, they haven’t been without changes. “When the pandemic first started, March and April were very busy months. We were seeing not just our ‘regular’ clients, but several new ones. These new clients were brand new to the pantry or had not had to seek help in months or even years. Some of these new and existing clients were in need of food because of furloughs from jobs, complete loss of jobs, taking in family and friends who found themselves jobless/homeless, and the extra meals needed to feed children who found themselves at home and not receiving free or reduced meals at school (until the schools started providing).”
COVID has increased the number of people in need of help while (fortunately) also increasing the number of people who are giving. “It has been amazing to see both the food and financial donations that have come in. It is rare not to find donations in the box on our front porch…We couldn’t operate without the help of the community, but that has never been more true than the last several months.”
She also noted the use of social media to report the organization’s changes in services and safety protocols (curbside service only and masks required), which many organizations now lean on with the decrease in live events.
Year Up Arizona and Rotary International
Dave Tiller, Oasis Director of Sales, is an active member of two charitable organizations: Rotary International and Year Up Arizona. Year Up’s mission is to close the “opportunity divide” by ensuring that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education.
Similar to the food pantry, Year Up has been leveraging digital solutions since the onset of the virus. In a learning organization, it was necessary to transition to a fully virtual environment to continue operations. Meghan McGilvra, Year Up Arizona Director of Admissions and Community Partnerships, realized right away that training in this environment was needed on software like Outlook and Zoom. Additional training (among other things) has been an unanticipated cost for them. To address this, they have participated in a COVID-19 Impact Fund to recoup some of the added expenses and continued searching for community and corporate partnerships to lend a hand.
“…Low-income individuals and communities of color are being disproportionately impacted by this crisis…. We have articulated our intention to deliver a high-quality, uninterrupted program to ensure opportunity youth are not left out of the recovery and have equitable access to economic opportunity.”
Despite the challenges they’ve been facing, their commitment to the students hasn’t wavered—and was possibly strengthened—in response to the crisis.
“For all of us at Year Up Arizona—staff and students—this crisis has required us to be flexible, resourceful, and innovative as we adjust to new ways of working while navigating a multitude of challenges…In the months ahead we will continue working closely with all our community and corporate partners to adapt our program to the evolving landscape and to best serve the needs of our students during this crisis.”
Rotary (an international humanitarian service organization) has gone nearly all virtual. Pre-pandemic, Rotary groups met in person and now the majority meets virtually. The club has also created “Passport Clubs” that specifically cater to those without a local group and those who are unable to attend physical meetings. These clubs (though designed to stay intimate) have been able to garner tons of new members, reaching 35,000 Rotary clubs across the entire world.
Rotary International, like the other organizations, claimed to have not slowed down because of the pandemic, and in fact, grown stronger, through the growth in virtual clubs and COVID-specific support.
What Can I Do?
The effects definitely vary from organization to organization, and not all the changes happening are bad. One thing these organizations have in common is that they all still need as much help—in any shape or form—as they can get. With the holiday season upon us, it’s especially important to consider giving to a cause to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
Please consider the impact felt by nonprofits and find a way to help. If you’re not already associated with a cause, you can find one on Volunteer Match, even opportunities that are specifically virtual.
If you would like to help MCO or Year Up, please visit the links below.
- 2020 National Council of Nonprofits, https://www.nonprofitimpactmatters.org/data/downloadable-charts/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIrKXz-dCO7AIVzsDACh3k-gqSEAAYASAAEgJWkfD_BwE
- June 15, 2020, Independent Sector, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Large and Mid-Sized Nonprofits,” https://independentsector.org/resource/covid19-survey/