Sustain all nonprofits

Updated April 8, 2020

Sustaining the nonprofit sector

Like many individuals and industries, the nonprofit sector is facing an unprecedented set of challenges in the face of global pandemic COVID-19. As a result of the crisis, many safety net nonprofits are straining to respond to an increased demand for their critical services—addressing needs like homelessness, food insecurity, elder care and medical needs. Nonprofits are also critical employers and economic drivers in our communities. With 12.3 million paid workers, the nonprofit sector is the third largest industry workforce in the American economy.Even those organizations that are not directly responding to COVID-19 are facing growing difficulties:

  • Declining revenue streams
    As the crisis evolves, many organizations have had to curtail or limit their regular fundraising efforts even as revenues are falling. As communities enact measures to control and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, countless organizations have canceled or postponed the fundraising events that bring in critical funds to sustain their work throughout the year, as well as revenue-generating programs such as camps, classes, clinics, performances and more. In addition, charities’ pool of donors may shrink as unemployment levels rise and economic insecurity takes hold.
    These cuts and changes leave nonprofits at risk of sharp revenue declines that could have a severe impact on their operations—and many don’t have reserve funds on which to depend. Fifty-nine percent of respondents to an Idealist survey of nonprofit sector employees said that their organizations had already cut programs or services in response to COVID-19.Similar to restaurants, retail and other small businesses, many nonprofits may not survive if the pandemic continues to impact operations for an extended period.
  • Volunteer shortages and a diminished workforce
    Nonprofits that rely on volunteer engagement are facing a shortage of workers as people are asked by state and local governments to stay home. This deficiency can further impede nonprofits’ ability to maintain regular operations. While many nonprofits are trying to convert, where possible, to a remote volunteer and employee workforce, many nonprofits are struggling with the technology resources to do so effectively.

National Council of Nonprofits, “2019 Nonprofit Employment Report.”
2 Idealist, “COVID-19: Survey Results.”


How to help

Donors who wish to support the ongoing health of the nonprofit sector can help by continuing to contribute—and even increasing their support—to any of their favorite nonprofits. Consider giving unrestricted support, which allows organizations to use the funds on their most mission-critical priorities. Donors can also consider altering their giving timeline—moving forward planned end-of-year gifts so they can be put to use immediately. The most important point is not to wait! Nearly every charity is feeling the negative effects of COVID-19—making sustained donor support more important than ever.