Massachusetts Nonprofits Feeling Strained by COVID-19 Outbreak

Today, the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) and Philanthropy Massachusetts released findings from their survey of nonprofit organizations on the anticipated and real impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the state’s nonprofit sector.

The results from the survey—which received over 950 responses from nonprofits of all sizes, fields, and from all regions of the state—underscored the enormity of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on nonprofits’ essential operations, programs, and services. Full results of the survey can be found here.

63% of nonprofit respondents indicated that they were experiencing, or anticipated, a loss in their annual revenues. In addition, 52% of respondents characterized the severity of impacts related to the COVID-19 outbreak as “high” (defined as “significant disruptions”) and 43% characterized the severity as “moderate” (defined as “minor disruptions”).

“The results from the poll reinforce what many nonprofits have been sharing with us in recent days: they are already feeling strained by the coronavirus as employers, conveners, and service providers—and it’s only just beginning,” said Jim Klocke, CEO of MNN, and Jeff Poulos, CEO of Philanthropy Massachusetts in a joint statement.

Nonprofits indicated a range of specific impacts to their organizations. 89% of respondents reported the cancellations of programs or events, 67% reported disruptions of services to clients and communities, and 60% reported anticipated budgetary implications related to strains on the economy. Additional impacts on nonprofits included increased and sustained staff and volunteer absences (28%) and increased demand for services from clients and communities (25%).

Additionally, nonprofits responded that they are working to respond, or anticipated responding to the COVID-19 outbreak in the following ways: rescheduling or canceling programs or events (e.g. fundraisers) (92%), staying informed via news and updates from government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (91%), encouraging proper hygiene and cleaning procedures (89%), and encouraging sick employees to stay home (87%). 

Finally, nonprofits responded that they need financial relief, more information and best practices, and remote work/work from home support to weather the crisis.

Between the survey’s opening last Wednesday and its close yesterday, many nonprofits have closed offices, instituted work-from-home policies, or paused operations altogether. “In the time period when responses were being collected, employer behaviors and practices were rapidly changing in response to new information being released. It is likely that the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on nonprofits are now even higher than what was reported in the poll,” said Klocke and Poulos.

Klocke and Poulos reaffirmed their organizations’ commitment to working with nonprofit, philanthropic, and government leaders to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the Massachusetts nonprofit sector. 

“We look forward to a collaborative, cross-sector approach that mitigates the impacts of COVID-19 on nonprofits and the communities they serve,” said Klocke and Poulos. “Nonprofits are essential to the immediate responses to the COVID-19 outbreak, and will play outsized roles in rebuilding our communities in the long term.”