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Pandemic Continues to Challenge Ministry Resources

Many nonprofits continue to fight for survival as COVID-19 drags on

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, nonprofits continue to adapt to the changing landscape—resuming mainstay services, implementing social distancing measures, and adding new services to meet expanded needs. Some are fighting for survival due to increased government restrictions and decreased donor funds, while others are being crowded out altogether by government assistance programs. 

The effects of the pandemic on nonprofit ministries have been significant. WORLD reported that a national survey conducted by Creating Healthier Communities of 732 nonprofits found that 95 percent of respondents reported decreased funds—with an average revenue loss of $2.8 million—in 2020. More than 50 percent cut services and 30 percent cut staff. 

Many nonprofits face a double edged sword, with reduced funding and increased need. The Central Texas Food Bank said they’ve seen an increase of 200 percent more people requesting food, via WORLD. Scarlet Hope in Louisville, Ky., an organization that ministers to women in the sex industry, has also seen an increase in women needing practical supplies and assistance—so much so that the ministry launched Hope for Her to give more immediate resources to women leaving the sex industry. 

Despite increased demand, some nonprofits are forced to close their doors altogether. Scarlet Hope had to shutter the doors of its Scarlet Bakery earlier this year. The bakery opened in 2015 to provide job training and opportunities for the women fleeing the sex industry and going through the ministry’s program. The ministry, as with many others, also had to cancel its annual fundraising gala normally held in the fall. 

New York City-based Candid, an information resource for global and U.S. philanthropies, conducted a worst-case scenario model in July that projected as many as 40 percent of nonprofits could close due to COVID-19-related revenue shortages in the next three years. 

While the Candid model is just a projection, in Kentucky, 4 percent of nonprofits have already shut down, with another 25 percent reporting staff layoffs or furloughs. Meanwhile, the National Council of Nonprofits have found that for the past seven years (think, non-COVID times) less than 25 percent of nonprofits have more than 6 months’ worth of cash reserves.  Many of those reported having less than three months’ worth. As PPP loans dissipate, and with little cash in reserve, many nonprofits struggle to make up the difference. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, WORLD reported some nonprofits with decreased demand for services. Hope Food Pantry in Austin, Texas, was one of them, despite having more food donations than normal. In southwestern Missouri, Nathan Mayo of the True Charity Initiative said poverty-fighting organizations were reporting as much as a 50 percent decrease in clientele—and at a time when the national unemployment rate was more than 11 percent.

Mayo says the government has stood in where nonprofits usually do. The expanded food stamp program and unemployment benefits have provided crisis care, but possibly at the cost of relationship and accountability. 

In the Carolinas and Georgia, Home Works of America is back to repairing homes for the elderly, but not without pandemic-related changes that affect the team’s ability to build relationships with homeowners. Masks, social distancing, and other safety measures may be necessary, but they can make the core mission of sharing the gospel more challenging. 

Home Works Executive Director Joe Huggins told WORLD that, though they are back at repairing homes, donations haven’t recovered to pre-pandemic numbers. “As opposed to last year this time, we’re down almost a half a million dollars,” Huggins said. He said that’s half of the ministry’s normal contributions.

Still, Huggins said his team is committed to making the most of each day they are operational. “We’re going to do what we can today for as many people as we can,” he said. “We’re going to tell the story to as many people as want to listen, and God’s going to provide.”

Christina Darnell

Christina Darnell is a freelance writer who has contributed to WORLD, The Charlotte Observer, and other publications.