How N.C. Nonprofits are Coping During COVID-19 Statewide Survey and Public Database Reveal Needs, Challenges, and Opportunities

RALEIGH:

A statewide survey of North Carolina nonprofits highlights the experiences, needs, gaps, and opportunities created by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the need for more North Carolinians to serve as volunteers.

The first-of-its-kind survey, conducted by the Office of Strategic Partnerships within the Office of State Budget and Management with collaboration from the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits and The Policy Lab at Brown University, delved into the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on nonprofits across the state and elicited more than 2,000 responses representing 1,772 nonprofits. The resulting data and survey report are publicly available to help guide policy and funding decisions by philanthropies, government and other supporters of nonprofits.

Not surprisingly, 94 percent of nonprofit organizations that completed the survey indicated their operations have been affected by COVID-19.  Of the nonprofits that responded, 77% felt that demand for their services will be higher while 87% face the challenge of operating with less revenue. Many nonprofits pointed to the need for volunteers to keep operations going.

“Nonprofits are a vital part of our state, providing services and support where it’s needed most,” Governor Roy Cooper said. “I am proud to see so many people and organizations working to make a difference during this pandemic and I urge North Carolinians to help by volunteering whenever possible.”

COVID-19 has presented challenges for volunteer-driven organizations especially as seniors, traditionally strong volunteers, are at higher risk for the virus and are opting to stay home. East Stokes Outreach Ministry, a food pantry and thrift store in Walnut Cove, has “seen a strong decrease in volunteers due to concerns with COVID, which makes food distribution difficult,” according to its response to the survey.

Volunteer opportunities are available across the state, including many that can be done virtually or without large gatherings of people. Organizations that welcome volunteers are taking COVID-19 safety precautions.  Among the greatest needs are volunteers for food banks and pantries and disaster recovery work. For example, individual volunteers or small groups can work to sort food donations or help repair homes damaged by hurricanes. For people who wish to volunteer from home, opportunities include providing virtual legal assistance and sending notes to seniors. To find a volunteer opportunity, visit VolunteerNC.org.

Many nonprofits responding to the survey also reported challenges procuring personal protective equipment (PPE). This is particularly difficult for nonprofits that may have shifted unexpectedly to providing a direct service in communities or whose revenue streams have been impacted by COVID-19. PPE was a common thread across all types of nonprofits – health care clinics, food banks/pantries, children’s homes, animal rescues, and arts organizations.

More than three quarters (77%) of nonprofits raised the importance of flexibility with grants (e.g., timelines, use restrictions) during the pandemic. The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle noted the importance of “continued financial support with the flexibility to address the evolving needs.” Nonprofits across the state are stepping up to meet the needs of their communities even if that means adapting to services and supports that are outside their traditional focus areas.

A need shared by nearly half (49%) of respondents is telework training and technology support. Organizations’ written responses expand on that sentiment, citing specifically the need for devices and software subscriptions, access to reliable broadband, and technical assistance and training for staff and volunteers. For example, Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County shared the need for “increased tech support so that staff and the communities we serve are better equipped for teleworking and telelearning.”  

“The results of this survey are critical for learning about the impact of COVID-19 on nonprofits across North Carolina,” said Jeanne Canina Tedrow, President and CEO of the NC Center for Nonprofits. “Public-private partnerships will continue to be important for building the capacity of our nonprofit sector throughout our recovery from COVID-19 and beyond.”

The full survey report, including access to the raw data and open-ended responses, is available at https://files.nc.gov/ncosbm/documents/files/NC-Nonprofits-COVID-Survey-Results-2020.pdf. The survey results demonstrate areas of need for North Carolina’s nonprofits and the varied ways COVID-19 has affected nonprofits across the state.  

a few survey results for COVID impact on nonprofits

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