Third sector has ‘tough road ahead’

  • Final straw: Clare Mello (Photograph supplied)

    Final straw: Clare Mello (Photograph supplied)


Charities and non-profits may not recover from the catastrophic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic until the end of the year, said the former head of an organisation that is now closed.

Clare Mello, who led the mentorship programme YouthNet, said that it was too early to make an accurate prediction.

But she warned that the third sector would face “a tough road ahead”.

Ms Mello said: “From conversations I’ve had over the last month or so with people who work at non-profits, they’re looking at the end of the year as a marker.

“As a country, I think we’re going to follow the global trend, but right now there’s too much uncertainty — I think we’re going to take it one month at a time.”

Ms Mello was the executive director of YouthNet before the charity closed its doors last week.

She said that the 25-year-old organisation had faced financial problems for the past five years and that the pandemic was “the final straw”.

Ms Mello explained that many organisations had suffered from the loss of funding generated by events, fees from programmes and donations from the private sector.

She added that three months of limited cashflow was difficult — but many charities had been forced to cancel events for the rest of the year.

Ms Mello said: “Many non-profits may have had events scheduled either over the summer or between now and the end of the year and those events might have been cancelled because of social distancing.

“They may have had to adjust by providing events online, which may not generate the same amount of revenue.”

Ms Mello said that many charities had received donations from businesses during the pandemic, but that could soon start to dry up as cash reserved for philanthropy ran out.

She added that charities could also suffer because many volunteers were classed as high risk for Covid-19 because of their age and might not be able to return for a while.

Ms Mello said: “In a survey that we did, we learnt that almost 50 per cent of the volunteers in Bermuda are seniors and the senior population is considered vulnerable.

“So, as we open, the question is whether or not the non-profit sector have enough volunteers to be able to run everything they do.”

Ms Mello advised non-profits to do everything they could to conserve money and create or adapt programmes that could survive in spite of safety regulations.

She also appealed to the public and the private sector to help out as much as possible over the fourth phase of reopening Bermuda.

Ms Mello said: “You can volunteer your time, you can volunteer your skills — if you have disposable income you can make a donation to a charity that speaks for you.

“There are also lots of creative ways that employers can work with their employees to help out.”

Ms Mello said that a silver lining of the pandemic was that many charities had learnt to move their services online.

She added that many of these alternative ways to communicate and hold events may become permanent.

Ms Mello said: “Crises can breed the most incredible creativity — we’ve discovered that we can work from home really well, we’ve discovered that we can take some of our programmes and pivot them and we’ve discovered, like many companies, how to work through Zoom.

“Going forward, donors may even invite non-profits to do presentations via Zoom.”

She added: “We’ve rediscovered our passion as a sector and I think we’re now more convicted to our passions, so I don’t think that will die.

“The sad note is that there may be one or two non-profits that don’t make it, but hopefully the non-profit community is large enough that we can absorb their programmes and attend to their clients.”

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Published Jun 26, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 26, 2020 at 8:19 am)

Third sector has ‘tough road ahead’

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