Non-profits make fresh call for help

  • Myra Virgil: managing director of the Bermuda Community Foundation (Photograph supplied).

    Myra Virgil: managing director of the Bermuda Community Foundation (Photograph supplied).


A fresh call for the public, businesses and the Government to back non-profit organisations was made yesterday as they battle the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bermuda Foundation warned in a report that the charitable sector was “largely undervalued and underfunded” even before the coronavirus hit the island.

The report added that essential service providers — often non-profit organisations — had proved their ability to help the most vulnerable throughout the crisis but warned that they were “under threat”.

The foundation launched the Bermuda Non-profit Stabilisation Fund this week to “shore up the hard-hit non-profits, many of them now struggling to recover from the economic fallout” of the coronavirus.

Michael Schrum, the foundation’s chairman, said: “We must remember that this sector employs more than 1,000 people and contributes some $78 million or 1 per cent to Bermuda’s GDP.

“If we let it collapse, it will be costly in terms of unemployment and loss of services currently provided at a fraction of what they would cost if they were carried out by the public or private sector.

“These organisations are going to be needed by Bermuda as we follow the road to recovery.”

The Bermuda Foundation, which operated as the Bermuda Community Foundation until January, released its Managing Philanthropy Through Crisis special report this week to show how the Bermuda Emergency Fund was used in response to Covid-19.

It said international and local businesses, private foundations, families and individuals had pledged more than $2.48 million to the fund by the end of June.

Additional donations that totalled about $2 million were made to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for supplies and “signi?cant direct contributions” were made to relief efforts.

The report asked the public to support the Emergency Fund “to sustain essential services” or to contribute to the stabilisation fund “to ensure our non-profits can keep doing their work”.

It also asked the Government to allocate a budget “for interim social safety-net services, ie, sustained essential services through post-crisis transition, fund stabilisation and recovery of third sector via relief/stimulus funding schemes, provide additional stimulus, for example, expand payroll exemptions to employees of registered charities”.

Corporate and private donors were asked to consider bringing forward their grant-making schedules, loosening or removing restrictions on grants as well as “making new grants as unrestricted as possible”.

Myra Virgil, the Bermuda Foundation managing director, thanked those who contributed to the Emergency Fund and said the foundation had analysed its impact in the report.

Dr Virgil told donors: “You’ve done great and if you have some more, take a look at this report, see if this makes sense to you and now dig in again — this is now Phase 2.”

She added: “I wouldn’t want to think that people are struggling and I could help.

“This is for the good of us all, it’s not a one-off ... we just hope that people have had a moment to collect themselves, gave what they could, assess their own personal ability to give and may consider doing more.

“That’s all I can ask.”

The report said it was aware of the Government’s “Herculean task” as it tackled “a crippled tourism sector”, high unemployment and insufficient tax revenues.

It said that funds would be needed to deliver core essential services to the public at a time when demand had “increased dramatically”.

The report said that non-profit organisations helped with shelter and food for homeless people, protection for seniors, assistance for women and children fleeing domestic violence, physical and mental healthcare, educational support and services co-ordination during the Covid-19 crisis.

It added that the pandemic’s impact on third-sector employment was “an indication of the real possibility of a significant reduction in critical community services” including some healthcare providers, arts, culture, sports and environmental organisations as well as education and youth development programmes.

The report said: “Non-pro?ts are particularly vulnerable because they depend on individual donations, business support, fees for service and government grants to survive.

“All these revenue sources have been disrupted and are unlikely to return to previous levels.”

The report added: “On behalf of the core essential service providers, we are now seeking contributions from the Bermuda Government and the community to fund two areas — an estimated $2.5 million in ongoing service delivery and support for non-pro?t stabilisation across the whole sector.

The foundation said that the stabilisation fund would “focus on making operating grants to non-profits that have experienced unexpected costs due to the pandemic”.

Grants could cover areas such as staffing, lost revenue because of event cancellations, technology upgrades or the purchase of virtual communication tools or health and hygiene supplies.

Dr Virgil said: “We will continue to manage the Emergency Fund for up to six months as people are still needing food and other assistance.

“The new Non-profit Stabilisation Fund will address the threat to the non-profit sector, which we and our colleagues in philanthropy understand is vital to Bermuda’s health, enrichment and stability.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Legal Affairs, which includes social services, said yesterday that Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, was in talks with third-sector representatives, including the Bermuda Foundation.

Ms Simmons said last month that her ministry would continue to work with charitable organisations in its “efforts to support” people in need.

For more information or to contribute, visit bcf.bm

To view the Managing Philanthropy report, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

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Published Aug 6, 2020 at 12:01 am (Updated Aug 6, 2020 at 8:18 am)

Non-profits make fresh call for help

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