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Struggling non-profits offered survival advice

Many of Bermuda's non-profit organisations were struggling before the Covid-19 crisis and some will not survive this challenging period.

That is the view of Jennifer Burland Adams, chief executive officer of Wavecrest, a consulting company that works with non-profit and which has conducted two free webinars with experts this month for the sector on how to weather the crisis.

Wavecrest conducted its Bermuda Philanthropy Survey 2019 before the Covid-19 crisis had impacted Bermuda.

Ms Burland Adams said the company approached about 200 organisations, of which 53 responded, ranging from small, volunteer-run outfits to those with more than $2 million of annual revenue.

Among the findings were:

• 52 per cent did not reach their funding goals for 2019

• 25 per cent came into 2020 with no surplus, or cushion, to face these challenging times

• 42 per cent had three months or less and 65 per cent had six months or less of operating budget surplus

• 29 per cent had let go an employee or implemented a hiring freeze because of financial challenges

• 4 per cent had reduced employee benefits, including health benefits.

Many organisations that had struggled through 2019 were looking to 2020 as an opportunity to improve their finances, she said, before the crisis took hold.

“The closing of The Centre on Philanthropy was a wake-up call for many in the community, and this data shows that many non-profit, large and small, were struggling before the Covid-19 crisis,” Ms Burland Adams said.

“Bermuda's non-profit are on the frontline of many vital issues, including homelessness, feeding programmes, seniors and abuse.

“We need for them to succeed, in addition to the other non-profit which offer support services, youth programmes, arts and culture and so much more of what makes life here vibrant.”

Last Thursday, 69 people joined in the “Know your numbers” webinar focused on how to evaluate an organisation's cashflow to best position the non-profit to survive this period.

Steve Woodward, Dylan Marshall, Felicia Wilsen and Aisling Gallagher, all from KPMG, offered advice on how to limit expenses and project cashflow over the next 13 weeks and beyond.

Yesterday, Wavecrest hosted another webinar on “How to communicate with donors and the community during Covid-19”, featuring Bo Rice and Natalie Skinner of CCS, the largest fundraising consulting company in the world.

As well as advising non-profit on how to most effectively and ethically raise funds to support their missions, Wavecrest also works with companies on how to design their philanthropy strategically to not only make the greatest impact in the community, but also to help the company recruit and retain the best employees, increase customer engagement and expand brand reach.

“A lot of people, especially younger people, are choosing to work for companies that invest in causes they care about,” Ms Burland Adams said. Research showed that customers were rewarding companies that made philanthropic actions they approved of, and punishing those who did the opposite, she added.

Ms Burland Adams intends to host further webinars for non-profit during the crisis and has invited suggestions on topics.

She said a potential topic, with a particular interest for board members, was “how to exit with grace and integrity”.

She added: “Many non-profit had three months or less of surplus going into the crisis and it seems likely that a lot will not survive.”

Wavecrest is one of the participants in the Ignite Bermuda business accelerator programme.

For more information on Wavecrest and future webinars e-mail

Free webinars: Jennifer Burland Adams, CEO of Wavecrest (Photograph supplied)

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Published April 15, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 14, 2020 at 10:11 pm)

Struggling non-profits offered survival advice

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