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Cultivating relationships in Covid environment critical for non-profits

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The non-profit sector in Bermuda has coped reasonably well in 2020, partly as a result of cutting costs early in the pandemic crisis.

The year 2021 will be critical for non-profits to further adapt their programmes and services to comply with Covid regulations, and to meet the needs of a population in an economic crisis. They must also focus on recruiting volunteers because traditionally 50 per cent have been seniors or otherwise vulnerable, and are therefore much less likely to volunteer while the coronavirus is still prevalent.

Finally, cultivating relationships with donors will be paramount, especially individuals and families. Fundraising personnel, executive directors and boards must make fundraising a priority now if they expect to remain viable in 2021 and beyond.

Thirty-eight per cent of non-profits furloughed or laid off just over 20 per cent of the non-profit workforce in the spring. By mid-autumn, 56 per cent of those affected had returned to work full time and 13 per cent part-time, leaving 28 per cent of non-profits with at least some staff still not working.

Jennifer Burland Adams, the chief executive of Wavecrest

In terms of cashflow, non-profits remained at similar levels to pre-Covid with 65 per cent having six months or less of operating funds available. Surprisingly, the larger non-profits — those with more than $1 million in revenue — were most likely to have six months or less. Those in the human services subsector were least likely to have cash reserves, with 79 per cent having six months or less. This is particularly concerning, as this group has been funded the most during the pandemic and is most likely to have expanded its services or the population it is serving as a result of economic and other implications of the pandemic.

In terms of the impact to fundraising, 65 per cent of non-profits reported a significant or modest decline, in line with non-profits in the United States, 64 per cent of which reported a decline.

These figures are from early autumn and the outlook for the rest of the year was more positive, with 48 per cent anticipating a decline in Bermuda — 53 per cent in the US.

Almost the same number of non-profits in the US expect a decline, 43 per cent, as expect an increase in Bermuda, 46 per cent, for 2021. I suspect that has something to do with when the survey was taken, which for Bermuda was before the recent increase in cases and impact on schools and businesses; and also that, compared with the US, Bermuda has done a better job of managing the crisis.

Looking at programming, 33 per cent of non-profits are only offering limited services or programmes, mostly because of running out of funds or proactively downsizing owing to the impact on fundraising. Some are reviewing their offerings and others have been unable to take their programmes online or adapt them for their population.

When I look at the overall impact to fundraising, I believe it will be down by about 25 per cent owing mostly to a fall-off in events, and decreases in rental income, educational camps and thrift shops being closed temporarily. Additionally, a recent survey I conducted of insurance and reinsurance companies showed that, although most companies gave over and above their annual philanthropic budgets, 17 per cent of their planned budgets was spent on unexpected Covid-related funding.

With a little more than $39 million raised in 2019, that is a potential aggregate loss of $10 million to non-profits. When asked recently about their operating status if the health and ensuing economic conditions remained the same, 5 per cent of non-profits reported they would close, and 24 per cent were unsure if they would be able to remain open, indicating great instability for almost one third of non-profits.

Donors should take this time to reflect on their philanthropic strategies and whether they are making the greatest impact. Additionally, lessons learnt through the pandemic should be reviewed. Multiyear, unrestricted funding with less stringent application and reporting requirements was welcomed by non-profits across the globe in the response to the emergency requirements because of Covid. Consideration should be made for extending these conditions in 2021, and perhaps permanently, as donors listen to and partner with community non-profits.

Data from the United States is taken from CCS's Non-profit Fundraising Surveys conducted in April, May and September of 2020. Local data is from the Bermuda Philanthropy Survey 2019, the AFP Bermuda Fundraising Impact Survey 2020 and the Non-profit Covid-19 Impact Survey, all conducted by Wavecrest in 2020

Jennifer Burland Adams, the chief executive of Wavecrest, has more than 20 years’ experience working with non-profits in Canada, the United States and Bermuda on fundraising, strategy and organisational restructuring. Wavecrest counsels companies on their philanthropic strategies and conducts local research on philanthropy

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Published December 09, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 08, 2020 at 6:02 pm)

Cultivating relationships in Covid environment critical for non-profits

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