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Desperate times ahead for non-profits

Charities face a battle for survival in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, a sector expert said.

Jennifer Burland Adams, the chief executive of Wavecrest, which provides consultancy services to the non-profit sector, said groups were badly struggling with finances and the ability to use volunteers.

She said: “The majority have either severely restricted their services or paused completely.

“This means that many non-profit employees have been laid off or had their work hours and salaries reduced.

“As the island begins its phased approach to reopening, non-profits are looking at how to do this in a way that best protects their staff and volunteers, and those who they serve.

“The current climate is one of deep concern for the future as non-profits assess their cashflow positions, funding opportunities and how they can best emerge from this crisis.”

Ms Burland Adams said that the pandemic had caused an increase in demand for essential services, including for feeding programmes, homelessness and senior care.

She added that the Third Sector Co-ordinated Crisis Response Effort had worked tirelessly to provide urgent help, backed by the private sector.

She explained: “As the island moves away from emergency response to recovery, and as unemployment grows, there are huge questions about who will fund theses programmes going forward, and whether the other non-profit services, which our population relies on, have enough funding to survive, let alone thrive.”

Mr Burland Adams said that she believed some non-profits were at risk of having to fold.

She highlighted research from last year that showed that 25 per cent of non-profits had no surplus cash and that 65 per cent had less than six months' operating expenses saved.

Ms Burland Adams was speaking after the Bermuda Community Foundation announced last week that its emergency fund scheme, viewed by many as a lifeline during the pandemic, was beginning to wind down.

She added that donations and fee-for-service, which many charities rely on for income, were also at risk.

Ms Burland Adams said that organisations that had educational programmes, camps or charged admission had suffered a fall in revenues.

Organisations with thrift shops or rental equipment had also taken a hit.

She added that most non-profits were “very worried” about donations.

Ms Burland Adams said: “Eleven per cent of funding last year came from fundraising events, and obviously traditional events are impossible right now and likely to be unpopular for some time.

“Additionally, with the incredible generosity seen from companies to the emergency response, there is concern in the non-profit sector that there will not be enough funding left for those non-profits who serve an important need in the community, but were not on the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis response.”

Ms Burland Adams said that the pandemic had caused “particular concern” about the use of volunteers.

“About 65 per cent of volunteer hours donated last year were by seniors or others considered vulnerable,” she said.

“That's more than 63,000 hours in 2019, and with that population being most as risk from Covid-19, many non-profits will struggle without their support.”

Ms Burland Adams said that the island's private sector “goes above and beyond” to support non-profits.

She added that governments in the United States and Britain had reduced taxes for non-profits, created grants and committed millions in cash for loans.

Mr Burland Adams said: “In Bermuda, this sector plays a vital role in our society.

“From organisations which provide healthcare like Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre and Vision Bermuda, to support services like Family Centre, WindReach and Tomorrow's Voices, to youth programmes in sport, history, the arts, animals and the environment, more support is needed and it is needed now before we lose valuable resources that have no replacement.”

Groups catering for medical care, community mental health and seniors were among those to benefit from $1.5 million that was pledged to the BCF after the outbreak hit Bermuda.

Myra Virgil, the BCF managing director and chief executive, said more details would be provided this week on a plan to move to a “more sustainable phase for the future”.

Battle for survival: Jennifer Burland Adams, of Wavecrest (Photograph supplied)

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Published May 11, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 11, 2020 at 7:39 am)

Desperate times ahead for non-profits

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