Local Non-Profits Face a “Precarious Landscape” Says PIN

Anecdotally, we know that the pandemic has had a major effect on the charitable, non-profit sector. The economic downturn as a result of lockdowns and other emergency actions have meant more joblessness and more economic need, which creates a perfect storm for non-profits because they’re financial resources have become very limited. Now, data collected by the People and Information Network (PIN) have painted a dire picture.

“The community benefit sector is not only an under recognized economic engine, it forms the foundation of supports contributing to the health and well-being of communities and powered by a valuable volunteer human resource,” said PIN executive director Kim Cusimano in a statement.

That valuable human resource is in short supply these days, and the Community Benefit Sector Survey reported that there’s been a 62 per cent reduction in volunteer involvement because of COVID-19. The report also notes a 55 per cent disruption of services, plus a nearly 41 per cent increase in demand for service.

Along with the lack of people power, there’s also a lack of funds. Nearly 44 per cent of non-profits are reporting decreased revenue from earned income, and over 53 per cent are reporting reduced revenue from lost fundraising. At the same time, 65 per cent are reporting increased costs due to COVID-19.

“It’s a precarious landscape with 30 per cent of organizations reporting reserves of 3-6 months and 35 per cent for 6-12 months, organizations are faced not only with immediate concerns of survival, organizations continue to note significant impact within 9-12 months and a slightly higher amount noting 1-2 years,” Cusimano said.

In terms of human power, the report mentions that a lot of the most important services provided by volunteers have been disrupted by the pandemic and pandemic restrictions. These would be programs like visits with seniors, driving people to medical appointments, fighting food insecurity, and arts and culture events and festivals. The majority of non-profits have been forced to reduce the number of volunteers, transition to remote options, suspend volunteer engagement, or do some combination of these and other options.

“Volunteer support to roles with high levels of interaction were initially suspended in some cases, those roles could transition to virtual but there are gaps where virtual support is not the right fit,” Cusimano added.

For volunteer opportunities still available, people are reporting more demand for their time, and increased stress as reasons they’re not volunteering. Just over 42 per cent of respondents reported a decrease in the number of people reaching out to them about volunteer opportunities. From the perspective of the non-profit groups, they blame a loss of opportunity, the health and age of volunteers, and people being unwilling or unable to volunteer remotely as the reasons they’re seeing fewer volunteers.

Despite all that, PIN says that the sector continues to think positively about their future with 62 per cent reporting a positive outlook. While many are not predicting a return to pre-pandemic levels of volunteerism, they are seeing a future with new opportunities, and a community in Guelph that will be eager to help seize them. Cusimano said that Giving Tuesday on December 1 might be a good time to think about getting involved again.

“Your community; our community, from nonprofits and charities to local business, neighbours to strangers, the pandemic is calling upon us to show up with kindness and generosity of spirit and giving,” Cusimano added.

You can read the full report here.

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