Mercerville, NJ – New Jersey’s non-profit community is suffering already significant negative effects as a result of the novel Coronavirus outbreak, according to a new survey report released by the Center for Non-Profits.

From March 13 to 17, 2020, the Center, in partnership with the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, conducted a survey to gauge the initial and anticipated effects of the novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak on New Jersey’s charitable organizations. More than 700 organizations responded to the survey. Some highlights:

  • 87% reported significant or moderate disruptions to programs or operations when the survey was taken.
  • Almost all (96%) anticipated significant or moderate disruptions to their programs or operations moving forward.
  • Marginalized and disenfranchised communities, and the organizations serving them, were likely to be disproportionately affected by the crisis.
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) reported that they had staff who could not work remotely due to the nature of their job or the organization’s mission. These include nursing homes, domestic violence shelters, healthcare, food pantries, childcare staff, HIV testing, animal rescue, performing arts, arts education, and more.
  • Many organizations pointed out that their clients do not have access to the internet. For some organizations, the lack of the equipment or training posed an obstacle even if the staff could work remotely.
  • More than 90% indicated that they already had or would soon have to cancel programs or fundraising events. Many noted that these events typically generate a significant percentage of the organization’s revenue that would be impossible to recoup. Postponing an event creates dire consequences for cash flow and fiscal year accounting balances.

What did non-profits need from donors, philanthropy, and government?

Sign Up for Scotch Plains/Fanwood Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

  1. Funding – This is the most urgent need. Many non-profits have had to cancel events and curtail programs.They may have to lay off staff or have already done so. More than a few are fearful that their organizations may not survive the economic damage.
  2. Relief and stimulus protections – The Center stresses that government relief and incentive packages must include the non-profit community, including grants, forgivable loans, and tax incentives to spur charitable giving. (Editor's Note: On Friday, March 23, the CARES Act was signed into law by President Trump. It includes funding availability for non-profits.
  3. Flexibility – Organizations need to know they won’t be penalized for the inability to meet restricted program commitments or contracted level of service commitments due to the pandemic. Those that have canceled events need sponsors to allow them to keep the money, and their donors to keep giving, if possible. Funders need to allow organizations to repurpose restricted grants. Additionally, non-profits also need for applications and reporting requirements to be simplified and deadlines extended.
  4. Stability – The coronavirus crisis exemplifies in stark terms the dangers of the chronic underfunding that has been a persistent concern in the non-profit community. Non-rofits must be able to count on their supporters, so they can weather the crisis. Multi-year funding is particularly important. In a time when corporate and foundation partners may be tempted to retrench or redirect their giving, funders are urged to dig deeper.
  5. Communications, guidance and transparency – Non-profits are seeking timely, accurate safety and procedural guidance from the government and trusted partners and clear communications from funders regarding their plans during the crisis.
  6. Partnerships and connections – Many public and private funders have been proactive in reaching out to their non-profit partners. Open lines of communication, receptivity to feedback, and the ability to connect to local and county resources, and other partners are also important. 
  7. Professional assistance – Non-profits need expertise in legal issues, human resources, finance, insurance, technology and other areas in both the immediate and long term. Access to these resources, whether in-kind through skills-based volunteers or affordable fees, or subsidized/underwritten by funders, will be important.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has already begun to test our health care, service delivery systems, democratic and societal norms in new ways,” noted Linda M. Czipo, president and CEO of the Center for Non-Profits. “The need for community and mutual support has never been greater, and it’s times like these that underscore the importance of mission-driven organizations – and the dedicated people who work for and support them. Non-profits, already the forefront of strong, vibrant communities and partnerships, will be vital to addressing immediate needs and developing comprehensive solutions in the months ahead. Ensuring their ability to fill this role will be critical.”

This initial survey on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is affecting non-profits is available here. In the coming weeks, the Center will conduct more rapid response surveys for New Jersey’s non-profits to track the evolving effects of the pandemic. To get the latest news on how New Jersey’s non-profit community is faring, subscribe to the Center’s e-news alerts.

The Center for Non-Profits is New Jersey’s umbrella organization for the charitable community. Founded in 1982, the Center exists to build the power of New Jersey’s non-profit community to improve the quality of life for the people of our state. The Center provides professional education, advocacy, resources, training and information to strengthen non-profits and help them thrive in pursuit of their charitable work. For more information, visit www.njnonprofits.org,  or call 732-227-0800.