TrendWatch: COVID-19’s Impact on Nonprofits

September 16, 2020
Photo of Mount Saint Helens by Adam Wood on Unsplash.
Photo of Mount Saint Helens by Adam Wood on Unsplash.

Do you remember being bombarded with surveys in April and May? The data is in and we’re here to help you make sense of it. We’re seeing consistent results from distant regions: nonprofits in Southeast Washington are struggling with the same issues as those in Clallam County. The need for sector-wide support is clearer than ever.Among the many regional impact reports, several statewide trends emerge:

  • The nonprofit sector in Washington is complex.
  • Nonprofits are collaborative and interdependent.
  • Nonprofits are doing more with less—again.
  • We’re in the middle of a childcare crisis.
  • Arts organizations are struggling, but vital.

The survey data reminds us that Washington state’s nonprofit sector is complex. The Walla Walla Valley data encompasses everything from universities and hospitals with relatively large operating budgets to all-volunteer organizations. The effects of Coronavirus have been uneven across this ecosystem. Organizations in the Walla Walla Valley saw a decreased need for volunteers when in-person events were cancelled, but an increase in volunteer engagement elsewhere. This unevenness will ripple through communities. When universities send their students home, smaller organizations lose interns and volunteers who they rely on for organizational support.

This is one way nonprofits are collaborative and interdependent. In “Survey of Impact of COVID-19 on Walla Walla Valley Nonprofit Organizations,” Michelle Janning found that local collaboration has increased and includes sharing of resources and “piggy-backing” provision of different services at the same time and location. In such a diverse field, we find strength in teamwork.

Once again, nonprofits are doing more with less. We are meeting a higher demand for services with higher program costs, less funding, and fewer volunteers. Twenty-two percent of 57 respondents in Clallam County had to reduce staff (Peninsula Daily News). Twenty-one percent of respondents in the Walla Walla Valley reported decreasing paid staff. In addition, there is a shortage of volunteers due to COVID-related concerns. Nonprofits surveyed report difficulty fundraising and anticipate significant revenue losses for 2020. Many are facing increased expenses for COVID-19 safety supplies and equipment.

As we return to school (whatever that looks like), the childcare crisis has become painfully apparent. Nonprofit staff members are, in many cases, parents in need of childcare, and some nonprofits are childcare providers struggling to continue.

“Some staff are less available due to childcare needs.”

Survey of Impact of COVID-19 on Walla Walla Valley Nonprofit Organizations

Schools are more than educational and community hubs. Nonprofits distribute food, health resources, and other support through schools.

“With our local school closed, school children have been at home and unable to receive the academic and nutritional support that we offer.”

Clallam County Non-Profit Needs Assessment Survey Results

Arts organizations are struggling, but vital. When the initial support was funneled into health and human services, the cultural sector closed physical spaces. 10 out of 11 arts, culture, and humanities organizations closed their facilities in the Walla Walla Valley. Many lost earned revenues in the form of admissions, gift shop sales, food, and drinks. Decline in memberships disproportionately affected Arts, Culture, and the Humanities, as well.

“The cultural sector was disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. It will be among the last sectors to fully reopen, because of social distancing requirements.”

4Culture’s statewide survey

Six months later, arts organizations are running to the end of their operating reserves according to a statewide survey from 4Culture. We know that creativity is a human need, not a luxury, and any recovery needs to include the arts.

What can you do with this information?

Use it in your conversations with donors, board members, granting agencies, and your elected officials. Demonstrate that your nonprofit is part of a larger trend. Advocate that funders invest now to keep nonprofits alive and well. You have the data to prove that now is the time to use those rainy-day funds. You are not alone—consider joining collaborative efforts in your area.

What is Washington Nonprofits doing?

We are advocating for a “better normal,” in which elected officials understand that nonprofits are vital to recovery. We are sharing what we hear from nonprofits with funders and elected officials on a regular basis. We are highlighting the economic value of nonprofits (collectively, we employ more people than the construction industry!) and the community benefits of our work that are vital to recovery. We will also continue to share information and convene nonprofits to address common challenges together.


4Culture. “King County Statewide Convid-19 Survey Results.

4Culture. “Statewide Cultural & Creative Economic Recovery Survey.”

Everett, Sheila. “Clallam County Non-Profit Needs Assessment Survey Results.” July 2020. Conducted by Olympic View Community Foundation and Clea Rome, Director, Washington State University Extension Clallam County.

Janning, Michelle. “Survey of Impact of COVID-19 on Walla Walla Valley Nonprofit Organizations.” June 2020. Sponsored by Blue Mountain Community Foundation and Sherwood trust.

Ollikainen, Rob. “Clallam nonprofits ‘doing more with less’ during pandemic.” August 11, 2020. Peninsula Daily News.

Whidbey Community Foundation. “Whidbey Nonprofit Survey Results and Next Zoom Community Forum.” July 24, 2020 

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