More than 20 million Americans lost their jobs to the coronavirus during the past month and the nonprofit sector was not excluded. The latest is Habitat for Humanity International, which announced it will reduce staff and other expenses in the face of COVID-19 economic impacts.
Approximately 10 percent of staff at the organization will be laid off, and several others will have their work hours reduced. The action will immediately impact Habitat’s U.S.-based staff, and regional offices throughout the world in the weeks to come. Among other expense reductions, senior leaders at the organization have elected to take a pay reduction.
“Habitat for Humanity is a ministry of people who share a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “For so many of our team, Habitat is not merely a job — it is a cause. It breaks our hearts to take these significant, but necessary, actions. We are compelled by the economic realities of this global pandemic, and by our responsibility to steward Habitat for Humanity so that we can resume serving our communities as quickly as is safe to do.”
Habitat for Humanity International is the umbrella organization of a federation of local and national Habitat programs operating in all 50 states and in more than 70 countries. Habitat for Humanity International brought in approximately $300 million in revenue in fiscal year 2019. The full network is estimated to have earned $2.3 billion, ranking No. 8 in the 2019 NPT 100, a study of the largest charities in the U.S., with at least 10 percent of revenue derived from public support. The network served more than 7 million people last fiscal year, and has helped more than 29 million people access new or improved housing since its founding in 1976.
Habitat’s leadership team is taking the actions with the support of its board of directors, which met in March to discuss the situation. Since the initial spread of the virus, Habitat has taken several proactive steps to suspend its operations to help prevent the transmission among its volunteers, staff and the people in the communities it serves. These measures have had immediate financial impacts for the organization.
Global economic turbulence has also led the donor-funded nonprofit to significantly revise its revenue projections. Many of the local and national Habitat organizations — also facing significant funding shortfalls — have already made similar expense reductions. Habitat has established a COVID-19 Critical Operations Fund to help safeguard its mission and business continuity efforts. The organization will also soon launch a fundraising campaign — Homes, Communities, Hope + You — which will help the full Habitat network raise support to continue its service.
“Nonprofits like Habitat will play an extraordinarily important role in the economic and societal recoveries after the pandemic,” Reckford said. “It’s vitally important that governments and donors act now to support this sector so that we will be ready and able to build back our communities.”
Habitat has suspended the vast majority of its construction activities throughout the United States and around the world. The more than 900 home improvement Habitat ReStores in the U.S. and Canada are closed to the public. These stores provide revenue to support Habitat organizations’ work in local communities. And, Habitat suspended its Global Village volunteer builds through the end of 2020. The organization has also indefinitely suspended all other volunteer builds involving either domestic or international travel, including its Collegiate Challenge and RV Care-A-Vanners programs.
Habitat will also permanently close the Global Village and Discovery Center (GVDC), a public education attraction in Americus, Ga. The GVDC has been closed to the public since March 14, in accordance with public health guidance to limit gatherings and non-essential activities.
Local Habitat organizations in the United States have donated more than 160,000 N95 respirators and 14,000 Tyvek suits to healthcare providers. This personal protective equipment, normally used by Habitat construction staff and volunteers on build sites, is in strong demand by frontline health workers.