Nebraska NPOs Might Lose $15.5 Million

Managers at Nebraska-area nonprofits responding to a recent survey anticipate losing $15.5 million in 2021 due to COVID-19. And while about one-third feel more stable compared to March 2020, 16% said they feel less stable.

“Although full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still unfolding, it has already laid bare deep inequities and the human and the economic toll of years of under-investment in critical systems and needs -- including nonprofits and the people and communities they serve,” according to “Pulse Poll #4: The COVID-19 Crisis in Nebraska and Southwest Iowa’s Nonprofit Community,” a survey conducted in April by the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands (NAM).

The majority (56%) of more than 13,000 nonprofits in Nebraska operate with less than $250,000 in net assets, according to the Omaha-based NAM, which serves Nebraska and Western Iowa. One in 11 Nebraskans work for a nonprofit and many of the organizations serve those individuals hit hardest by job loss as a result of the pandemic.

“Times of crisis underscore the continuing importance of nonprofits, as providers of immediate care and assistance, economic stability, spiritual comfort, news, education, mental health counseling, environmental stewardship, outlets of grief, hope and inspiration, and as a strong partners in developing short-and long-term solutions to address inequity and comprehensive social problems."

More than one-quarter of the 159 nonprofits surveyed said they have six to 12 months of cash reserves on hand and 37% said they have four to six months. Only 18% said they have more than 12 months of cash on hand, the same percentage that said they have only one to three months on hand.

“Past experience has shown that economic downturns typically hit nonprofits immediately, while economic recovery reaches the nonprofit community much later than other sectors,” according to the eight-page report. “After many years of underfunding of vital infrastructure and supports, a significant infusion of funds is needed now, and more will be needed for the long term.”

Most nonprofits anticipate being back to pre-covid stability in the next 12 to 24 months but that timeline varied across the sector.

There were five positive outcomes from COVID-19 identified in the poll results:

  • Virtual programming and training;
  • Expanding services;
  • Resiliency;
  • Increased collaboration; and,
  • Flexibility that led to innovation.

Almost half of respondents canceled programs or events, with a corresponding reduction in revenue, this past April, compared with 84% in the March 2020 poll.

Budgetary implications related to strains on the economy remain high among respondents, at 64% this past spring, compared with 70% a year earlier. The impact of COVID also continues on the distribution of services to clients and communities (53% in 2021, 69% in 2020) and of supplies or services provided by partners (30% versus 40% last year). Increased and sustained staff and volunteer absences were down to 39% among respondents, from 51% at the start of the pandemic.

More than 50% nonprofits polled in March 2020 said they canceled a major event or fundraiser because of the crisis. When polled in April 2021, less than one in five said they canceled a major event or fundraiser. Moving events or fundraisers online occurred at about the same pace, with 20% of nonprofits saying they did so in March 2020 compared with 21% in April 2021.

When will Nebraska-area nonprofits return to a physical office space? More than a third said they are already back in their physical space but 14% said they never left a physical space. About 8% said they never had a physical space while 7% anticipate a return in fall 2021 and 2% anticipated a spring 2021 return.