Non-profit survey provides pandemic baseline

Back in April, Imagine Canada launched a survey into how the pandemic was impacting charitable and non-profit organizations across the country.

Those survey results were released in May and provide a good baseline for our sector at this point in the “new normal” to understand where things have improved and where they’ve worsened as the pandemic continues.

The social services sector has generally seen increased demand for our services in the pandemic. Organizations with government funding fared better overall as well, as government tried to move fairly quickly to remove barriers to transitioning services online. Organizations relying on earned income have been hit hard, and that has certainly affected our sector, where having a revenue stream from earned income has been a desirable goal up until the pandemic turned things upside down.

But whether our organizations are feeling this one a little or a lot, we’re ALL feeling it. Imagine Canada notes that the 2008/09 financial downturn had nothing on COVID-19 in terms of the impact on the charitable sector.

The pandemic is having the most profound effects on
organizational finances we have ever seen over the ten years we
have been conducting Sector Monitor. Nearly seven in ten charities
report decreases in revenues since the onset of the pandemic, over
twice as many as reported declining revenues over the entire course
of the 2008/2009 downturn (see Table 3). The overall size of the
revenue shift is staggering, with charities reporting that, on
average, revenues have declined by almost a third – even
accounting for charities with stable or increasing revenues. Again,
this is a huge difference from 2008/09 when the average revenue
change was a much more modest decline of 0.75%.

Take a read through the findings and think about these survey questions in terms of your own organization – both back in the early weeks of the pandemic and now, when life is not quite so uncertain but still a far cry from how it used to be. Are the emergency measures meant for our sector meeting our needs? What have been the surprises, and have any of them turned out to be a positive? If you were in charge of getting our sector through this, what would you do?