Disruption is the Status Quo

Has anything ever changed for the better without disruption?

The answer, very simply, is no.

For some of us, as civil society leaders in 2020, we are likely finding a sense of normalcy amidst the disruption. For others, this time leaves us feeling a whole range of emotions from anger to grief to incompetence to utter exhaustion. We are managing a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a crisis in our country’s soul as we confront how to become anti-racist in everything we do. No one expects each of us or any one organization to get this all right all the time.

We see the dramatic effects of what we’re going through in a survey we released yesterday on the impact of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown on mid-size nonprofits. As many of you know, our membership is as diverse as this sector, but we also represent many of the nationally recognized nonprofit organizations left out of the CARES Act earlier this year. We surveyed them to learn more about the effects of our current crises and what we learned was striking.

The survey found that 83% of organizations reported a decline in revenues, including a decline in earned revenue from events or other activities, and a reduction in individual giving and grants received. These crises have hit both the organizations’ ability to fulfill their missions (71% reported a reduction in services or available operations), and their ability to retain employees (organizations reported a 47% decline in employment with a majority either laying off or furloughing employees).

For many organizations in the sector, much smaller and with fewer resources, this is not shocking and yet it shows the level of pain being felt by our organizations right now. These larger organizations, in theory, should be able to weather this storm and yet the impact is devastating. We know the smaller organizations, particularly those that serve communities of color or led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color are devastated even further.

We created this survey and share it with you not to have us fall into a pit of despair over the state of our sector, but to arm ourselves with the facts we need to advocate and make changes where they are necessary. We see hope in the bold steps of some of our colleagues in philanthropy, who recently announced an influx of funds into the sector. While these moves don’t come without risk, it shows that philanthropy can change financial models fairly quickly to accelerate innovation across the nonprofits when it is necessary.

Finally, we will have a hard time making sense if we don’t come together on a regular basis to wrestle with all of this. I am certain as colleagues in this sector, you are doing that with your trusted partners. We hope you consider us one of them and use our Upswell Pop-Ups as a regular opportunity to engage with our community. Join us for our Pop-Up #3 later this afternoon at 2 pm ET, when we’ll explore how we leverage our capacity and wisdom to truly center racial equity and become anti-racist. We hope to see you there.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Congress, COVID-19 Communications, COVID-19 Community Impact, COVID-19 Human Resource, COVID-19 Organizational Sustainability, COVID-19 Public Policy, COVID-19 Response, Data, IS Staff, Public Policy, Race, Equity, and Inclusion
Policy Issues: Charitable Giving, Nonprofit Operations, Tax & Fiscal Policy