More Americans giving to charity, but most nonprofits suffering during pandemic

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The year 2020 might've been the year when people really did need help "now more than ever."

The COVID-19 pandemic's furious impact on the nation's and North Carolina's economies devastated the private sector, but new data shows more than three-quarters of nonprofit organizations also reported lost revenues, leading to significant gaps in programming and the sector's own job losses.

"It's really the small donations that went up," David Heinen, Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy at the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, said. "The middle sized donations, the couple thousand dollars, that's gone down and pretty flat because a lot of people have cut back on spending."

Indeed, many Americans have answered the call as their neighbors and friends suffered through layoffs, furloughs and government-imposed shutdowns.

According to DealAid, an international group that helps facilities partnerships between non-profits and retail, as many as 70% of Americans donated to charity in 2020 - about 8% more than in 2019. The amount of those donations in 2020, however, were down 8.2% compared to the levels of giving in 2019.

Heinen explained the lack of disposable income led to a decrease in what he called "midlevel" gifts in the thousand dollar range.

The pandemic, moreover, also led to new challenges compared with other recessions.

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"Some organizations like museums were shut down all together, so they lost a lot of revenue and had to really cut back on what they do, whereas other types of organizations, so food banks and food pantries, child care organizations, who were needing to provide more services and do them in different ways - they actually sometimes got more donations."

In other words, Heinen added, even nonprofits could be divided into haves and have nots.

The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, for instance, was able to raise enough money to support more than $8 million in services since March 2020, and has since hired 20 temporary staff and added more than a dozen trucks and trailers.

Museums, symphonies, pet shelters, religious organizations and other nonprofits relied on PPP loans and stimulus cash to stay afloat.

"Certainly arts and cultural organizations and museums whether it's science museums, children's museums, were hit really hard. I think some organizations that are not providing direct services related to the pandemic, even environmental organizations, were hit."

The good news, however, is that loosening restrictions and a more stable financial picture is providing some hope to the nonprofit industry, which by some estimates employs more than 360,000 North Carolinians. Like any injury though, healing takes time, and experts think it will take two to three years before the nonprofit sector is back at full strength.
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