Ongoing Research Projects

The COVID-19 Effect on Wisconsin’s Nonprofit Sector


Nonprofit organizations are often on the front lines of crisis – frequently referred to as “second responders”, serving as a resource for individuals after emergency aid has been provided. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Wisconsin nonprofits are experiencing increased demands for food, shelter, and other basic necessities, yet have been hindered or completely cut off from responding due to school closures, stay at home orders, and social distancing. In Wisconsin, one in twelve employees works at a nonprofit, representing a total of $14.6 billion in annual wages* – making the programs and services provided by statewide nonprofits an important component of the economic engine that ensures Wisconsin is a thriving, vibrant state.


In an effort to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wisconsin nonprofits’ ability to meet their community’s needs, the Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management at the University of Milwaukee, in partnership with the Institute for Nonprofit Management Studies at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and our affiliate faculty throughout the UW-System, will issue a series of surveys to nonprofit leaders throughout 2020. The initial survey was launched in April.

The aim of this study is to provide real-time data to government officials, foundations, and other decision-makers about the current economic conditions facing nonprofits and the need for immediate and long-term support in order to ensure the ongoing provision of critical services throughout Wisconsin. The hope is that, by understanding the effect of the pandemic, we can also better understand the recovery process to be required afterward.

Survey results will be regularly distributed to local and state leaders, with virtual presentations made available to review findings and discuss the implications on program and service delivery for nonprofit organizations in communities located across the state.

Additionally, navigating the post-pandemic world will be a challenge for nonprofits throughout Wisconsin. The Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, has developed a set of guidelines to aid in this endeavor. Drawn from federal and state health and labor sources, Moving Forward: Considerations for Nonprofit Re-engagement provides guidelines intended as recommendations for nonprofit organizations as they return to the workplace, and re-engage with the communities they serve.

Should nonprofits organizations have specific questions regarding legal or financial issues, please consult their own counsel and financial professionals. If not outlined in this document, we recommend that organizations consult guidelines from other sources in their respective fields or contact HBI for further advice.

Finally, to provide additional support, HBI has also developed a COVID-19 Resource listing providing numerous health and nonprofit operational resources.


Our highest priority is to learn directly from Wisconsin nonprofit leaders, by connecting with a broad range of nonprofits, with a broad array of missions. Based on an established online survey developed by the University of San Diego**, data collection efforts will focus on a variety of nonprofit capacities potentially affected by the ongoing pandemic, including:

  • Human Resources, including staffing and payroll
  • Finance & Revenue, including access to federal stimulus funding
  • Effect on Programs & Service Delivery

The survey will also collect information on needed resources, to better understand ways academic and community partners can assist Wisconsin’s nonprofit sector through these developing challenges and beyond.

Proposed Project Timeline

The initial online survey was made available for participation on April 14-29, 2020. Additionally, a series of brief quarterly follow-up surveys will be released throughout 2020 to track change, stimulus funding effectiveness, and overall sector recovery. Participants in these surveys will be encouraged to take part in subsequent surveys throughout the year. This information will be made available to public, private, and nonprofit leaders through quarterly updates, followed by a complete report at the end of 2020. The intention is to continue the project until it is determined to be no longer necessary. All dates are proposed and may change as the project develops.

Project Start 04/10/2020
Survey ONE Distribution 4/14/2020 4/29/2020
Survey ONE Findings Released 5/18/2020 COVID-19 Report 1
Northeast Wisconsin Dane County La Crosse
Arts, Culture, and Humanities Human Services
Survey TWO Development 6/15/2020 7/10/2020
Survey TWO Distribution 7/13/2020 8/9/2020
Survey TWO Findings Released 03/21/2021
Survey THREE Development 12/15/2020 03/28/2021
Survey THREE Distribution 08/21/2021 09/24/2021
Final 2020-2021 Summary Report 01/10/2022

Project Team

* Nonprofit Wisconsin: In Brief – Size and Scope  Economic Impact, Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management, 2019

**Deitrick, L., Tinkler, T., Strawser, C., & Young, E. (2020). Nonprofit response to COVID-19: The immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on San Diego County nonprofits. San Diego, CA: The Nonprofit Institute, University of San Diego.

Understanding & Supporting Milwaukee Nonprofits

During the autumn of 2019, The Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in partnership with Project Pivot, conducted a survey of Milwaukee nonprofit leaders to ask the question, “What do the nonprofits in our community need and how can those needs be met?”

The study, guided by an Advisory Council, involved a survey of Milwaukee-area nonprofit organizations conducted by HBI. Our survey of Milwaukee nonprofits and analysis of the data has been completed and Project Pivot’s summary presentation of the survey results is now available. In addition, more detailed data is available for download.

Check out the Project Pivot website for updates on the Understanding & Supporting Milwaukee Nonprofits project.

With generous support from: