UWM-led survey finds worries among nonprofits amid pandemic

MILWAUKEE_ Nine out of 10 nonprofit organizations in Wisconsin are worried about declining donations and almost half of nonprofits have cut staff amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey from UWM’s Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management.

Eight of 10 charitable organizations said they had reduced their volunteer workforce, the survey found. The results underscore concerns among organizations about the long-term sustainability of Wisconsin’s nonprofit sector and disruptions in fundraising activities and programming during a time of increasing need, researchers say.

The report draws from the first of a series of surveys expected to be sent to nonprofit leaders this year that looks at COVID-19’s effect on Wisconsin’s nonprofit sector. The survey was conducted in partnership with UW-Whitewater’s Institute for Nonprofit Management Studies and affiliated faculty throughout the UW System.

The initial survey was conducted April 14-29, a month after public health guidelines were put in place to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Among the results:

  • 93% of nonprofits worried about declining donations
  • 47% have made staff reductions
  • 76% are concerned about the possibility of layoffs
  • 46% have reduced programming because of the pandemic

About 11% of organizations have adjusted programming to address an increase in basic needs such as food or financial resources, or to increase mental health support. Eighty percent of organizations have had a reduction in volunteers, either by choice or due to a lack of availability.

The goal of the project is to provide real-time data to government officials, foundations and other decision-makers about economic conditions facing nonprofits and the need for immediate and long-term support “to ensure the ongoing provision of critical services throughout Wisconsin,” researchers said.

“The hope is that, by understanding the effect of the pandemic, we can also better understand the recovery process to be required afterward,” they added.

Besides the Wisconsin overview, researchers also looked at the state of nonprofits in six areas: Milwaukee, northeastern Wisconsin, Whitewater, Dane County, La Crosse and Kenosha/Racine.

Findings for the next survey are expected to be released in August.