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Impact of the Pandemic & Economic Shutdown on the Nonprofit Sector

Aggregate data from a survey of rated nonprofits across cause areas

April 17, 2020



In early April 2020, Charity Navigator partnered with Reuters News to conduct a survey of nonprofits to assess the financial and programmatic impacts of COVID-19 on the nonprofit sector. Charity Navigator contacted 4,598 representatives of rated nonprofits, and we collected 298 unique responses. 

The survey included twelve questions and covered immediate financial conditions, projected financial impact, financial reserves, impact on staffing, and impact on programs and services. Reuters News focused on social service organizations and published their findings on their website. The full data set includes respondents from 41 distinct cause areas.

Key Findings

Financial Hardship

83% of respondents reported they are suffering financially. Of those nonprofit organizations experiencing financial hardship, the average expected decline in revenue is 38% for the April - June time period.

COVID-19's financial impact on nonprofits

As the pandemic has inhibited organizations’ ability to host in-person events, 74.6% of respondents reported having to cancel a fundraising event.

Program Cuts

64% of respondents reported having to cut back on their programs, while 23% of respondents are seeing an increase in demand for their programs.

COVID-19's programmatic impact on nonprofits

COVID-19's increase demands of nonprofits

Additionally, 32.9% respondents reported a supply chain disruption and 48.8% reported having to completely cease a primary program due to the pandemic / economic shutdown.

Staffing Changes

27% of respondents have or are planning to lay off staff due to the pandemic, while 13% expect to hire additional staff to meet increased programmatic demand:

COVID-19 nonprofit staff layoffs

COVID-19's hiring implications on nonprofits

In addition to loss of staff, 35.3% of respondents report a shortage of volunteers. While many organizations have been able to shift to working remotely, 10.5% of respondents report closing an office completely with the inability to work remotely.

Charity Navigator's Response

It will be quite some time before Charity Navigator receives the IRS Form 990s that include financials impacted by the pandemic. In the meantime, Charity Navigator will continue to survey impacted nonprofits to create a better understanding of the effect the pandemic and economic shutdown is having on the nonprofit sector. These findings will help inform future ratings methodology. Additionally, Charity Navigator will expand upon and improve rating methodology to look at other important areas of nonprofit effectiveness.

How to Help

Charity Navigator encourages philanthropists of all sizes to continue supporting the causes close to their hearts, including but not limited to organizations providing relief and recovery to communities impacted by COVID-19. To learn more about why nonprofits need help more than ever, consider reading Charity Navigator's Now More Than Ever, The Nonprofits You Love Need Your Help blog article.

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