Wisconsin nonprofits could be in dire financial straits in the months, and possibly years, ahead as they continue to cancel or scale back vital fundraising events due to the coronavirus pandemic.
One in five nonprofits that responded to a University of Wisconsin System survey said they worry about meeting payroll for the next eight weeks. Almost 50% have laid off staff already and 93% said they’re considering future layoffs. More than 10% stopped providing services altogether.
Prof. Lora Warner of the UW-Green Bay Center for Public Affairs, who co-authored the northeast region report with associate professor Michael Ford of UW-Oshkosh, said the financial pinch has one in three nonprofits in northeastern Wisconsin concerned they could run out of money within the next eight weeks.
“It’s definitely a looming issue that will get bigger, just like everything else,” Warner said. “Their donations are definitely at risk. We don’t know where they will be in a few weeks. Two-thirds said they could continue programming for eight weeks, but that means one-third is not sure they could.”
Green Bay, Wis.—The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Center for Public Affairs today (June 3, 2020) has released its report on the Covid-19 Effect on Nonprofit Organizations in Northeast Wisconsin.
Associate Prof. Lora Warner, director of UW-Green Bay’s Center for Public Affairs and Associate Prof. Michael Ford at UW Oshkosh co-authored the report which examined financial issues, human resources, program delivery and needs for support as nonprofit organizations attempt to continue to serve the community after the stay home orders were issued by Governor Evers. UW-Green Bay Assistant Prof. Kerry Kuenzi is collaborating in the statewide project as well.
The research included 139 nonprofit organizations in Northeast Wisconsin (546 organizations statewide), representing large and small organizations ranging from human services and education to social benefit, arts/culture/humanities, environmental and health-related.
The study, conducted in late April, 2020, found that over half of organizations have reduced staff and 80% have reduced usage of volunteers. Most have significantly reduced service delivery and others have quickly had to change how services are delivered to prevent the spread of Covid-19 while meeting the needs of our communities. Three-fourths are concerned about being able to connect with some of their most vulnerable clients due to poor technology access, limited ability to meet face-to-face and challenges communicating with the children, at-risk youth, persons struggling with addiction and isolated older adults that they serve. Northeast Wisconsin nonprofits showed higher rates of collaborating with each other compared to statewide, while they showed a lower rate of collaboration with local government. Just under half have received no emergency funding and two-thirds are very concerned about loss of summer event revenues, which often provide funding for the year. While most report that they can continue to operate for the next 8 weeks, the next round of the survey (in July) will examine how they have fared.
The goal of this report is to share information with government, funders and corporate leaders about how the sector is doing so that community leaders can support the viability of the sector.
“The nonprofit sector is an underappreciated part of our society that really provides the foundation for our quality of life in often-invisible ways,” said Prof. Lora Warner, lead author of the Northeast Wisconsin report. “I am full of admiration for the strength and creativity shown by our local nonprofits, who have turned on a dime, gotten creative, and jumped in as partners to meet our community’s needs. If they are going to be able to continue to do that, they need us, ordinary citizens, to speak up and step up along with them.”
About the statewide project: 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.
To find the reports and other information:
- Information about the project and the statewide report can be found here: https://uwm.edu/hbi/research/survey/
- The Northeast Wisconsin report can be found here: https://www.uwgb.edu/cfpa/featured-project/policy-snapshot-study/
- Information about UW-Green Bay’s Nonprofit Organization Leadership programs and resources can be found here: https://www.uwgb.edu/cfpa/nonprofit-leadership-programs-and-resources/
- See Lora Warner’s blog post.
About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs to nearly 8,000 students with campus locations in Green Bay, Marinette, Manitowoc and Sheboygan. Established in 1965 on the border of Green Bay, the University and its campuses are centers of cultural enrichment, innovation and learning. The Green Bay campus is home to one of the Midwest’s most prolific performing arts centers, a nationally recognized 4,000-seat student recreation center, D-I athletics, an award-winning nine-hole golf course and a five-mile recreational trail and arboretum, which is free and open to the public. This four-campus University transforms lives and communities through student-focused teaching and research, innovative learning opportunities, powerful connections and a problem-solving approach to education. UW-Green Bay’s main campus is centrally located, close to both the Door County resort area and the dynamic economies of Northeast Wisconsin, the Fox Valley region and the I-43 corridor. UW-Green Bay offers in-demand programs in science, engineering and technology; business; health, education and social welfare; and arts, humanities and social sciences. For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu.
As I’ve come to know the nonprofit sector in our region quite well, I have developed a great deal of respect for the organizations and leaders who passionately work within them. I admire nonprofit leaders – this job is much more difficult than running a business. They must seek donations and grants, keep the pool of volunteers strong and manage their own employees while confronting enormous challenges like homelessness. It is an under-appreciated part of our society that really provides the foundation for our quality of life in often-invisible ways.
During the pandemic, nonprofits (NPOs) are working hard behind the scenes to keep people safe and provide help that’s needed. NPO leaders are adaptable and creative—just see how ADRC was able to quickly re-purpose staff and volunteers to more than double home meal delivery (to over 600/day); Howe Community Resource Center overcame many obstacles to secure internet access for its neighboring families and collaborated with others to provide food. CASA Alba Melanie was able to quickly mobilize to test hundreds (maybe thousands) of area residents for Covid-19. This is just a tiny subset of innovation stories. They have turned on a dime, gotten creative, and jumped in as partners to meet our community’s needs. Wow! Thank you!
Our governments simply can’t handle all of the needs of our community and we have grown to rely on our nonprofits and assume they will do what they do. They are lean and efficient, relying on volunteers and donations. During the Covid-19 pandemic, these agencies have had to alter their services so much because they tend to be working directly with people, and now they cannot. I’m really concerned when many nonprofit leaders say how hard it is to maintain a relationship with the people they serve, such as children and youth, individuals facing addictions, and older adults home alone, unable to use technology. There simply are not enough staff and not everyone has access to or can use technology.
These organizations face great challenges these days—challenges that most of us don’t know about. Only about half of them have received emergency grants from the government or our area foundations, and a majority have had to cancel a major fundraising event this summer. The immediate need for volunteers is different now and urgent. Most nonprofits have had to “lay off” volunteers due to the stay at home orders.
Small and ‘non-essential’ nonprofits are especially at risk. Where a lot of money flows to causes that address basic needs (and rightfully so), we still need our environmental, educational and arts organizations that enhance our communities in other ways. Right now, these groups are facing serious financial concerns. Our survey found that our local environmental organizations are among the most threatened.
But this is not just a post about how your donations are needed (they are!). Nonprofits can use creative and skilled volunteers who are not in high-risk groups and willing to engage through technology. In the past, many volunteers helped directly with special events, office work, mentoring, working with clients, or serving on the board of directors. Now, volunteers are needed to help with social media messaging, making financial projections, working on a board committee that is re-inventing a special event, or mentoring a young (or old) person through zoom. Many of these roles are possible to do from home or on your own time. Consider offering your help to a nonprofit whose mission you love.
If you want to read more about what’s going on with the nonprofit sector in Northeast Wisconsin, the Center for Public Affairs has just released a survey of 546 Wisconsin nonprofit organizations, including 139 from our region. UW-Green Bay is working to build the effectiveness of area nonprofit organizations through its undergraduate Nonprofit Certificate program and new continuing education in nonprofit leadership. Our students interned throughout the area and granted out $21,000 to NPOs through the Philanthropy class I teach.
Please join me in supporting our voluntary, non-profit seeking organizations. If you are able, please consider sending them a donation and thanking these neighbors for doing the important work they do for all of us. If you can, call them and offer to volunteer on a board committee, special project or other needed effort. The nonprofit sector is all of us – it offers each of us a vehicle to make a difference in our community.
by Dr. Lora Warner, Associate Professor at UW-Green Bay, Director of the Center for Public Affairs.
Warner has recently released a Snapshot Report on the Northeast Wisconsin Nonprofit Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic and has conversed with nonprofit leaders representing over 80 area organizations as part of the Leader Conversations held every week this spring. More information is available at https://www.uwgb.edu/cfpa/nonprofit-leadership-programs-and-resources/
The COVID-19 Effect on the Wisconsin Nonprofit Sector Report 1 for Northeast Wisconsin through a collaboration with UW-Green Bay’s Center for Public Affairs is available with a more detailed report to come.
Several online presentations to review the findings and discuss their implications are available:
May 22 @12pm – Registration Link
May 26 @ 12pm – Registration Link
Follow this link to learn more about this year-long project.
Prof. John Stoll (Public and Environmental Affairs) is asking you to make a nomination. He has been a member of the Steering Committee for the “Ethics in Business” award since its founding in 2008. The award is in transition this year, being rebranded as the “Ethics in Action” award. Over the years Prof. Stoll’s students have comprised the research team to evaluate nominees and this has led to the creation of an Ethics Scholarship on our campus. More importantly, the award recognizes ethical actions in the Green Bay region at celebratory event in the late fall. Typical attendance in the past few years has been around 700 persons. This year ethics in action is particularly important as we all confront a new reality in our world. We see individuals STANDING OUT & STANDING UP each and every day! We’ve certainly witnessed many people who have courageously risen to the challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic in so many different and innovative ways. Tell us their story by nominating them for an Ethics in Action Award! Let’s honor them and be inspired by their actions! The nomination form can be completed online at Foundations’ ETHICS IN ACTION page. Nominate someone today! The nomination period is open until May 31, 2020.
In CAHSS and Effect, UW-Green Bay professors Alise Coen and David Coury look at the language used in regard to the current pandemic. “The spring of 2020 is now irrevocably intertwined with the word pandemic. On March 11, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) assessed that, based on “the alarming levels of spread and severity” as well as “alarming levels of inaction,” COVID-19 must be characterized as a pandemic – something which could not easily be “controlled.” Other anxiety-inducing terms like crisis and emergency have also animated public conversations about the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 13, President Trump declared a “national emergency” in response to the spread of the coronavirus, drawing on executive authorities granted by the U.S. Constitution and laws such as the National Emergencies Act to activate a range of special provisions and presidential powers. In his presidential briefings, Trump has termed the virus a “medical crisis…a thing that nobody has seen for many, many decades.” Similarly, a wide range of media outlets have used the language of crisis in their coverage of COVID-19, with headlines in the New York Times, NPR, Fox News, and the Wall Street Journal repeatedly referencing “the Coronavirus Crisis.” It is easy to take these terms for granted as they increasingly saturate our media and political environments. But the words we use to describe situations like the current COVID-19 outbreak can be powerful, not only in shaping our interpretations and understandings of what is happening, but also in shaping our expectations of what constitutes appropriate responses. Let us begin with a deeper look at the origins of these terms.”
Wisconsin’s 32nd state Senate District will see a rematch between two candidates who first met nearly two decades ago. UW-Green Bay alumnus Brad Pfaff (Public and Environmental Affairs) announced Monday he is running for the seat, facing former Sen. Dan Kapanke, who he lost to in 2004 by just around 5% of the vote, and aiming to fill the seat of longtime Sen. Jennifer Shilling. Source: Brad Pfaff announces campaign for state Senate, challenging Kapanke again | Government and Politics | lacrossetribune.com
UW-Green Bay professors Alise Coen (Political Science, Public & Environmental Affairs) and David Coury (Humanities and German, Global Studies) combined their expertise across disciplines to write about the political implications of pandemic language. See CAHSS and Effect for their piece, Political Talk: The Political Implications of Pandemic Language.