For many Americans, leaning heavily on social service agencies has gotten them through the pandemic. But how have these nonprofits adapted and coped with the increased demand but often reduced fundraising opportunities?
For Midwest Mission Distribution Center, which specializes in disaster relief, the transition was fairly smooth. The organization distributed three times the number of supplies as it did in 2019, despite a decrease in available volunteers. Executive director Chantel Corrie says at the beginning of the pandemic the center jumped right in to supplying N95 masks to first responders and then to hospitals and daycares as needs became apparent.
Donations remained steady throughout the year, and with the addition of state and federal grants, Midwest Mission Distribution Center was able to keep up with not only the demand caused by COVID, but also the usual work of responding to natural disasters. “It was not an option to shut down,” states Corrie.
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Marcus Johnson, quality assurance research and reporting officer for Springfield Urban League, said his organization saw an increase in needs in all areas of service: employment, education, housing, health and justice. “With COVID, the needs of those who have struggled have increased in all those areas,” said Johnson. The Urban League provided everything from WiFi hotspots and tutoring to personal protective equipment and rental assistance. Johnson notes they are working hard so “COVID doesn’t increase disparity between those who have and those who have not.”
Unfortunately, COVID restrictions have prevented in-person fundraisers from taking place, including the annual dinner, which raises money for youth education scholarships. The Urban League has relied on an increase in funding from state and federal grants to bridge the gaps.
While Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault also relies on grant funding, it has been a challenge to raise the matching funds required. According to executive director Catherine Walters, it has been a difficult year financially. Donations are down by 30%, with their donor base being mostly “the average Joe who sends $50-100.” The nonprofit has struggled to raise the funds required to match 10% of federal and state monies it receives. “We’ve risen to the challenge, trying to be resilient,” said Walters. “The hardest part is in deciding what to cut or what to do, because you don’t know if you’ll have the match.”