2020 Nonprofit Headlines and Hardship

By Dr. Alicia Schatteman

The two most significant events that affected, or are affecting, nonprofits in 2020 was the killing of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the US Census took place in 2020 which was challenging under the pandemic conditions.  I include it here even though the outcome of the Census is still being determined at the Supreme Court, and the effect on nonprofits will take place over the next ten years.

1. The Killing of George Floyd

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in MinneapolisMinnesota, while being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Floyd’s death triggered worldwide protests against police brutality, police racism, and lack of police accountability.


The unrest began in local protests in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area before quickly spreading nationwide and in over 60 countries internationally supporting Black Lives Matter. Over 2,000 cities in the US have seen demonstrations as of June 13.  The killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement has re-energized efforts to address racial injustice at all levels, inside and outside nonprofit organizations and the communities they serve.  Funders have realigned funding priorities such as the Ford Foundation. In October 2020, the Ford Foundation announced it has doubled its funding support for U.S.-based racial justice and civil rights groups with at least $180 million in new funding from the proceeds of the unprecedented sale of $1 billion in social bonds.  I believe that the Black Lives Matter is influencing nonprofits in many ways including a closer examination of their practices from hiring to board recruitment, as well as the services they provide.

2. COVID-19 Pandemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first case of a new coronavirus in January 2020 and the US declared a public health emergency on February 3. By March, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the US declared a national emergency.  California became the first state to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. Stay-at-home orders were put in place across the country and some businesses and nonprofits were declared essential services and workers.  By May, COVID-19 was responsible for 100,000 deaths in the United States with over 2 million cases.  By July, the US had reached 3 million cases and inequities are starting to show up.

Nonprofit Hospitals

About half of all hospitals in the US are nonprofits and another 18% are owned by state or local government entities.

Essential Workers

Essential workers are most at risk including those working in hospitals, factories, and foodservice industries. These workers are also more likely to be people of color and lower-income, without access to adequate healthcare insurance. Rural areas are also more at risk for having proper facilities and personnel to respond to the pandemic.  Even testing services were not equitable across states or even regions.  Individuals who tend to get sicker or are more likely to die from COVID-19 are also more likely to have underlying health conditions, exposing more inequity in healthcare and living situations. As vaccine development continued, states and counties put distribution plans in place.

Increasing Demand

Nonprofit organizations have been instrumental in dealing with increased demand for food during the pandemic, housing displacement, medical assistance, childcare, and mental health services.

Cares Act and Federal Relief

In response to the pandemic, the Senate and House of Representatives agreed on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which is signed into law on March 27, providing $2 trillion in aid to hospitals, small businesses, nonprofits (although not originally specifically mentioned), and state and local governments.  There were several programs available to nonprofit organizations summarized here by the Nonprofit Times.

Response and Relief Funds

Many funders, at the state, regional and local levels quickly created response and relief funds to assist nonprofit organizations. These funds were raised from individuals, corporate, and foundation donors to assist individuals and communities affected by the pandemic. An example is the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund. Many of these response funds also specifically addressed racial injustice highlighted with the pandemic. In Illinois, African Americans and Latinos represent 32% of the state’s population but account for nearly half of all deaths by COVID-19. While the special relief funding may be ending soon, the work to address systemic racism continues.

3. US Census

The US Census began in the spring and concluded in the fall.  As of now, 67% of residents self-responded. Census takers reached out to those who did not self-report.  The Census Bureau estimates that they were able to enumerate 99.9% of all households. The outcome of the Census will dictate many things including available federal funding for those services most supplied by nonprofit organizations to communities in every state, as well as federal funding for education, healthcare, etc.  The National Council of Nonprofits captured the impact of the US Census on communities.

Nonprofit organizations have proven their resilience and commitment to serve in 2020, more than any other time in recent history.  We may lose some organizations in 2020 for many reasons, and the impact of communities could be devastating. While we don’t know for sure, much depends on the rollout of a vaccine and the new bill being debated by the federal government for the second round of relief.  We also have a new federal administration coming in January 2021.

Peace and love to all as we end this challenging year.  This pandemic has proven once again how interdependent we are, how much we need each other, in ways big and small, in good and bad.  Let that lesson continue into a new year.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email