Coronavirus Response, Human Services Funding

Chronicle of Philanthropy, Dispatch highlight challenges for nonprofit sector

In one national and one local publication this week, the media has drawn attention to the unique challenges facing the nonprofit sector, and a critical investment of American Rescue Plan dollars to shore it up in the Columbus Region.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in a story about inflation’s effects on philanthropy to health and human services nonprofits, spoke with us about what we’re hearing and learning from our members:

“The combination of inflation and the anticipated recession is creating both a real and anticipated shortage of donations to our member organizations,” says Michael Corey, executive director of the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County, an umbrella group for Ohio regional health and human-services organizations.

Corey says nonprofit professionals also worry that, after more than two years of the pandemic, donors are tired of giving to support health and basic needs. Another fear: Some donors may divert their philanthropic dollars to political campaigns ahead of the midterm elections this fall.

“Even if donations from donors were flat and remained where they had been at, that’s essentially a cut because everything is more expensive right now,” Corey says.

All the while, rising costs are sending more people to nonprofits for help meeting their basic needs, and it’s also making construction projects more expensive. In Columbus, Ohio, the local Goodwill tossed out plans to renovate its headquarters. Between January 2021 and May 2022, construction costs doubled, prompting chief executive Ryan Burgess to cancel the project and instead plan to sell the building and relocate the group’s headquarters.

And in The Columbus Dispatch, the City’s new $5 million capacity-building grant spread across 48 health and human services nonprofits was featured. These dollars, meant to shore up the ability of nonprofits working to address infant mortality, homelessness, and housing for immigrants and refugees, are a critical and timely investment.

The Human Service Chamber of Franklin County released preliminary findings of a survey in June based on responses a month prior from 89 of its 150 members. At the time, the respondent agencies reported having 1,943 unfilled positions, while 77 of them said demand for their services had increased since February alone.

More than half of the agencies who responded to the survey indicated that they did not anticipate having sufficient revenue to meet the needs of those they serve beyond 2022.

“For a lot of the sector, the last three or four months have been the hardest of the pandemic so far,” said Michael Corey, executive director of the Human Services Chamber of Franklin County. “The need for a lot of their services has surged once again due to inflation in particular, driving a lot of people back to service providers for help.”

Though many agencies that applied for the Elevate grants did not receive funding, Corey emphasized that any such injection of funds can alleviate the burden felt throughout the sector.

“An investment in some of the sector is an investment in all of the sector,” Corey said. “Every investment is helpful right now as agencies are, quite frankly, strained to meet that still-elevated need.”