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New Data Reveals Stark Realities for Nonprofits During COVID-19

Date: June 9, 2020

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Media contact: Grace Nicolette – Vice President, Programming and External Relations, CEP: 617-674-0763


Cambridge, MA — Findings from a new survey conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) provides a comprehensive look at the stark realities U.S. nonprofits face during the COVID-19 crisis. Based on a nationally representative survey of nonprofit leaders in May, the data shows that:

  • While COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on nonprofits, the negative impacts have been magnified for nonprofits that provide direct services and serve historically disadvantaged communities.
  • During this time, nonprofits that rely on foundation funding are experiencing fewer negative impacts and more stable funding than those relying more so on earned revenue or gifts from individual donors.
  • While staffed foundation funders and major donors have been helpful during the pandemic, major donors are significantly less likely to have talked with nonprofits that are led by women about how they will support them in the future.

Findings are based on responses from 172 participants in CEP’s Grantee Voice Panel, a national sample of CEOs from nonprofit, grant-seeking organizations that receive at least one grant from foundations giving $5 million or more annually.

Nonprofit leaders’ responses to the survey also shed light on what nonprofits have found to be most helpful from institutional foundations and donors, respectively, as well as what they need most from both groups in the current moment. Funders can do more to support nonprofits, especially those that provide direct services and serve historically disadvantaged communities, right now by: 1) providing more funding, if possible; 2) providing unrestricted funding; and 3) reaching out to provide transparency about how the pandemic will impact future support.

“Many nonprofits are facing simultaneous increases in demand and decreases in revenue right now, and it’s vital for foundation leaders and donors to identify organizations aligned with their goals that are facing the biggest challenges and support them,” said CEP President Phil Buchanan. “This new data can help guide funders as they determine how they can have the most positive impact during the current crisis, especially in helping organizations serving the most marginalized and vulnerable in our society — the very people who are being disproportionately negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.”

This survey was conducted with support from the Fund for Shared Insight.

The data is available for free download on CEP’s website.

About the Center for Effective Philanthropy

The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to provide data and create insight so philanthropic funders can better define, assess, and improve their effectiveness and impact. CEP received initial funding in 2001 and has offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and San Francisco, California. For more information on CEP’s work, including its research, publications, programming, and assessments and advisory services, visit

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