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Persevering Through Crisis: The State of Nonprofits

When CEP surveyed nonprofit leaders in May 2020, the pandemic was having devastating impacts on their organizations. But where do they stand today?

Hannah Martin

Former Manager, Research, CEP

Kate Gehling

Former Senior Analyst, Research, CEP

Ellie Buteau, PhD

Director of Research Projects and Special Advisor on Research Methodology and Analysis, CEP

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As the COVID-19 pandemic spread in the United States in 2020, many nonprofit organizations grappled with its devastating impacts on public health and the global economy—and the ways in which it deepened longstanding disparities along racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and gender lines.

In May 2020, CEP surveyed members of its Grantee Voice panel to learn how they were faring. The resulting report Funder Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic found that while COVID-19 was having devastating impacts on nonprofits, the negative impacts were magnified for organizations that provided direct services and served historically disadvantaged communities. In addition, nonprofits that relied on foundation funding were experiencing fewer negative impacts and more stable funding than those relying on earned revenue (such as performing arts organizations) or gifts from individual donors.

But where do nonprofits stand today?
Based on a national survey of nonprofit leaders conducted in February 2021, Persevering through Crisis: The State of Nonprofits sheds light on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nonprofits, how funders have stepped up, and how foundations have been more flexible, responsive, and communicative with grantees—but less so with grantee organizations led by women or serving certain communities of color.

Findings are based on survey responses from 163 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.

This report is co-authored by Hannah Martin, Kate Gehling, and Ellie Buteau.

This report is a follow-up to our June 2020 report, Funder Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The survey instrument used to gather information for this report is available here.

June 2021

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