Nonprofits Work Together to Endure the Pandemic

Demand for their services continues to rise as some of their funding sources dry up

Steve Yablonski

“The nonprofit sector faces an unstable and unpredictable environment,” according to Peter Dunn, president and CEO of The Central New York Community Foundation, the largest charitable foundation in Central New York. “[The pandemic] is a multifaceted situation that impacts the entire region; nonprofits are the hardest hit.”

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn

There have been many initiatives like payroll protection and others from the state and federal government that have helped nonprofits sustain themselves during these uncertain times, he said.

“But I think the continuation of the pandemic with omicron creates additional uncertainty and it is hard to plan,” he added. “The demand for services is still high and I would say that with many different things in flux it makes it that much more difficult to plan for the long-term.”

Some nonprofits rely on things like fundraising events for revenue.

“Fundraising events have either gone virtual or been delayed. That creates a financial issue for many,” Dunn said. “A lot of organizations have gotten creative. They have found ways to progress through the challenges of the pandemic.”

“Our partner agencies gave me a good glimpse of how things are and what it looks like going forward,” said Patrick Dewine, executive director of the United Way of Greater Oswego County.

The last two years has been a challenge for pretty much most of them. They learned how to pivot the way they operate. “That means everything from day to day operation, delivery of services; in a lot of cases they really had to think outside of the box,” Dewine said. “In some cases, they had to create new services to be able to get people what they were looking for. They’ve overcome those struggles and they’ve become accustomed to a new way of doing business, as we all have.”

Patrick Dewine
Patrick Dewine

Hiring is a challenge and fundraising is hit or miss, he said. “Nonprofits rely heavily on their own individual fundraising events. In some cases they haven’t been able to do any of them. If they are outdoors it’s one thing, but these indoor events have not been able to take place because of COVID,” he said. “You take a nonprofit that already works on a shoestring budget and you take out any sort of funding stream and that puts pressure on the operation.”

On the up side, services for the most part have not really been interrupted, Dewine pointed out.

“Services have always been available. We truly have a dedicated group of nonprofit workers,” he said. “The county Office for the Aging, for example, they didn’t shut down, they never missed a beat. They kept running. And there are others that did as well.

“All in all, we were pretty fortunate. There have always been resources available for anybody in need. I’m really proud of the agencies that we have here and the people who work for them. We’ve got a strong base of dedicated people and that’s always carried through.”

As for 2022, Dewine said, “It’s murky waters. We really don’t know what it’s going to bring. You’d like to think that the omicron variant is going to be the last of it. We’d like to think that by summer time things will get better, back to somewhat normal and start doing more fundraising and opening back up more services.”