Ohio’s charities struggling amid the pandemic

Many nonprofits expect fundraising to drop off this year; layoffs loom while need spikes.

Ohio’s charities struggling amid the pandemic
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank says the demand for food has increased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. About 3,000 cars come through the city's municipal parking lot for food distributions, according to a foodbank spokesperson. (Source: Greater Cleveland Food Bank)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOIO) - The Coronavirus pandemic has been hard on Ohio’s charities and just as more Ohioans are turning to them for help.

That’s the take away of a new survey by the Ohio Attorney General’s office that shows nonprofits across the state are taking drastic measures to stay afloat amid a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that has interrupted funding streams and caused demand for services to spike.

Thirty-five percent of Ohio’s charities say they have cut their full-time staff by a half or more since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, according to the survey.

Nearly 60% have eliminated at least half of their part-time help.

That’s what happened at NewBridge, a Cleveland-based charity that provides after-school educational and workforce development programing, according to Chief Operating Officer Arman Ochoa.

The group had to cut all their part-time help and one full-time position earlier this year, he said.

They’ve made changes to prevent the spread of the virus and continue to offer services. But the organization is also taking further steps to survive, including cutting their budget by about 25 percent and exploring new funding avenues, according to Ochoa.

Many other local charities have adopted a similar try-everything approach to make it through the past year, said Dale Anglin, a program director at the Cleveland Foundation.

“They furloughed [employees]. They dipped into their endowments," she said. “If we’d had a six month pandemic we’d be OK. But a year and a half?”

The problem is that for some groups all of their funding sources are declining at the same time, said Anglin.

Fifty percent of charities surveyed by the attorney general said that individual donations have dropped off; 44% say corporate contributions have too.

Other charities are not seeing a drop off in funding, but the need is increasing sharply, said Anglin of the Cleveland Foundation.

“Since the start of the pandemic we have served more than 40,000 new families,” said Karen M. Pozna, a spokeswoman for the Greater Cleveland Foodbank. “There’s just no end in sight.”

“The pandemic is definitely a stress test,” said Sondra Miller, president of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. “We’re all trying to hold on to the employees we have while the demand for social services goes up.”

The center has seen an increased need for safe housing, food, clothing, and help filling out job applications, said Miller.

In some ways, nonprofits are surviving 2020 the same way the rest of us are.

“It’s challenging,” said Ochoa of NewBridge. “But we’re grinding.”

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