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Flash Poll Reveals Severe Strains = Massive Impact for Maine's Nonprofits

by Molly O'Connell

In response to COVID-19, Maine’s nonprofits are stepping up without hesitation to serve their communities, to protect public health, and to support their own employees. To ensure that decision-makers in government, philanthropy and the corporate sector had access to real-time data regarding the impact of the pandemic on Maine’s vibrant and vital nonprofit sector, Maine Association of Nonprofits conducted a Flash Poll from March 12th through March 18th.clipart of magnifying glass over the word results

The findings show clearly that nonprofits need immediate contracting, budget, staffing, and programming flexibility and timely resources from the state, local governments, philanthropy and colleagues in the business community to be able to continue their work with so much uncertainty through the months ahead. 

Respondent Demographics

We received 354 responses to the survey. Nonprofit organizations were asked to have one representative complete the survey on behalf of their organization. Responding organizations represent every county and reflect that the vast majority of Maine nonprofits are small businesses.

Scope of Impact

Organizations were asked to estimate the level of impact COVID-19 is having currently and is anticipated to have on the programs, services, or general operations of your organization. More than three quarters of responding organizations are anticipating significant impact on their programs and sustainability.

Three out of five (57%) of responding nonprofits reported they are not prepared for the business and mission impacts of a widespread impact. Many nonprofits have very limited reserves and rely on earned income and fundraising events to sustain their missions.

Organizations reported they are experiencing or anticipate experiencing a wide range of impacts, including:

% #
Cancellation of programs or events 91% 323
Disruption of services to clients and communities 61% 215
Disruption of supplies or services provided by partners 32% 112
Increased and sustained staff and volunteer absences 55% 193
Increased demand for services/support from clients and communities 28% 98
Budgetary implications related to strains on the economy 73% 260
Other: Themes included emotional burden, tensions between mission and staff/volunteer safety, and examples of budgetary strains 21% 74

Real People, Real Consequences

Respondents were asked to comment on their concerns for the people they serve and their ability to carry out their missions.

  • “We have to go into hospitals, court houses, police departments, shelters, schools, etc. to serve survivors of sexual violence. How can I protect my staff in these spaces?  Do I temporarily suspend services to protect staff and volunteers? What are my other options?”
  • “I am concerned that the volunteers who run all of our area’s free food programs are age 65-90, and at highest risk of death. With more people out of work, many more people will line up for food. Family stress, illness and quarantine could intensify family violence and substance use.”
  • “The demand for safe sustainable, dignified housing in our community will become ever more intense as we are unable to serve our community.”
  • “We are already inundated with information and advice. What we need is places for people fleeing domestic violence to go if we need to close or quarantine our shelter.”
  • “We are setting up tents and quarantine buildings for homeless shelter guests in the event that they get sick. This has taken a tremendous amount of resources and staffing. We have experienced significant decrease in charitable donations and our out of state volunteer groups have cancelled – this is a potential loss of approximately 250 volunteers. We have purchased masks, suits and food to feed more than 53 shelter guests indefinitely who typically use their own resources but may be asked to quarantine. We have invested in internet technology for homeless shelter guests in the event staff can’t get to them – in order for them to be informed. We have purchased phone plans for more employees in order to have an emergency system for homeless shelter guests. We have 45 employees and face having to lay off 25 employees due to closing programs. We will try our best not to do this / our donations will impact this. We desperately need help!”
  • “We serve families with our before care and aftercare programs. Most of our instructors are paid hourly so we are trying to figure out how to keep them paid at least in the short term. We are looking at unemployment, partial employment at home or on-site. For a short term closure we could make it work but a longer term closure would cause serious hardships.”

Download the full Flash Poll Summary.

Advocate for Nonprofits: Tell Your Story

Your story can make a difference.

  • Share your story with MANP using the form at the bottom of our COVID-19 resource page. MANP is a voice and a resource for Maine nonprofits, bringing your questions, challenges and ideas to the table as we communicate with our state delegation, the governor’s office, legislative leadership, decision makers at the Departments of Labor and DHHS, and our colleagues in Maine’s foundation community.
  • Advocate to Maine’s congressional delegation: Email your senators and representatives; find your officeholders through those links. The message is simple: “I want you to understand what this pandemic is doing to the ability of my nonprofit to serve your constituents.” Tell your story. Close with something like, “I urge you to include the policy solutions proposed by the nonprofit community in any COVID-19 relief and stimulus legislation.”
  • Reach out to your local elected officials. “I want you to understand what this pandemic is doing to the ability of my nonprofit to serve your constituents.” Tell your story.

About Maine’s Nonprofit Sector

A thriving nonprofit sector is vital to Maine’s economy and quality of life, advancing innovative solutions to address community challenges, connect people to opportunities, and strengthen our social fabric through broader civic engagement. Working hand in hand with government and business, nonprofits make Maine a better place to live, work and visit.

  • One of every 6 jobs in Maine is at a nonprofit.
  • The nonprofit sector employees more than 98,000 people–more than the retail industry (and three times more than the construction industry). 68% of these employees work in health care and social services, the fields on the front lines of managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Nonprofit economic activity generates approximately $12 billion each year – equivalent to approximately 25% of Maine’s Gross State Product
  • Maine nonprofits mobilize almost half a million volunteers each year who contribute approximately $1 million in time and talent.
  • Learn more about the work and worth of Maine’s nonprofit sector in MANP’s most recent Adding Up Impact report.

Additional Resources

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