Data Reveal Stark Divergences in COVID-19’s Impact among Nonprofits

Danielle Holly, Nonprofit Quarterly
Description / Summary

In writing about COVID-19’s impact on the US economy, journalists, economists, and researchers alike have sliced up the for-profit sector by location, size, industry, and myriad other dimensions when searching for and positing answers. Conversely, the nonprofit sector is often treated as a monolith, with catastrophic cases standing in for all nonprofit experience.

While it’s certainly true that many sectors of nonprofits were hard hit, others have moved through the pandemic with relatively little disruption—and some even thrived. A Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) report released in June 2021 noted that more than 30 percent of nonprofits report that the pandemic has had little negative impact to significantly positive impact.

While media accounts of nonprofits all too often smother difference, they are particularly damaging in this moment, as people try to understand where to direct resources and learn from those closest to the solutions. US nonprofits make up about 5.6 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) and represent about 10 percent of employment. The mission, size, and geographic focus of the sector is as varied as the for-profit sector, and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis likewise varies profoundly.