COVID-19 leads to loss of major fundraisers for non-profits

Mandy Powell’s agency is focused on helping children with cancer and their families. Erika Stark says her daughter Piper is in remission but still susceptible to the dangers. (WBNS)

The season of giving for non-profit organizations is taking a major hit with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The months of April and May are typically when central Ohio holds "gala season". But with the stay-at-home order and the ban on large gatherings, many events have been postponed or canceled altogether.

“In the interim, those are critical dollars, and yes, these are non-profits but also businesses that are trying to deliver services,” said Michael Corey, executive director for Human Services Chamber of Franklin County.

His agency teamed up with the United Way of Central Ohio and Illuminology to survey the financial health of central Ohio non-profits.

Eighty-nine agencies responded and reported a collective loss of $8.3 million in fundraising dollars along since mid-March when the coronavirus pandemic started.

Source: Human Service Chamber of Franklin CO.

“That’s a significant loss to agencies,” Corey said.

The executive director for NC4K says her agency has had to shift resources to adapt to the changes over the past several weeks.

“We had families who were parents being laid off or work being compromised,” Mandy Powell told 10TV’s Angela An.

NC4K was not one of the agencies that submitted to this recent study, but Powell says they've been able to reallocate funds to help those most in need.

“We were able to modify how we were reviewing requests and distributing funds to support our families,” she explains, citing that donations are always welcome.


Powell says what most of the families need right now is grocery help. That’s because her agency is focused on helping children with cancer and their families. Because they are immunocompromised, the children can’t be in public, especially now given the easy transmission of COVID-19.

"So. this virus being a respiratory virus, we've been told that it can be a fatal effect for those with heart problems because with the trouble breathing, you have to work harder,” says Erika Stark, whose daughter Piper is in remission but still susceptible to the dangers.

For Jill Gilliam, she fears going out in public herself because her 4-year-old daughter Mia is currently undergoing cancer treatment.

“I think about if I did bring it home to my daughter, I know she wouldn't survive,” Gilliam says, which is why she depends on NC4K to help bring groceries to their front door.


Recently, she found an Easter surprise after not being able to secure any delivery time slots with local grocers.

“I opened my door and I found four bags of treats and eggs that I could stuff in the basket,” she said with a smile.

Easter Eggs

These families are just a few examples of why philanthropy is so critical right now to the non-profits that serve them. The fear now is how some of these agencies will be overburdened in the months to come.

“All the new unemployment claims, those people are turning to our sector right now and we see those lines at the food banks, but all the other elements of the sector will see that surge too,” Corey said. “Without really a surge of congressional dollars, I'm very worried about the safety of this safety net."

Corey says there is a collective effort to ask Congress to approve a $60 billion relief package specifically for non-profit organizations.

The Columbus Foundation has also set up an Emergency Response Fund, which has already given out $3.5 million in the past month or so.