When the COVID-19 emergency was declared, everything changed with our funders, clients, volunteers, and community. Suddenly, there were no volunteers, an expanded client base, and anxious staff. Most of our clients lost their jobs when the stay-at-home orders were proclaimed.

We were amid a pandemic, and no one knew what to do — there wasn’t a pandemic response handbook. We were adapting service models to meet our community’s needs every day. We were in a disaster nobody ever envisioned and had to create the road map one step at a time. So were the funders.

Knowing that the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) was listening to nonprofits was encouraging. CEP recognized the circumstances affecting funder-nonprofit relationships, and the need for shifting priorities, funder practices and requirements, and supporting the staff of the nonprofits who were experiencing burnout.

CEP’s new report, State of Nonprofits 2023:What Funders Need to Know documents those changes and reports the findings of what most of us experienced. I am just one nonprofit executive director, but as you read this, if you are a nonprofit ED, you may see yourself, your staff, and what your organization experienced. And if you are a funder, this is a chance to peer into the experience of nonprofit leaders right now.

Our relationships with clients, volunteers, funders, and all our programs changed, quickly and unexpectedly. It was about three weeks after we were in “disaster” mode that the relationships with funders began to change. I remember it so well: after three weeks of no contact, funders started to reach out.

Key Finding 1: “Many nonprofit leaders report an increase in trust from funders and are experiencing changed practices, such as streamlined applications and reporting, removal of restrictions, and receipt of multiyear funding from foundations. In addition, most nonprofits report an increase in dollar amounts given by at least some individual donors.

Key Finding 2 Issues related to staff — including burnout, filling staff positions, and retaining staff — are the top challenge facing nonprofit leaders.

Key Finding 3 Despite a challenging economic context characterized by high inflation, most nonprofits experienced either a balanced budget or surplus in the most recently completed fiscal year, and the majority anticipate at least breaking even or having a surplus this fiscal year. 

Read the full article about the state of nonprofits by Cathy Moore at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.