Earlier this month, the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) released Funder Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic, a report based on survey responses from 172 nonprofit CEOs that are part of CEP’s Grantee Voice panel, a nationally representative sample of leaders of nonprofits that receive foundation funding.

To no one’s surprise, one of the study’s key findings was that COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on nonprofits, and done even greater harm to organizations that provide direct services and serve historically disadvantaged communities, such as Black, Native American, and other people and communities of color; people with disabilities; LGBTQ people; and immigrants. Sixty-one percent of nonprofits that primarily serve historically disadvantaged communities and populations have seen increased demand for services.

At the same time, those organizations have faced not just uncertainty over revenue, but also challenges in engaging with the people they serve and providing programs and services while adhering to social distancing. And, while it had not yet occurred at the time of the CEP survey, the May 25 murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the ensuing protests that swept the United States (and the world) in support of the Black Lives Matter movement have added clarity and urgency for many organizations and the people and communities they serve.

For organizations of all types, the stresses have been high, particularly around revenue. Ninety percent of organizations responding to the CEP survey have had to or expect to cancel or postpone fundraising events; 81 percent have had to or expect to reduce programs; and 62 percent have had to or expect to cut staff hours, wages, or benefits. Nearly half have had to or expect to lay off or furlough staff — all at a time when most communities are asking for more, not less, from direct-service organizations.

The pandemic has raised difficult challenges for organizations working on the front lines of community need, but COVID-19 has also been devastating for arts and culture organizations.

Organizations that are willing to innovate have an opportunity to recommit to their missions and address issues of equity and access in ways that are long overdue. Online programming and digital engagement are not simply a short-term and pale substitute for traditional performances and experiences. Aging donors, people with disabilities, and people and communities that are geographically isolated and/or economically marginalized will have a greater opportunity to engage with online content — and may even have a better experience.

Read the full article about strong arts and culture organizations by Rick Moyers at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.