May 13, 2021

Press Release: Pandemic Impact on Utah Nonprofits include Job Losses and Reduction of Services


SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—Seven percent of nonprofits believe, that given current conditions, they will not last beyond four months, according to the Impact of the Pandemic on Nonprofits in 2021 survey conducted by Utah Nonprofits Association (UNA). 

In the survey, conducted between April 7 and April 21, 2021, UNA asked nonprofits in Utah about their finances, changes in demand for their services, financial resiliency, staffing, and more. The organization saw 121 nonprofits participate.  

The survey showed that responding nonprofits in Utah remained committed to delivering their missions in the face of decreased capacity and an increase in calls for support: 

  • 74% saw an increase in the demand for their services.  
  • Total revenue for all responding organizations decreased by 30% in 2020, when compared to 2019. 
  • Estimates for total revenue in 2021 showed a decrease of 10% from 2020 revenue.  
  • Organizations projected a 37% decline in 2021 staffing levels compared to 2019 levels. 

This perfect storm of increased demand, reduced funding, and staff cuts as a result of COVID-19 and its accompanying economic crisis left nonprofits scrambling to provide critical services to society’s most vulnerable populations. Cutting both staff and services in a time of increased demand creates ongoing and far-reaching consequences.  

To illustrate, a reduction in services addressing childhood hunger can lead to more undernourished children—children who then experience delayed development, increased risk of chronic illnesses like asthma and anemia, and behavioral problems including hyperactivity, anxiety and aggression in school-age children. Each of these consequences creates another set of repercussions which then leads to more and more community stressors and failures. These failures generate more failures and the cycle continues. Childhood hunger is only one of many, many problems nonprofits seek to solve—each of which, left unabated—create more struggles for families and communities.

One executive director told UNA that “...the effects of the pandemic on the public health organizations that serve low-income and homeless populations have been devastating.” Another said, “We have seen demand for charitable healthcare increase by 85% at the peak while experiencing a decrease in unrestricted donations.” 

From another executive director: “We are a nonprofit led by immigrant women of color. We have been impacted tremendously by the pandemic and we have seen racial disparities within the nonprofit sector... We believe the nonprofit sector should have a systematic change and approach to ensure the health of the organizations can thrive.” 

The worst is not yet behind these organizations. One participant said, “There is too much to do and too little time.” Another respondent said, “The struggle is real, but we will persevere.” And the people who remain in their positions? Grit and compassion characterize those who work for nonprofits, but even they are bound to experience fatigue as they grapple with increased demands and uncertainty about the ability of their organization to survive. One nonprofit leader acknowledged this reality, “We saw the resiliency of our staff as they faced these challenges and rebounded to find solutions that would meet the needs of our clients.” Another noted the impact of this situation on team members, “Burnout of staff is a real possibility without extra resources and staff to help.”

Respondents used words like “survival,” “struggle,” “challenge,” and “sacrifice" when describing what it has taken for them to make it to this point. One recounted that they “...essentially had to create, learn, implement, manage, and evaluate new technology and processes in record time to grow our resiliency.”

“Surviving does not mean thriving,” noted UNA CEO Kate Rubalcava. “The 121 organizations that responded to our survey told us that 1,848 jobs were lost between 2019 and 2020 and estimated that another 1,362 jobs could be gone by the end of 2021. The total of these two figures, 3,210, represents a 37% loss in jobs for the survey respondents in just two years. What about the thousands of nonprofits that did not participate in the survey?”  

Still, nonprofits remain determined to care for our communities and expressed optimism for continuing to provide services through the current conditions. When asked if they believed that they would weather the current environment, 80% said that they expected to outlast the circumstances. 

Commitment and resilience will not protect our communities from the loss of nonprofit services. They need funding to continue to serve their constituents and secure their staff. UNA has identified a potential source of funding for the nonprofit community: money from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). According to the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst for Utah, Utah will receive $8.39 billion in total funding from ARPA. UNA has urged Governor Cox and the State Legislature to set aside a significant portion of these funds for grants to nonprofits.   

Added Dr. Ruby Chou, a Board Member at UNA and Executive Director at the Mundi Project, “This is so much more than being about money. Increased funding means better lives for our neighbors. It’s about restoring hope, dignity, and quality of life.”