Research | COVID-19: State of the sector one year later

publication date: Oct 3, 2021
author/source: ONN [Ontario Nonprofit Network]

In spring 2021, the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) and l’Assemblée de la Francophonie de l’Ontario (l’AFO) engaged nonprofit Community Researchers to conduct a bilingual survey of Ontario nonprofits. The focus was on the experiences of nonprofits during the pandemic and, in particular, the state of their operations in 2020-21, along with the adequacy of governmental relief measures to support nonprofits during the emergency. This followed a previous survey conducted by ONN and l’AFO in spring 2020.

Responses reveal much about the dedicated efforts nonprofits have made to continue serving communities, the fragmented and inadequate government measures to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and the work ahead as Ontario transitions into a recovery.

KEY FINDING: Almost two-thirds of nonprofits reported an increase in demand for programs and services. At the same time, half reported pandemic-related losses in revenue.

KEY FINDING: Only a minority of nonprofits were supported by government emergency relief measures. The lion’s share of support continued to flow from the federal government, notably through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), received by 37 per cent of organizations, and the Emergency Community Support Fund, received by 23 per cent of organizations.

KEY FINDING: The Ontario government’s flagship support program for small employers, the Small Business Support Grant, was accessed by only one in twenty nonprofits.

KEY FINDING: Almost seven out of ten nonprofits did not receive any provincial supports geared toward nonprofits (eight out of ten smaller-budget organizations).

KEY FINDING: The majority of respondents did not take on loans for financial support. Despite the abrupt and unprecedented crisis of COVID-19, 65 per cent of respondents did not take on loans and another 13 per cent took a loan “just in case” but did not use it. Most nonprofits that did only took on between $25,000 and $100,000. Only two per cent took on over $100,000. Another five per cent took on under $25,000.

KEY FINDING: Targeted funding supported Francophone nonprofits to be in a better position, though they still face challenges. Almost one in five received the Ontario government’s COVID-19 Relief Fund for Francophone nonprofits. Francophone nonprofits were also more likely than average to have accessed the Small Business Support Grant and the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund. Sixty per cent of Francophone organizations (compared to 47 per cent of Anglophone organizations) said the pandemic had no impact on their financial situation and more of them (49 per cent) were optimistic that the situation would improve for their organization over the next year (compared to 40 per cent for Anglophone organizations and 36 per cent of bilingual organizations).

KEY FINDING: Nonprofits across different subsectors were affected differently by the pandemic. Seventy-seven per cent of social services organizations experienced increased demand, but only 36 per cent received the Emergency Community Support Fund. Thirty-two per cent of arts groups know organizations in their subsector that have folded, compared to 18 per cent of nonprofits overall. Thirty-four per cent of faith groups tapped into reserve funds to stay afloat, compared to 25 per cent of all nonprofits, though environmental groups were most likely to have spent more than 75 per cent of their reserves if they had to access them. Sports groups experienced the highest rate of staff layoffs at 33 per cent. International nonprofits were more than twice as likely (27 per cent) to expect their organization’s situation to worsen in the next year as other nonprofits (12 per cent).

KEY FINDING: Hotspot regions in the GTA faced the greatest increase in demand for programs and services. Peel Region has the greatest proportion of nonprofits that saw an increase in demand for programs and services (79 per cent), while York Region nonprofits reported the greatest likelihood of having incurred increased costs related to the pandemic (77 per cent). Fifteen per cent of nonprofits in Eastern Ontario (excluding Ottawa) closed their doors temporarily, compared to 12 per cent across Ontario. Organizations in both Northern and Central Ontario fared slightly worse than organizations in the GTA and Southwestern Ontario in terms of financial support received from both federal and provincial governments.

KEY FINDING: Nonprofits lost a massive number of volunteers during the crisis. Sixty-one per cent of nonprofits have lost volunteers since the beginning of the pandemic, with the largest impact seen by faith groups, hospitals/universities/colleges, arts, and sports groups.

The survey was open to all nonprofits in Ontario, including charities, nonprofit cooperatives and grassroots groups, with a mission to serve a public benefit. It was conducted between May 17- June 4, 2021 and received 2,983 responses. The survey technical report includes all data cross tabulated by region, sector, size, and language of operation. De-identified data sets are publicly available on the ONN website.

For a full copy of the report including valuable key insights, you can download it here.

This research was summarized by Editor Ann Rosenfield. Any errors or omissions are due to her and not a reflection of this excellent report.

The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN): engaging, advocating, and leading with - and for - nonprofits that work for the public benefit in Ontario.

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