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The Importance of the NPO Sector During Covid-19

Non-profit organizations across Canada have been some of the hardest hit by Covid-19; yet in these times of need, reliance on the NPO sector has never been so great.

As Covid-19 has exposed many social and economic vulnerabilities across the nation and the widening divisions of need among differing social groups, there may be no better time to reflect on the importance of non-profit and community service work than the present.

As the risks for not meeting the most basic needs increase for individuals and families, demands upon non-profit organizations, charities, religious groups and fundraising initiatives have skyrocketed. Simultaneously, the limitations placed upon workplace and social gatherings, expenditures, and funding supports puts enormous strain on community resources and public programming.

According to a recent CBC article, approximately 1 in 5 NPOs in Ontario will be closing their doors by the end of the year and approximately 20% of Alberta’s charities are at risk of closure. As second-wave projections keep anxieties high, organization managers, staff, and clients are doing their best to prepare for what deepening challenges lay ahead.

Most non-profit organizations are used to the hustle and bustle of grant writing, limited resources, political upswings, enhancements to client care, long waitlists, and tight, tight budgets. But this added pressure leaves many feeling disheartened and maybe even a little desperate. This is in part because of the deeper nature of non-profit work. Traditionally, the charitable, non-profit, volunteer sectors fill a vital space in our communities and social lives. From cultural to educational to environmental needs, this work enriches the community experience and the social fabric that ties us together.

Though many working in this sector report feeling ‘called’ into the field and/or motivated by the desire to work for positive social change, in reality non-profits are a huge stakeholder in the broader national economy. In 2017 Stats Canada reported the non-profit sector represented 8.5% of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product, totalling $169.2 billion dollars of the national economy activity.

Beyond an economic footprint, non-profit organizations help to bring awareness to the general public and act as crucial educators on a variety of social needs. By working with municipal leaders and community partners, many non-profits pave the way for public policy advocacy and communicating calls to action.

While federal relief funds have helped fill the gaps in the short-term, many organizations are still struggling to keep afloat and continually devise innovative ways to keep their doors open. Programming has moved to virtual settings, volunteering pools have shifted and local fundraising efforts are on the rise; such changes and everything in between are steadfast efforts as the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the demand for non-profits’ services while damaging their financial and operational capacity. Although we will likely not know the extent of the damage the pandemic has caused for some time to come, one remaining truth is certain non-profits remain the backbone to ensuring the social health of our communities.

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