Right off the bat, the nonprofit sector was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, with 92% of those organizations who responded to a New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits survey said that they’d had a loss in revenue, more than 61% of responders having suspended some operations and more than 20% reporting temporary suspension of all operations since COVID-19 first appeared in the state.

There has been some significant aid for nonprofits since then, of note The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Community Crisis Action Fund, which accumulated $6.2 million in grants since March 20 to help respond to needs in New Hampshire communities.

There is the Community Development Finance Authority’s N.H. Nonprofit Response Fund, funded in part by contributions from the business community that will provide nonprofit organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with resources up to $100,000 for working capital, equipment purchases and programming expenses.

There is also $4 million in Community Development Block Grant funds available that enable municipalities to support community development projects.

Resources and information on how to apply for grant funding are readily available, yet the N.H. Center for Nonprofits survey showed while 47% applied and were approved for federal PPP loans, for example, many small organizations commented that they did not think they were eligible for it or that the funds were depleted before they had a chance to apply.

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S. Nonprofits in New Hampshire generate $11 billion each year and employ 15% of the state’s workforce.

Social services in New Hampshire make up 39% of the nonprofit sector.

WORRISOME TRENDS IN SOCIAL SERVICES

Normally, the Monadnock United Way relies on fundraising events, which generate between $20,000 and $50,000 to meet their operating budget. With gatherings of more than 50 on hold, these in-person events aren’t possible.

In addition to raising money for nonprofits, the Monadnock United Way’s mission is to bring the community together and also attract new resources to the region to address its most pressing issues.

The areas in which the organization places most of its focus is child abuse and neglect, educational attainment and financial stability.

With closures of schools and businesses and the risks of children and families facing lack of food, safe shelter, critical services and lost wages, Monadnock United Way partners established a COVID Relief Fund with 100% of monies raised going directly to agencies to provide relief to our region’s families. So far, nearly $125,000 has been raised.

Cheshire County has the third-highest child maltreatment rate in the state, according to the Monadnock United Way’s 2018 impact report, which also shows four of the six school districts in the region had fewer than 50% of 4th-grade students score at or above proficient in reading.

The same report includes information about poverty in Cheshire County. The percentage of the population living in poverty, and the percentage of the population considered low-income, has been higher than the state average for the last four years for which data is available.

Monadnock United Way has also been working to help fund the Monadnock Food Pantries Collective led by the Community Kitchen of Keene, which has raised $22,000 for the seven pantries in the Collective since the pandemic arrived.

The local school district also met with members of the Collective as well as Southwestern Community Services and Feeding Tiny Tummies.

“They’ve been talking about what will the community do together to serve families when school is out,” says Liz LaRose, president of the Monadnock United Way, referring to the meals families are now continuing to receive for their children through the school system.

Due to COVID-19, there have been other increased efforts locally to keep people safe in the Hundred Nights and other shelters and to support organizations such as the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention.

“There’s a concern for short- and long-term rates of child and partner abuse and neglect and sexual violence,” notes LaRose. “As soon as COVID happened and we had the stay-at-home order, there was a 50% decline in reporting child abuse and neglect. The people reporting it don’t have access to families, and those families are trapped at home, often with their abusers.”

Home visiting organizations are working to help stay in touch with families remotely through video conferencing in place of at-home visits to maintain social distancing while keeping them safe.

The organization also put out a call for volunteers in fundraising and marketing to ramp up virtual fundraising efforts, which in the past, LaRose says, was secondary to workplace fundraising.

“If you’re a young professional, it’s a great way to build a skill, and if you’re retired and want to help, it’s a wonderful way to give back,” notes LaRose. “Businesses and community members are wondering what will happen (in the future) — some companies are starting to do furloughs and pay reductions. We don’t know yet how (the pandemic) could affect fundraising for us and others. So we’re determining how we can strengthen fundraising in the region.”

“We’re hoping one of the silver linings will be that people who maybe weren’t giving before and have now given to relief fund maybe will become lifelong philanthropists or donors,” says LaRose. “It’s really heartening to once again see how our community comes together to help others.”

COVID-19 AND THE ARTS

Another sector of the nonprofit world in New Hampshire is arts and culture organizations, which make up 12% of the pie here in the state.

Pre-pandemic, arts nonprofits, which historically have experienced cuts to funding, saw an increase of state money this year. Governor Sununu and the New Hampshire state legislature worked together to add $282,000 to the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts’ General Fund for arts development.

Jessica Gelter, executive director of Arts Alive!, the Monadnock Region nonprofit group in its 11th year, explains that while there was more money available, there were also more requests in the state for arts funding.

Still, she saw it as a positive because it meant there are so many arts projects with the capacity to apply for grants.

The mission of Arts Alive! Is to provide business support, advocacy integration and celebration.

Arts Alive! had been doing more work at the state level in 2019, including the creation of an arts education conference and regional arts branding.

Now, the organization’s focus has been on advocacy work.

“We’ve been doing artist coaching,” says Gelter. “In my last session, I worked with an artist who doesn’t have internet apply for a relief grant. That’s what’s needed right now. It’s important to work within structures that already exist and amplify impact — more funding, better software — and help guide the mission forward.”

Gelter spares no chance to point out the impact of arts in this corner of the state. She notes that a recent Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 national economic impact study found that the nonprofit arts and culture organizations surveyed generate $18.5 million in annual economic activity in the Monadnock Region.

Arts Alive! Has a bi-monthly e-newsletter and is using social media in a deeper way to promote local artists, offer workshops, et cetera.

“It brings up huge questions about access,” she says. “Important social interactions are driving the arts.”

While a lot of artists have switched their delivery platform online to reach patrons from studios, galleries or stages, they are offering the same content.

“Artists are part of an arts economy — their time, creativity and skills are not worth less,” she notes. “For those able and willing to pay, it’s a valuable thing to be investing in.”

It’s easier than ever now with apps like Venmo or Patreon to support — and pay — artists directly.

The arts organizations that are distributors of artists work, reaching the right markets and making sales, need to provide innovative and strong leadership, adds Gelter, on how to move forward safely and ensure patrons that being together is safe.

“It’s a time for rethinking how we deliver arts to people, and how people value artists and makers and the people (arts organizations) that bring the artists and makers,” she says.

CONSERVATION EFFORTS SECURED, FOR NOW

When it comes to environmental nonprofits, which account for 7.5% of the nonprofit sector in New Hampshire, no projects will be compromised in 2020 because the funding for them was already distributed before the pandemic hit.

The Cheshire County Conservation District provides education and financial and technical assistance for the conservation and responsible use of natural and agricultural resources in Cheshire County. The organization has four main focus areas: soil health, water quality, wildlife habitat and farm and forest viability.

Programming is primarily dependent upon federal and state grants — some are annual, some are multi-year grants that are years in the creation.

Funding is a perennial challenge for the Cheshire County Conservation District; however, manager Amanda Littleton calls the organization fortunate because overall, it’s consistent.

Successful grant funding has allowed the organization to create new programs — in 2019 it was designed to assist the small farmer. The conservation district recently launched an equipment rental program to reduce tillage and another for small landowners (less than 25 acres) interested in improving habitat.

Funding had also been secured for this year for a program (Granite State Market Match) launched in 2019 to subsidize CSA shares and cut food costs in half at the farmers’ markets for those who use food stamps.

“We’re trying to ramp up (the program) right now — we need greater than ever,” says Littleton. The organization is working on adding Green Wagon Farm in Keene to the program by equipping them with a machine that handles EBT payments.

During the pandemic, farmers can rent equipment for free as part of the new program.

“We don’t want to leave behind our stewardship practices,” says Littleton.

While grants are secure for the upcoming year, there is concern from the district as to what effect the economic downturn will have on the foundations that distribute grant funds long-term.

“It may limit their ability to be making gifts into the future,” warns Littleton.

Services like education and technical assistance the conservation district offers are now harder to put into action because it involves site visits.

Still, the outlook is optimistic.

“All of our work is going — it’s just hindered some,” says Littleton. 

Nicole S. Colson writes from Swanzey, New Hampshire.