Appalachian Ohio – The reverberating effects of COVID-19 have been felt in every community across the country. In Appalachian Ohio, where nonprofit and other community organizations already worked pre-pandemic with the added challenge of far fewer available philanthropic dollars to invest in their missions, these nonprofits have seen existing challenges exacerbated and new barriers arising.
A number of foundations serving the region began partnering to identify where the greatest gaps for nonprofits were currently and which gaps might appear as the effects of the pandemic continue longer-term. The Athens County Foundation, the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, Osteopathic Heritage Foundations, Sisters Health Foundation, and the Cincinnati Office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland began investing in emergency response independently, but also launched a survey of nonprofits together to better understand the most pressing needs for these organizations now as well as to look ahead to the coming months.
Through the first round of this survey, a number of key issues became clear across counties:
Broadband access – In a region with widespread challenges in accessing broadband, the effects can be felt in education, health, and business. Survey results highlighted that Appalachian Ohio’s nonprofits were often challenged in transitioning their services online because their clients could not access sufficient broadband to continue accessing services, be that telehealth or education. Of nonprofits responding to this survey, 53% reported that lack of client access to broadband was a barrier to their work in this environment.
Youth – Of the nonprofits surveyed, those serving youth reported the biggest drop in being able to continue their services with 68% reporting they had suspended service to youth based on the current climate for their organization. This has left many young people in Appalachian Ohio without the supports they need.
Fragile funding streams – Nearly 90% of the organizations participating in the survey reported that the amount of operating reserves they have on hand to continue their missions would last less than one year. For many nonprofits that pour funds into their mission and rely on sources of revenue like fundraisers and grants that have been cancelled or slowed during the pandemic, their reserves are already being stretched during a time when the need for their services is rising. What’s more, Appalachian Ohio’s nonprofits and communities are faced with a philanthropy gap that leaves the region with nine times fewer philanthropic dollars than the rest of Ohio, which already means far fewer dollars for grants, scholarships, and other community investments.
The survey will be conducted again later this summer to see where shifts in need or opportunity has changed for these organizations. The results can serve as guides for others looking to invest in the nonprofit organizations serving the increased needs of Appalachian Ohio’s communities.