IN THIS EDITION: Pandemic impact, volunteer incentives & more!
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Pandemic likely to have long-term impact on SD nonprofits

While talk of vaccine distribution and herd immunity offers a glimmer of hope that life might return to pre-pandemic norms in the coming months, the outlook is less certain for many of the nonprofit organizations that serve people across South Dakota.

A report by Benchmark Data Labs says results of surveys conducted in 2020 show the COVID-19 pandemic had both immediate and long-lasting effects on nearly all South Dakota nonprofits. Service models were forced to change rapidly, and although some organizations experienced a funding “surge” during the initial phase of the pandemic last spring, many continue to face increased demands for service but with uncertainty about future funding and a diminished volunteer workforce.

The BDL analysis was commissioned by a group of collaborating funders (see below) to better understand how to effectively support nonprofits. This collective impact approach promotes coordination and allows data to drive funding decisions. BDL received 279 responses for Round 1 of the survey in April and 180 for Round 2 in October.

Notable Results

Of the respondents, 87 percent reported being negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic; 64 percent said donations decreased; 55 percent reported having fewer fundraising opportunities; 38 percent were unable to meet clients or customers in person; and 36 percent struggled to get or make use of volunteers. Other impacts included the inability to retain staff, supply chain disruptions, and technology issues.

Earned revenue – from fee-based programs and product sales, for example – was the largest source of revenue for nonprofits in the survey and declined across the board; though the survey results showed many nonprofits were able to take advantage of federal and state stimulus funding to help fill the gap created by the decline in earned revenue. According to BDL's report, 82 percent of responding nonprofits received some form of additional governmental funding by October, and 53 percent secured funding through the Payroll Protection Program.

Community and philanthropic support were also significant. By October, 92 percent of respondents reported benefitting from community-based fundraising, which generally comes with more flexibility in using those funds. In addition, 82 percent reported having received philanthropic funding. According to BDL, regional foundations contributed more than $6.4 million to South Dakota nonprofits between February and August 2020.

Although the extra financial support was critical, it is not expected to be a long-term trend. Surveys indicated many organizations remain apprehensive about their financial futures.

What They Said

No two organizations experienced the effects of the pandemic in the same way. Some nonprofits have hundreds of paid employees and additional volunteers; others have no paid employees and rely solely on volunteers. Some were able to transition both staff and clients to online platforms; others depend greatly on fee-based programs and in-person opportunities to deliver their services.

Here is a snapshot of comments from responding nonprofits:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has essentially changed every aspect of our operating methods. We saw drastic declines in face-to-face outpatient therapy sessions, which elicited our response of amping up telehealth delivery to patients via online conference. State officials were cooperative in allowing this form of teletherapy on a temporary basis, but a significant decrease in typical patient numbers is apparent.
  • In order to ensure we could safely serve youth on site we had to reduce our staff to youth ratios, increase our cleaning protocols, and purchase additional supplies to ensure that youth did not have to share the same items. We also provided food and educational activities for families at no cost while we were temporarily closed. This was an entirely unbudgeted expense and a service we provided throughout the time that our clubs were closed for normal in-person service.
  • We will continue to need monetary support along with volunteers to meet the continued need for charitable food assistance during the COVID-19 recovery period. We feel that the demand for charitable food assistance will go on for many months as individuals and families struggle to recover from the loss of work hours, jobs, accrued financial hardships and more.
What Do We Do Now?
It comes as no surprise that nonprofits – like individuals, families, and businesses across the country – suffered hardships in 2020. The year 2021 looks more promising, but report co-author Jared McEntaffer, Ph.D., of Benchmark Data Labs cautions people about thinking the pandemic is over, noting that South Dakota’s COVID-19 cases in mid-January were still above where they were last spring.

“Issues for nonprofits are not over, and long-term impacts will continue,” McEntaffer said.

“Nonprofits are worn down,” Alan Solano, President and CEO of the John T. Vucurevich Foundation, said, adding that people should try to “give them grace” when services are limited or modified.

Beyond showing compassion to the nonprofit community that has helped many South Dakotans when they needed it most this past year, those who are able to contribute financially are encouraged to do so. If giving monetarily is not possible but volunteering is, consider the gift of time. Call 211 or visit for volunteer opportunities.

McEntaffer also encourages people to learn when and where they can get a COVID-19 vaccine. As more of society is immunized, more organizations will be able to function in capacities similar to pre-pandemic levels. For information on the vaccines, visit

Finally, learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on South Dakota’s nonprofits at Covid-19 Impact on South Dakota Nonprofits Round 2 - Benchmark Data Labs.

Below: The organizations that commissioned the BDL report. Together, they also contributed more than $4 million in COVID-19 relief funds to nonprofits in western South Dakota in 2020.

Listen Up!
The authors of Benchmark Data Labs' report on the pandemic's impact on South Dakota nonprofits were guests recently on South Dakota Public Broadcasting's "In the Moment" radio program.

Jared McEntaffer and Callie Schleusner were joined by Jamie Toennies, Executive Director of the United Way of the Black Hills, and Janet Kittams, CEO of the Helpline Center, to discuss the results of last year's surveys. Listen to their conversation HERE.
Extended - Again!!
The "Friends of Food Security" volunteer incentive program has been extended a second time!

The program, which provides gift cards to eligible area residents who volunteer at least 4 hours to Feeding South Dakota or Meals on Wheels Western South Dakota, now runs through March 31st.

In the program's first eight weeks, 137 enrolled volunteers accounted for nearly 1,800 service hours. Click HERE for more info and to sign up!

"Together, building the most caring community."

Copyright © 2021 BH Area Community Foundation/Collective Impact BH, All rights reserved.

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