Nonprofit update: Franklin County groups still struggling 18 months into pandemic

Katy Smith
Columbus CEO
United Way/Human Service Chamber of Franklin County nonprofit survey results May 2021

Several Columbus region nonprofits were in danger of closing during the coronavirus pandemic as need skyrocketed and the ability to deliver services was damaged or eliminated.

But none did, thanks to federal stimulus dollars, local officials who prioritized the sector in distributing funds and the “ingenuity of nonprofit leaders, who found a way to keep going,” says Michael Corey, executive director of the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County.

"Now the question is, can we keep it going with American Rescue Plan dollars? And how quickly will the economy recover truly—and what will the economy really look like?" Corey says.

The United Way of Central Ohio and Human Service Chamber partnered with Illuminology to survey 80 health and human services organizations in May 2020 and 2021.

The pandemic created "waves of need—food, housing, rental assistance," Corey says. The city's Choices shelter for victims of domestic violence has been at capacity for months, the Mid-Ohio Food Collective has seen record pantry need, "and in mental health there has been so much suffering through addiction and overdoses in the last year and a half.

"What makes me so proud is that all these agencies were able to keep going—and they had to, being deemed essential," Corey says.

Michael Corey, executive director, Human Service Chamber of Franklin County

The pandemic is an opportunity to change for the better, he says. "The systemic drivers of need have been exposed and exacerbated over the last 15 months. Are we going to get at the racist infrastructure of our systems, or the inefficiencies in our systems, and overcome those?"

Of course, much depends on what the virus and its variants do going forward, and how federal and state governments react.

"We're all in this purgatory still while we wait to see," Corey says.

Here is what the surveys of 80 area organizations found:

Programs are still disrupted

Percent of health and human service programs affected by service changes, 1-year difference

                                    2021    2020

Programs continued   18%     20%

Programs limited        75%     62%

Programs ended         7%       18%


Need skyrocketed as traditional sources of revenue dried up.:

Across 80 health and human service organizations:

Combined revenue lost: $72,405,000

+ Combined increased cost: $13,546,980

=Combined deficit: $85,951,980

But stimulus and other funding sustained organizations:

Relief/supplemental funding received, by source

$48,403,026    First round of PPP loans (March – August 2020)

$37,069,242    CARES Act Funds

$15,929,067    Second round of PPP loans (January – May 2021)

$9,081,431      Contributions/donations from philanthropic organizations/funders

$5,330,246      Contributions/donations from individuals

$4,994,000      Other relief funding from local or state governments

$3,922,000      Contributions/donations from corporations

Percent of organizations with net revenue loss or gain:

60%     Net gain of $71,295,53 across 80 surveyed organizations

35%     Net loss of $31,960,450 across 80 surveyed organizations

Source: Survey of organizations by United Way and Human Service Chamber of Franklin County