The Arts Council of Princeton, along with Homefront children participating in ArtsExchange, honor ACP artist-instructor Bob Jenkins during the Annual Members Meeting June 19, 2014. (File photo.)

New Jersey’s nonprofit community is already suffering significant negative effects as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a new survey report released by the Center for Non-Profits.

From March 13 to 17 the Center, in partnership with the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers, conducted a rapid-response survey to gauge the initial and anticipated effects of the novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak on New Jersey’s charitable nonprofits and the vital programs and services they provide.

More than 700 organizations responded to the survey. Eighty-seven percent reported significant or moderate disruptions to programs or operations when the survey was taken.

Nearly all (96%) anticipated significant or moderate disruptions to their programs or operations moving forward. It was also emphasized that marginalized and disenfranchised communities, and the organizations serving them, were likely to be disproportionately affected by the crisis.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) reported that they had staff who could not work remotely due to the nature of their job or the organization’s mission. These include nursing homes, domestic violence shelters, healthcare, food pantries, childcare staff, HIV testing, animal rescue, performing arts, arts education, and more.

Many others pointed out that their clients do not have access to the internet. For some, the lack of the needed equipment or training posed an obstacle even if the mission or staff roles would otherwise permit remote work.

More than 90% indicated that they already had or would soon have to cancel programs or fundraising events. Many noted that these events typically generate a significant percentage of the organization’s revenue that would be impossible to recoup. Even postponing an event until the fall still creates dire consequences for cash flow and fiscal year accounting balances.

What did nonprofits tell the Center they need from donors, philanthropy, and government?

Funding is the most urgent need. Most nonprofits have had to cancel events and suspend or curtail programs. Many may have to lay off staff or have already done so. More than a few are fearful that their organizations may not survive the economic damage.

The Center says that government relief and incentive packages must include the nonprofit community, including grants, forgivable loans, and tax incentives to spur charitable giving. It also sees a need for communities served by nonprofit organizations to make certain accommodations during this crisis.

The Center says organizations need to know they won’t be penalized for the inability to meet restricted program commitments or contracted level of service commitments due to the pandemic. Those that have cancelled events need their sponsors to allow them to keep the money, and their donors, if possible, to keep giving.

The Center also says funders need to allow organizations to repurpose restricted grants, and that nonprofits need applications and reporting requirements to be simplified and deadlines extended.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has already begun to test our health care, service delivery systems, democratic and societal norms in new ways,” said Linda M. Czipo, president and CEO of the Center, in a media release. “The need for community and mutual support has never been greater, and it’s times like these that underscore the importance of mission-driven organizations — and the dedicated people who work for and support them.”

The results of the initial survey are available on the Center’s website. The Center says in the coming weeks it will conduct more rapid response surveys for New Jersey’s nonprofits to track the evolving effects of the pandemic. To get the latest news on how New Jersey’s nonprofit community is faring, subscribe to the Center’s e-news alerts.