How Ngos Were Impacted By Covid-19 Pandemic and How They Have Coped With Challenges
Most NGOs and nonprofits surveyed have all agreed that the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic has been huge. The pandemic has impacted all aspects of their work – from running programs, raising funds, planning cash flows and budgets, working of staff, to how they collaborate with partners and stakeholders. Several NGOs have met the challenges head on : they are discovering new opportunities and innovative ways of working to solve global problems.
“We could not do a single cataract surgery for senior citizens from the end of March to June as no one was donating towards this cause. The elderly are at risk. If we don’t provide medical intervention, they may die of other diseases, not Covid-19,” says Mathew Cherian, who retired as CEO of HelpAge India in June-end.
HelpAge, a nonprofit that has been helping disadvantaged elderly for nearly four decades, used to conduct an average of 2,500 cataract operations a month. The organisation runs homes for the aged and its healthcare programmes benefit 22 lakh elderly people.
In Financial Year 2020 – 21 so far, the fund collection for the non-government organisations (NGO) has declined 43% from the previous year. Its unrestricted fund — donations that are not attached to a specific initiative and can be used for any purpose has plummeted 63% in the same period.
At a time when individuals and corporations are loosening their purse strings and making generous contributions, why is a trusted NGO struggling to raise funds? The answer is simple. India is donating more than before, but it is directed mainly towards Covid-19 relief. The needs of NGOs working on other causes have increased due to the pandemic, but their fund flows are drying up
As soon as Covid-19 hit India, governments, non-government organisations and corporate social responsibility (CSR) bodies changed course to channel their resources into dealing with the pandemic.
While NGOs stepped up to the challenge that the pandemic presented, the near-term relief work seems to be adversely affecting their long-term projects as funds from individuals and companies have flowed to Covid-19 relief.
“For the last few years, CSR has emerged as a significant source of funding to the social sector,” says philanthropist Amit Chandra, who is chairman of Bain Capital Private Equity India. “But in the current business environment, with profits under pressure, CSR budgets will be hit in the next two years.”
CSR Funding for NGOs
As per the Companies Act, 2013, firms with a net worth of over Rs 500 crore or a turnover of over Rs 1,000 crore, or a net profit of Rs 5 crore, are are required to spend 2% of average net profits over the past three years on CSR.
30-50% : Share of CSR funding in the total funding of most NGOs.
This year, since companies know that Covid-related contributions are appreciated by the government, a large part of CSR budgets has been diverted to PM CARES. So what is available for the sector is likely to fall even more drastically.
SOS Children’s Villages saw its collection fall 15% in April-June from the same period a year ago; it was also 25% less than the target for the quarter.
“Covid or no Covid, we have almost 10,000 children under our wings,” says Suda Sudarshan Suchi, national director, SOS Children’s Villages India, which provides child welfare services and family-based care to orphaned or abandoned children. “We take care of them like a family and are committed to giving them nutritious meals, clothes and education. In a normal household, you can cut costs in unusual circumstances. In our organisation, many children have a history of trauma and are more vulnerable to change, so we can’t afford to make compromises.”
The cash crunch faced by nonprofits
The cash crunch could have a devastating effect on the sector. Traditional CSR funding is likely to fall by 30-60%, which could impact the long-term sustainability of the NGO sector, according to a study by consulting firm FSG, which interviewed 22 NGOs and 18 CSR heads.
Analysis by CRISIL reveals that corporate India has already allocated over 80% of their annual CSR budget to address the pandemic. This could impact spending on other areas. NGOs may get only a thin sliver of that shrunken pie. What is concerning is that many NGOs have no other recourse and are still banking on CSR funding.
In a survey of 211 NGOs by GuideStar India, an information repository of the sector, a third of the respondents said they might not be able to carry on operations for more than six months without fresh funds, another one-third said they could carry on for a year, while the rest said they have viability for over a year.
Even the NGO staff could not actively move around the underprivileged communities, and this affected the beneficiaries, especially those who were being helped in free education, free medical checkups, etc.
Many NGOs are adopting remote working from home-office, cloud-based platforms and new solutions to support projects, staff and beneficiaries.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the attention to providing relief for those affected by it has thrown non-governmental organisations’ (NGOs) functioning and philanthropy into disarray. Relief for the pandemic-hit has become the focus to such an extent that other causes — like health, education, women empowerment, employment, nutrition, forest rights and climate change among a host of others — have been thrown onto the back-burner.
On the upside, it was very pleasant to find out how SERUDS India and Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled fared in 2020-21.
SERUDS India is a charitable organization based in Kurnool. Seruds’s main projects are
• JoyHome Orphanage which shelters 60 orphans
• Happy Old Age Home for 16 elder abandoned women
• 3 Creche’s or Daycare Centers which takes care of 60 kids
• Midday Meals Scheme for 30 elders
• Monthly Groceries for 30 destitute women
SERUDS founder Mallikarjuna Gorla says that they run mainly on donations from people, both online and offline. In the initial months of the pandemic, their funding dropped by 60%, and they found it difficult to sustain operations.
In May, they stepped up their digital marketing campaigns by partnering with Ananya SEO. In parallel they reached out to the local business in Kurnool and people by telemarketing and door-to-door campaigns. Slowly their donations flow picked up, and today, they are in a comfortable situation.
Their main projects of Orphanage, Old Age Home, Daycare Centers, and monthly groceries to Elders, cannot ever be stopped. With great difficulty, and by cutting expenses, they could sustain their projects during initial months.
Click here to donate to Seruds projects :
Samarthanam was founded by Mahantesh who is a visually impaired person with a largehearted vision to serve the disabled and the underprivileged. Samarthanam is based in Bangalore, and has 12 branches in various parts of India.
The major initiatives of Samarthanam are : Education [residential school], Livelihood [training in computer skills, etc.] Environment [Dry waste management], Sports [mainly cricket for the blind, in India and internationally], Arts & Culture [Sunadha : a team of dancers and musicians], Rehabilitation [Swadhaar : Home for destitute women], and Nutrition [Mid day meals to schools].
On February 2021, Samarthanam will be completing 24 years of service. While Samarthanam was never closed for a single day during the first 23 years, it had to close down for a few days in the initial days of the pandemic. When COVID-19 hit India, and lockdown was declared, though Samarthanam closed its school and livelihood center, Mahantesh started getting calls from many disabled persons and smaller NGOs for assistance, in the last week of March. He felt that if some people are calling him, they should not be disappointed and stay hungry. So, he brainstormed with his team and decided to start supporting the needy with their own stock of supplies [as they had supplied due to their mid-day meal program], and slowly start approaching donors for funds.
As soon as Karnataka government announced lockdown, Samarthanam closed its school and livelihood program [LRS: Learning Resource Center], and sent the beneficiaries back to their respective homes. Only a few who had no place to go to, stayed back.
So, the resources [cooking space, provisions, and staff] were freed up for COVID relief work.
Samarthanam created a helpline, where needy persons could call and their needs would get registered on a database to assist in mainly 3 ways – dry rations, cook-a-meal, and health kits.
Samarthanam supplied 40000 packs of dry rations, around 1 lakh cooked meals, 40000 PPE Kits to hospitals, 100 ICU beds to hospitals, Health Kits to 8000 sanitary workers, 5000 police, and 10000 Asha workers plus cash relief to some who needed. Google devices [tabs] were given to children of COVID warriers, as well as all the students of Samarthanam school and LRC, so that all could attend classes online. Thus, though Samarthanam school and LRC closed , their curriculum was covered without any gap, after a lull of 2-3 months.
More than 100 companies contributed for all these initiatives.
Staff who lived close to the office continued coming to help in distribution , even during lockdown. Mahantesh and his team took up the challenge of being at the forefront
His goal is to touch the lives of 10 lakh people with disabilities, by 2030.
Hence, none of the projects of Samarthanam were stopped, nor was any staff retrenched [the free staff got involved in COVID relief, so their salary was taken care of by the COVID project]
NGOs were deeply impacted by the pandemic. Several had to scale back their projects. They did get funding specifically for COVID relief.
Many could sustain by following innovative approaches.
It is important for corporate and donors to donate to NGOs on a sustained basis, even during downturns and disasters. NGO’s play a crucial role in society and fill a gap in governments’ services to vulnerable communities.