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‘Just released: Survey results of COVID-19’s impact on Ontario’s nonprofits

April 6, 2020

Ontario nonprofits face triple threat from COVID-19

ONN’s new report reveals that Ontario’s 58,000 nonprofits and charities across the province are facing a triple threat as a result of COVID-19. Organizations are abruptly losing revenue from the cancellation of fundraising events and a steep drop-off of donations, while they grapple with the closure of offices and cancellation of programs and services due to pandemic restrictions, and face unprecedented human resource challenges with paid staff and volunteers.

However, even in the face of challenging times nonprofits remain resilient and innovative, working on the frontlines to support their communities. Almost 50 per cent of nonprofits are open and operating, but with modified regular operations, and in some cases moving to online operations.

Read the report

Key findings


  • Over three-quarters of respondents have experienced disruption of services to clients and communities
  • Almost one in five nonprofits have closed their doors – at least for now – because of the pandemic or are making plans to do so
  • Close to 75 per cent of respondents have seen reduced revenue from fundraising, with the hard-hit arts sector reporting an 81 per cent reduction in ticket and event sales
  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will cost a large minority (43 per cent) of organizations between $50,000 and $249,999 each. Another 10 per cent estimate the financial impact to be $1 million or more. Seventeen per cent estimate the impact on their organization at less than $50,000
  • Of those that are continuing operation during Ontario’s state of emergency, one in four (27 per cent) indicated that they would need less than $50,000 of emergency funding to remain operational. A small minority (7 percent) indicated they would need over $1 million to continue to meet (often increasing) demand
Human resources
  • Nonprofits are experiencing staff and volunteer absences of 35 per cent (45 per cent in the social services sector) due to concerns about contagion in doing their work. Many respondents from nonprofits performing essential services, including community health organizations and long-term care homes, commented on a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • One third (36 per cent) of respondents indicated that their organization has either reduced hours for workers or have had to lay off staff. The pandemic and state of emergency have been particularly devastating for workers in arts and culture, sports and recreation, child care, and nonprofit social enterprises

Subsector highlights

Differential impacts are being experienced by different parts of the nonprofit sector. (ONN will be examining regional differences in survey responses, including differential impacts on rural, remote, and Northern Ontario communities, in a future summary report.)

  • Social services: 93 per cent of respondents have experienced or anticipate a disruption in service to clients and community
  • Employment and training: 48 per cent have laid off or will have to lay off staff
  • Arts and culture: 81 per cent reduction in ticket and event sales
  • Social enterprises: Courier, catering, and retail social enterprises that often employ people with barriers to the labour market have closed their doors
  • Health: 31 per cent have resources to sustain their organizations for only the next three to six months, while 38 per cent are unsure how long their resources will last because of the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and its effects on physical and mental health

ONN is calling for governments to provide stabilization funding for the nonprofit sector, flexibility in public and private funding agreements, immediate assistance for operating expenses, including rent and mortgage relief, and paid sick leave and other worker supports.

We are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 and the related economic downturn on the sector and the communities they serve. We urge governments at all levels, as well as other funders and donors, to step up to ensure that nonprofits and charities can continue to meet their missions and serve their communities in these extremely challenging times.

ONN’s advocacy plans

  • An emergency nonprofit sector stabilization fund that is adequate to address the urgent needs of the nonprofit sector as an employer of one million Ontarians across a vast range of industries: social services, health, arts and culture, sport and recreation, environment, faith groups, social enterprises, and more
  • Flexibility in funding agreements from public and private funders so that nonprofits can do whatever it takes to keep the doors open during the crisis and/or rapidly re-start operations following the state of emergency
  • Paid sick leave and other provisions that support nonprofits to be Decent Work employers – in crisis contexts and beyond
  • Access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers in community settings, such as neighbourhood groups who do isolation visits, along with home care, long-term care, and others
  • Access to emergency child care for workers in settings that have been identified as “essential,” including health care and social services
  • A seat for nonprofits at planning tables focused on economic recovery

The sector’s turn

Tell your story to government and other funders: ONN encourages all affected nonprofits to tell their stories of the impact of the pandemic, state of emergency, and accompanying economic recession directly to government decision makers, along with proposed solutions for the challenges you face.

We’re in this together

ONN will continue its government relations and advocacy as attention turns to an economic recovery. Together, let’s advocate for a recovery strategy that ensures our provincial and local economies meet the needs and aspirations of the diverse communities across Ontario.”

Read the report