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The Franklin Opera House is a little quieter than usual these days.
In a normal year, the town’s only performing arts center would be hosting the school district-wide musical. This year, it was Matilda. It would be gearing up for its summer season, with rehearsals for the summer musical in full swing and a weekly summer concert series in partnership with the local farmers market on the horizon.
“We’d have anywhere from 50 to 75 people, children, youth, adults … using the space, and instead it’s absolutely silent,” said Dan Darling, Franklin Opera House’s executive director. “All those people are very disappointed. They really look forward to those events in the summertime.”
Like nearly every other sector across the country, nonprofits in New Hampshire like the Franklin Opera House have been met with economic uncertainty, new expenses and cancelled plans since the state issued its stay-at-home order in March.
Darling, the only paid staff member in the organization, was furloughed for six weeks before coming back to work part-time.
“Really, the biggest impact has been from our corporate sponsorships, because they are struggling as well. We anticipate that we’ll probably get maybe half of the funding that we usually get from our dedicated repeat sponsors,” he said.
In the latest survey from the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits conducted in late April, 92 percent of nonprofits experienced a loss in revenue, with an average of a 34 percent budget loss, with some organizations faring “much worse.” Another 45 percent of respondents say they have instituted layoffs, while others say they are struggling to maintain staff and are facing unanticipated costs due to the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Gov. Chris Sununu allocated $60 million of New Hampshire’s total $1.25 billion in CARES funding to relief and recovery for state nonprofits.
But the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits originally requested twice as much.
“We anticipate that the need is going to be far greater than the $60 million that’s allocated. So organizations will still need to make difficult decisions about how they continue to sustain their operations,” said Kathleen Reardon, CEO of the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits.
Guidance for nonprofits who want to apply for relief and recovery funding will be available June 5. Organizations across industries, including healthcare, arts, and technical assistance, will be able to apply.
“I think that as the application process is unveiled, we will be getting even more information about the needs there, as organizations will be letting us know their losses and the anticipated expenses due to COVID-19. So I think it would be very logical to take a look at what the actual needs are compared to what the actual pool is,” Reardon added.
The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, which annually awards about $46 million in grants and scholarships, has stepped up its efforts to get much-needed emergency funding to health care, childcare, emergency response, and other organizations that are on the front lines of the crisis.
One of those organizations is Families in Transition – New Horizons, a homeless services organization with locations in Manchester, Concord, Dover and Wolfeboro. The nonprofit has seen a major increase in costs as their services were adjusted to ensure safer practices and social distancing.
According to Cathy Kuhn, chief strategy officer at New Horizons, one major expense that came with the COVID-19 crisis was a second emergency shelter opened in Manchester to better socially distance residents. New temporary staff members were hired with hazard pay to keep it running 24 hours.
“We want to protect them as much as we can, but we feel that we need to recognize the increased risk that they’re putting themselves in, so we’re working really hard to make sure that they are compensated appropriately,” Kuhn said.
According to Katie Merrow, vice president for community impact at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, $6.8 million in grants has been awarded as of mid-May, which includes some early payments on multi-year grants.
“Even though the CARES Act relief will help … it will be less than the total need, we expect. We do think the summer will be a time of challenge and a really important time to give,” Merrow said.
Although the last few months have been a time of great economic strain for all, many in the nonprofit sector say Granite Staters have been in a giving mood. As of mid-May the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s community crisis action fund has raised $3.7 million to reduce pain and hardship caused by the pandemic crisis for those on the front lines.
Some organizations have tried online crowdfunding in place of regularly-scheduled in-person fundraisers. At the Franklin Opera House, many have increased their membership levels or donated to an online GoFundMe campaign.
When New Horizons’ annual walk against hunger in Manchester was scheduled for earlier this month, the organization had to make a quick decision to cancel, postpone, or come up with a different option. They decided to hold the walk virtually instead, which ended up being a huge success.
“What we quickly learned was that it no longer had to be a Manchester-based event. We were able to connect with former volunteers, former board members, people who no longer lived in Manchester or New Hampshire. So our reach was even greater,” said Pamela Hawkes, vice president of resource development at New Horizons.
Reardon expects that spirit of giving to continue as the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits prepares for its annual NH Gives campaign, a 24-hour fundraising marathon for the state’s nonprofit organization. More than 300 organizations have already registered to participate.[Disclosure, The Granite State News Collaborative and some of its partners are media sponsors of this event and/or registered participants]
The campaign raised over $500,000 last year.
“I think that Granite Staters have already shown that they’re looking for ways to help people out in this time, so there’s that spirit of generosity that we’ll continue to see,” Reardon said.
Another incentive for people to donate, Reardon says, is this year’s $250,000 match sponsored by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and its Thomas W. Haas Fund and John F. Swope Fund. Every gift of up to $1,000 will be matched for the first $250,000 raised throughout the day.
If there is one thing Reardon and Merrow are certain of about the future of New Hampshire’s nonprofits, it is that support from state entities and donors needs to be ongoing.
“There’s still going to be increased demand,” Merrow said. “I think the challenges continue, and we have seen such strength from the sector… they’re keeping things going as long as they can.”
“While the support right now is great, and we’re truly so thankful for it, the expenses are higher right now. Right now it’s been COVID relief, but soon it’s going to be COVID recovery,” Hawkes said.
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