COVID-19: Anticipated Impact - Nonprofits

Poverty-fighting nonprofits are providing essential services for under-resourced people and families impacted by COVID-19. Organizational access to resources – financial and otherwise – is greatly diminished and the ability to connect with program participants is limited. The following insights share the anticipated impact this pandemic will have on nonprofit organizations.

Jobs and Economic Security

The vast majority of jobs and economic security organizations have moved to remote operations or paused their programs. In the short term, this could hinder program outcomes or delay the ability of participants to take advantage of program completion to find a new job. The broader economic uncertainty surrounding the crisis is creating some concerns for the long-term stability of some jobs programs as the labor market tightens. 

Cash flow is a medium- to long-term concern for many of these programs, as some operate staffing services or have earned-revenue models that rely on outside income. Overall, Slingshot sees these programs attempting to respond to the immediate needs of their participants as they make plans to manage the long-term economic consequences of the pandemic.


Slingshot anticipates the impact on education organizations will look very similar to those faced by early childhood and youth organizations. Education requires a heavy emphasis on in-person instruction, particularly for under-resourced students. As educators shift to remote classes, they are working to ensure their students have access to computers and the internet. Educators are also faced with the long-term challenge of catching students up for the class time they missed.

Slingshot is continuing to work with its education partners to surface and share urgent needs that the community can support.

Early Childhood and Youth

Organizations that support infants, toddlers, and youth have had to close or adapt their services in response to the COVID-19 crisis. These services, compared to those provided by other types of social service agencies, rely more heavily on in-person instruction and support to be effective. Slingshot anticipates the shift to remote support will provide a substantial interruption that could adversely affect program outcomes. Additionally, organizations who rely on government funding in exchange for services might face revenue shortfalls if service stoppage or remote services prevent remuneration from funders. Finally, for organizations with home visitation programs, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to create a spike in births in 9 to 12 months. These programs will have to adapt to support additional volume over the long-term.


Stabilization nonprofits focus on providing basic services to under-resourced Memphians. These services – housing support, food support, emergency financial assistance – promote basic survival. Nonprofits focused on stabilization services are feeling the brunt of the short-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis. 

For organizations specializing in food security, COVID-19 has placed enormous stress on local systems. The closure of Shelby County Schools is causing food pressures to mount for families with children. Nonprofits are urgently implementing stopgap efforts to distribute food where it is needed. Particularly, organizations that provide meal delivery services to seniors face a shortage of volunteers and infrastructure challenges on top of the concerns related to the susceptibility of seniors to COVID-19.

For organizations specializing in housing support, shelter beds and safe spaces to house families experiencing homelessness have become scarce, as formal and informal shelters lock down their facilities to prevent the spread of infection. Simultaneously, the number of people and families experiencing homelessness will likely increase as unemployment rises. Thankfully, a momentary pause on evictions and utility shut-offs has created a short-term respite. However, capacity challenges are likely to emerge in the coming months.

Stabilization organizations rely on the capacity of their employees to provide a high volume of support during times of crisis. Most organizations have shifted to work-from-home models, which requires adaptations in service delivery. As the Shelby County COVID-19 outbreak intensifies, these organizations could face a staff shortage due to sick employees.