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May 12, 2021
Berkshire Nonprofits Focusing on Fundraising after Tough Year
Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires

March 25, 2021 — With 60% percent of nonprofits based in the Berkshires forced to dip into financial reserves to weather the coronavirus pandemic, and 45% pressed to cut their budgets, shrinking program revenue has become a top concern for those organizations, according to results of a recently completed survey.

Liana Toscanini, executive director of the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires, based in Great Barrington, which serves as an information clearing house for local nonprofits, which conducted the survey, said increased demand, fewer resources, and employee burnout has taken a toll on leaders.

“With leaders focused on improving multiple organizational functions including fundraising, efficiencies, strategy, board development, volunteers, and marketing, it’s no wonder they’re exhausted,” she said.

One relatively optimistic finding related to the strength of reserves held by local nonprofits.

Toscanini said, “We were surprised to see that 37% of participating nonprofits had more than 6 months of operating reserves before COVID hit. We’ve been talking about healthy nonprofits with adequate operating reserves since the financial crisis of 2008, but we didn’t know the extent to which this goal had been achieved. Sadly, 60% have been forced to dip into those reserves.”

While 75% of Berkshire nonprofits did not lose employees due to the pandemic, the survey found that 23% cut employee hours, 9% cut employee pay, and 7% implemented furloughs.

Like their counterparts across Massachusetts, Berkshire nonprofits turned to virtual fundraising in the last year, with mixed results: only 13% respondents said they were at enjoyed virtual fundraising success. Nearly half—48%—said they “somewhat successful” and the remaining 39% reported they were not successful.

Out of seven virtual fundraising tactics, email campaigns were the most widely used, with 56% of respondents reporting engaging in such campaigns, while 37% engaged in Facebook campaigns, and 9% held virtual galas.

Looking at ways to strengthen their organization:

  • 73% of respondents said they will engage in strategic or scenario planning
  • 59% said they will focus on fundraising
  • 44% will invest in technology and operational efficiencies
  • 29% will look to enlarge their board
  • 28% plan to enlist more volunteers
  • 27% will invest in marketing
  • 7% plan to downsize

Survey results were based on responses from 90 nonprofit organizations. Toscanini suggested that results may be skewed, ”because leaders who take the time to answer surveys are generally more curious and engaged, and may be running healthier organizations overall.”

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