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In This Economy, It’s Not Just Businesses that are Struggling

COVID-19 has done a real number on our economy. It’s no secret that businesses are shutting their doors – some for good – and employees are losing work. It’s like nothing American has seen since the Great Depression.

We certainly can’t take lightly what the coronavirus is doing to our economy, and we should work hard to ensure that our recovery is just as dramatic as the downfall from the pandemic. But businesses aren’t the only entities that are struggling these days.

Non-profits are taking a hit in the quarantine economy. The Wall Street Journal highlighted some of the problems that non-profits like Gilgal, a charity that helps homeless women defeat addictions in Atlanta, are facing:

Now Covid-19 threatens Gilgal’s future. The nonprofit has been forced to cancel two of its three fundraising events: a spring luncheon and a 15-year anniversary celebration in May. Its Blue Jean gala in October is up in the air. Together the three events would have funded between a third and half the charity’s $600,000 annual operating budget; some of its donors are hurting, too.

If the crisis continues, Gilgal will have to cut back on half of its programs: the tutoring, coaching and mentoring women into the workforce with life skills they need to succeed like budgeting and managing a household. Gilgal would have to cut staff, too. It would no longer be able to manage the army of volunteer groups that are a large part of its business model. “If we continue in this Covid crisis, then what’s really happening is I’m crippled,” says Val Cater, the charity’s founder and executive director.

Non-profits are having to think on their feet. A crisis pregnancy center near me holds their annual Baby Bottle Campaign this time of year, where supporters fill baby bottles with cash and change to donate. They’ve switched to an online model this year, but it remains to be seen if donations will be as strong without the tactile symbolism of the baby bottle to drop money into.

In the best of times, non-profits operate with tight budgets and little margin, yet they continue their missions as best they can in tough times. When donors have trouble making ends meet, non-profits can see their funding dry up quickly. Cutbacks and even closings can become a problem that can even affect non-profits after the economy picks back up.

Churches are having a tough time too. When church family members are out of work, many of them can’t give, and giving to the church can sometimes fall to the wayside.

I’m the Director of Communications for my home church, Eastridge Church, in my “day job.” At Eastridge, we’ve cut back our expenses as much as we can to anticipate any dips in giving. We’ve only seen a slight drop overall (thanks to the grace of God and the faithfulness of our church family), but in some of the church communications forums I’m in, people are scared as many churches have seen their giving bottom out.

As churches struggle, so do the missions they support. In another example from the front lines, several of the missions that we support at Eastridge have let us know how much they’re struggling.

Casas por Cristo, one of my favorite missions that builds houses for and evangelizes to families in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, recently shared their struggles this year. Executive Director David Robertson wrote:

This virus could not have hit at a worse time for us. 75% of our operating revenue is accounted for in only three months of the year – March, June, and July. We lost most of our March builds and are now facing the probable loss of most of our June and July builds as well. We just weren’t prepared for that. Over the years, we have tried to be wise stewards of the funds that God has entrusted to us, and we have kept a three-month emergency fund in place to help us through any foreseeable problems. Well, no one saw the economic impact of this virus coming. With the loss of our spring break teams, slashing all budgets, and freezing all non-essential spending, we have gone through six weeks of those reserve funds. That means that we are looking at running out of cash by the end of May. That is just the real and hard truth of it all, and you deserve to know that.

Casas is working on a survival plan, and many other missionaries are forced to do the same. It’s a difficult time for those who have given their lives to serving others and reaching them with the Gospel.

It’s heartbreaking to see people in any sector of the economy lose their jobs. Losing your job, even temporarily, is demoralizing, and it’s can be hard when you don’t know how the bills will get paid.

The same goes for those who have dedicated their time, talents, and abilities to serve others. Whether it’s the non-profit in your hometown, the church down the street, or the missionary in some far-flung corner of the world, when donations dry up, serving and caring for others can’t happen.

When you have some extra money, don’t forget non-profits. Give to your church, as always, and share a little with non-profits and missionaries. They depend on you too.

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