By Brooke Conrad

Carolina Journal News Service

 While Washington politicians bicker over a massive coronavirus rescue package, North Carolina businesses and nonprofits are scrambling to help patch the economy. But recent shutdowns are sapping their resources.

As of Friday, March 20, 88% of nonprofits have canceled programs or events due to a loss of revenue, a N.C. Center for Nonprofits survey of more than 500 nonprofits shows. Some 74% have seen client service disruptions and 70% suffer budgetary challenges. Another 57% encounter challenges due to staff working remotely, and 43% due to staff and volunteer absences.

Many nonprofits have had to close offices and cancel programming, said Lindsay Hollandsworth, communications director and program officer at the John William Pope Foundation. That includes organizations like The Green Chair Project, which provides home furnishing donations to people transitioning out of homelessness or a disaster situation into sustainable housing.

Nonprofit leaders aren’t downplaying COVID-19’s public-health concerns. But they are having to make do with less than they might expect after a typical emergency.

At the same time, several nonprofits, businesses, and individual donors are switching gears to address the novel coronavirus. These efforts include meals for public school children and money for restaurant workers and salon employees. 

Nonprofits are also struggling with private donations. Other crises that affect particular communities — like a hurricane or tornado — would normally generate a huge spike in community giving from surrounding areas, said David Heinen, vice president for public policy and advocacy at the nonprofits center. On an anecdotal level, nonprofits are currently reporting the opposite trend, Heinen said.

Those who want to donate to a nonprofit should avoid restricting the grant to a particular purpose, Heinen said. The biggest funding need is general operating support for expenses including staff pay, teleworking technology, cleaning supplies, and other equipment.

Heinen’s foundation endorsed an amendment to the U.S. Senate COVID-19 stimulus bill intended to increase charitable giving. The amendment would create an above-the-line deduction for charitable donations capped at a third of the standard deduction. It would also ensure there’s no giving floor included so that it’s accessible to small donors, which are “critical to churches and charities,” the organization said in the sign-on letter posted on its website. 

Ways North Carolina’s private sector is stepping in:

  • Joyce Farms, which supplies all-natural meat and poultry to restaurants, held a parking lot sale in Winston-Salem last week after Gov. Roy Cooper ordered restaurant closures. Customers could buy a 20-pound case of chicken breast medallions for $40, or a 20-pound case of ground beef for $80. “We have a surplus of items normally reserved for chefs and wholesale customers,” the business said in an Instagram post. “With so many families in our community looking for healthy, flavorful food that is hard to come by right now, we decided to try something a little different.” The business said it plans to hold other sales.
  • All 115 public school districts approved plans to serve meals to children, through collaboration between school districts and community partners, Cooper said in a Monday, March 23, press release. More than 1,165 schools had served 1.2 million meals and 6,500 snacks as of Sunday. 
  • The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle will use a $25,000 donation from First Horizon Bank to respond to an increase in requests for services. That includes developing alternative ways to deliver food and provide emergency meals to those affected by school and business closures, the organization said.
  • Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper donated $1 million to Charlotte area hospitals dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Atrium Health Foundation received $650,000 and Novant Health Foundation received $350,000.
  • The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina shifted its focus to dry goods and shelf-stable items that will ensure food is accessible for an extended period of time. It’s also packing family-sized boxes to be distributed through its network of partner agencies across 34 counties. The Food Bank is also partnering with Meals on Wheels of Chapel Hill Carrboro to provide shelf stable food for seniors unable to leave their homes.
  • Distilleries across the state are making and donating a hand-sanitizing solution made from high-proof alcohol and other ingredients. They can’t sell it, according to federal rules.
  • The Wake County Salvation Army’s Judy D. Zelnak Center of Hope is closed to the public, although its soup line will continue 5-6 p.m. daily, as well as its Tuesday and Thursday Food Pantry.
  • The owner of Jukebox Junction in Canton, Mike Graham, said last week he was giving away free food to people in his community. “As long as I get deliveries, I will feed them,” he told CNN. “I may go bankrupt. The people in the community supported me for 17 years. I love them to death, I can adapt.”
  • Uber Eats is waiving its delivery fee for independent restaurants across the United States.
  • Charter Communications is giving free Spectrum broadband and wifi access for 60 days to households with K-12 or college students who don’t already have subscriptions.

Places to give:

  • #AshevilleStrong is a movement in western North Carolina urging customers to support local businesses by buying gift cards. Their website includes direct links to small businesses around the area for online donation.
  • The NC Artist Relief Fund is a collaboration between Artspace PineCone, Theatre Raleigh, United Arts Council, and VAE Raleigh to support artists affected by gig cancellations due to the virus outbreak.
  • Merlefest at Wilkes Community College, one of the nation’s largest and longest-running traditional music festivals, had to cancel because of COVID-19. It’s the college’s biggest fundraising event. A donor pledged to match up to $150,000 in donations to recoup some of the costs of preparing for this year’s festival so it can resume next year. As of Monday, Merlefest fans had given more than $77,000. For more information, click “donate” at wilkescc.edu/giving.
  • The United Way of the Greater Triangle has a Rapid Response Fund for residents in Wake, Durham, Orange, and Johnston County residents, delivering food, hygiene, childcare, and housing assistance.
  • Nextdoor, a free app that facilitates local community connections, created a Help Map allowing communities to coordinate aid for neighbors. This could include running errands or dropping off supplies. Similar to the app’s Holiday Cheer Map, which shows which homes are displaying Christmas lights, people who want to help can list services they’re willing to provide.