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The COVID-19 pandemic has been affecting businesses , including nonprofit organizations , from the earliest days of lockdowns and cutbacks to the current period of ongoing recovery . Philanthropic contributions and grants initially helped nonprofits survive — and continue to sustain them .

“ At the pandemic ’ s onset , organizations that rely on ticket sales and in-person events for revenue took a hard hit ,” says Niva Flor , chief impact and strategy officer for the Sacramento Region Community Foundation . “ Since then , many have been flush with resources due to federal and state relief and recovery dollars , and the issue has been managing large influxes of what will likely be one-time funding . Staffing challenges due to layoffs , hiring — many are hesitant to hire staff due to future funding uncertainty — and retention continue to plague the sector .”
In rethinking all in-person aspects of their businesses , including fundraising events , performances , classes and more , many nonprofits shifted to virtual versions where possible . Some simply scaled back programming and staff , hoping to eventually bring them back .
“ Nonprofits that reached out quickly to new and existing resources were generally successful in securing funds , as donors and community members were spending less , generally speaking , and looking for ways to help ,” Flor says .
THE INSIDE PERSPECTIVE The Sacramento Ballet is a successful example of many of these strategies . Typically funded by ticket sales , income from their dance school , grants and contributions — and unable to perform for in-person audiences between March 2020 and December 2021 — the ballet lost ticket revenue and their school was relegated to Zoom . “ To survive , we cut back to bare-bones staff and functions ,” says Anthony Krutzkamp , artistic and executive director .
Ordinarily , potential donors would be treated to behind-the-scenes tours and introductions to the dancers , but those efforts had to move online , too . “ We transitioned to Zoom , emails , e-blasts and phone calls , all much more difficult than seeing people face to face ,” Krutzkamp says . “ However , we have stalwart supporters and saw an influx of new contributors , particularly when , in 2020 , we couldn ’ t produce ‘ The Nutcracker ,’ a tradition people sorely missed .”
Heartened by community generosity , Krutzkamp has gradually added back staff . “ It ’ s helped me realize how much Sacramento cares about us ,” he says . “ We witnessed philanthropy really come through . Also , if there was a local , state , federal or arts grant , we applied for it . CARES Act funding and its Paycheck Protection Program funds kept our dancers paid even though they couldn ’ t perform for audiences .”
Live performances resumed with the 2021 “ Nutcracker ” and tickets have sold well this spring . But like many nonprofits , the Sacramento Ballet has retained some online offerings — before , a necessity , and now , an option .
One of Northern California ’ s most successful volunteer fundraisers , John Frisch , notes two pandemic effects : a suppressing , negative effect on membership-driven organizations such as chambers of commerce and community service clubs , but also a robust funding of nonprofits , like the Sacramento Ballet experienced .
“ Surprisingly , many businesses were very profitable through the pandemic ,” says Frisch , senior managing director of international commercial real estate brokerage Newmark . “ Many of our clients had some of their best years ever during the pandemic and thrived even with nobody in the office . That has certainly helped nonprofit fundraising — individuals and businesses continued to make money and to be generous .”
Frisch is closely involved with several nonprofits . He sits on the Salvation Army ’ s advisory board and chairs their annual Humanitarian of the Year event . He ’ s also on the Los Rios Colleges Foundation board and cochairs United Cerebral Palsy ’ s annual Tribute dinner .
“ The past two years have been our highest fundraising totals ever for the Salvation Army ,” he says . “ We ’ ve done better through the pandemic than prior to the pandemic . The Los Rios Colleges Foundation has been equally successful , and with United Cerebral Palsy , again our past two years have been the most successful we ’ ve had . The pandemic magnified the difference between the haves and have-nots , and in Sacramento , the need for social services has never been greater . Fortunately , successful businesspeople and investors have continued to be very generous .”
RESOURCES TO THE RESCUE Sacramento County received $ 206 million of federal CARES Act money to allocate to businesses and nonprofits in the early months of the pandemic , mainly focused on responding to critical early public health needs while most businesses were closed or had very limited capacity . As the economy and community needs have shifted throughout the pandemic , the County has adapted programs and operations .
Now , with funding allocations from the American Rescue Plan Act ( ARPA ), the County is able to continue public health efforts and focus on nonprofit and business recovery . “ We currently have three main categories of prioritization which all impact the nonprofit community : homeless and housing , health , and economic response ,” says Troy Givans , director of the County ’ s Office of Economic Development .
“ Our office received $ 1,672,500 from the state to support the nonprofit and microbusiness community through the Microbusiness Grant Program with $ 2,500 grants that will assist 669 organizations ,” Givans continues . “ Through ARPA , the County is funding 18 Property and Business Improvement Districts … and 22 chambers of commerce … countywide with grants .”
Looking ahead , County leadership is committed to supporting the nonprofit community with specific economic
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