COVID-19 Report Volume 7

About the Series

When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March, 2020, CAF America embarked on a journey to chronicle the impact of the crisis on nonprofits worldwide and help donors develop data-driven giving strategies.

What we’ve witnessed and captured in the process is an expansive picture of tenacity, humility, compassion, and empathy. In a time of social isolation for so many, the pandemic has had a counterbalancing effect of bringing the global community closer into alignment for a purpose that transcends borders and cultures.

The pandemic has laid bare the need for a paradigm shift, one that puts emphasis on long-term strategies founded on authentic relationships and trust. Understanding that impactful philanthropy requires collaboration, flexibility, commitment, and

streamlined progress measurement strategies, donors are showing a renewed commitment to greater flexibility.

The light at the end of the pandemic remains dim. While some countries are able to implement aggressive vaccination campaigns to reach herd immunity and plan for slowly opening, others have a much longer road ahead. Whether confronted with a surge in COVID-19 cases or fighting to rebuild shattered lives, communities around the world rely on nonprofits to provide critical services, which would not be possible without the generous support of donors close and far.

12 Months Later: The State of the World's Nonprofits
The Voice of Charities Facing COVID-19 | Volume 7


In its seventh COVID-19 survey conducted in April 2021, CAF America polled 496 charitable organizations operating in 129 countries to report on their current status and outlook for the future.

This report takes account of diverse nonprofits, nearly all of which remain operational, to identify what had to change in their operating context, their relationships with donors, and their approach to achieving their mission to be able to support their communities during the past year.

The survey prompted respondents to reflect on the impact the pandemic has had on their work and share their present vision for an uncertain future.

Donors can use this current, cross-sectional snapshot of nonprofits worldwide to inform their giving strategies as they reimagine their roles in supporting their partners’ efforts to build and reinforce their organizational resilience.

Building on the insights corporate donors shared in the fourth volume of this series, excerpts from recent interviews will provide readers a window into how the pandemic is shaping the future of corporate philanthropy.



Survey respondents are highly diverse, representing a plurality of organization sizes ranging from having no employees at all—only volunteers—to more than 100 employees. The highest number of respondents represent organizations with between 6–20 employees.

The majority of respondent organizations are dedicated to social services, education, and healthcare, serving the needs of children and youth, and other disadvantaged populations such as the disabled, the elderly, and the unemployed.

*As respondent organizations often work across multiple issue areas and/or serve diverse populations, the sum of the following proportions is greater than 100%.

Scope of work (N=481)



As we reported over the course of the last year, nonprofits worldwide continue to experience the negative impacts of the pandemic. More than 67% of respondents indicate that the challenges presented by the pandemic have increased over time, while 22% have experienced an easing burden. Nearly 10% conclude they’ve experienced no added adverse impact due to the pandemic. While many factors contribute to nonprofit resilience during the pandemic, agility has been among the most significant.

The pandemic has prompted 71% of respondents to shift their organizational strategies to include new services or programs. Meanwhile, nearly 20% contracted their service offerings by scaling back programs.

Most often, organizational strategies have been adapted during the pandemic out of necessity, however, many of these innovations proved to be successful and will remain in place permanently. Online programming is the most common at 61%. Over half of respondents plan to continue their new services offerings and fundraising strategies. Partnership building is also notable, as 40% of respondents indicate it as a new practice that will be sustained into the future.

Has the pandemic caused you to change your organizational strategies/priorities? (N=494)

70.45% We changed our strategies/priorities to include new services and/or programs
19.84% We changed our strategies/priorities to limit our services and/or programs
16.80% No, our strategies/priorities did not change
3.44% We redefined our mission

What new strategies (adopted since the beginning of the pandemic) will you maintain post-pandemic? (N=490)

61.63% Online programming
54.08% New fundraising strategies and campaigns
53.06% New service offerings/programs
40.61% Collaborating/partnering with other nonprofits
30.41% Programming focused on relief or essential services
25.31% Collaborating/partnering with government
21.84% Providing mental health support for staff and volunteers
19.18% Flexibility in grant agreements
13.06% Implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies


More than 60% of respondents have seen their costs rise over the course of the pandemic, with nearly 16% of these organizations noting costs have risen by over 20%.


This is attributable to many factors, although primary drivers include the addition of new programs, the abrupt pivot to disaster relief, the added expenses of IT upgrades, the development of new fundraising strategies, and the costs of salaries and skills building activities. On the other hand, over 17% of respondents saw their costs decrease and 18% experienced no change.

To what extent (if at all) have your overall costs increased in the past year? (N=489)

What have been the primary drivers of increased overall costs? (N=494)

Programs/services 45.49%
COVID and/or other relief programs 45.49%
IT/technology 34.76%
Salaries 22.96%
Office safety 20.82%
Marketing/fundraising 16.09%
Training and skill building of staff 15.88%
Utilities 9.01%
Networking/relationship building 8.37%
Rent/mortgage 5.58%



In the aggregate, donors have consistently demonstrated their willingness to accommodate grantee needs during the pandemic.

In the aggregate, donors have consistently demonstrated their willingness to accommodate grantee needs during the pandemic. This is a clear demonstration of expanded efforts on donors’ part to reinforce their partnership with nonprofit partners. The most commonly cited way has been through grant extensions, followed by offering needs-based funding and changing the existing grant purpose to reflect shifting priorities.

The findings largely correspond to those in our corporate donor report—The Voice of Corporate Philanthropy in Response to COVID-19 Worldwide
(July, 2020)—where 90% of corporate respondents offered flexibility in funding arrangements to grantees. Of these donors, 65% facilitated changes to grant purposes to redirect funds to the most immediate needs, 54% offered grant extensions, and 49% indicated they had funded overhead costs.


What flexibility have donors offered since the beginning of the pandemic? (N=491)



Given the staying power respondents have displayed through the pandemic, over 64% feel confident in their ability to operate indefinitely under current conditions.

Compared to the findings of the third volume of our COVID-19 report series (June, 2020), when one-third of respondents predicted they would not survive another 12 months, the current percentage has now fallen to 22%.


How long can your organization continue to operate under current conditions?

In anticipation of future crises, nearly 57% of respondents are confident they can successfully confront whatever comes next. Another 37% are moderately confident in their ability to remain resilient, while the remaining 5% are either unsure or not confident.


How confident are you in your organization’s ability to successfully face the next crisis? (N=494)


An overwhelming number of respondents relate to an aspiration for financial independence that is conducive to stability of operations for a greater focus on the mission.

Fundraising is regarded among respondents as the most important competency to be further developed and strengthened. The lack of an effective fundraising strategy precludes activation of other areas of organizational management.

Similarly, communications, in its capacity to reach stakeholders including donors, is cited as the second most important area for organizational capacity building.

Noting that respondent organizations largely represent a resilient and healthy subset of the sector, finance and leadership skills appear at the bottom of the list, which speaks to their proven capabilities and support in these areas.

Which of the following areas of organizational management would you most like to strengthen? (N=494)



Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

Volume 5

Volume 6

Volume 7



12 Months Later: The State of the World's Nonprofits | The Voice of Charities Facing COVID-19, Volume 7

The seventh edition of our COVID-19 report series represents the voices of 496 charitable organizations across 129 countries and features the powerful interviews with leaders in the nonprofit world.

Download the Volume 7 report | Transcript coming soon