Almost a year into the pandemic, nonprofits are still struggling

Managing the Pressure
nonprofit pandemic

Winter set in at nonprofits across the country long before the seasons changed. It has not made life easy for Stephanie Ybarra, who has spent the last two years as the artistic director for Baltimore Center Stage, a nonprofit theatre in the heart of the city.

“I am putting one foot in front of the other, and from moment to moment, how I’m doing changes,” Ybarra lamented.

Because of COVID-19, on-stage performances for this nonprofit have had to be put on hold. With no revenue from ticket sales coming in, Baltimore Center Stage has had to pivot its business model. Virtual performances are now filling the silence that consumes the stage here, and they’ve had to rely heavily on philanthropic donations from people and corporations to stay afloat.

“Those who can give, give something to some cause because the ripple effect of that is huge from any donations,” Ybarra added.

A similar story is playing out for nonprofits nationwide. By some estimates, one-third of this nation’s nonprofits might not survive this pandemic or recession. At the Maryland Book Bank, they, too, have had to turn the page on how they operate.

“We’re dealing with kids who are traumatized. They’re stuck at home, constantly on a computer. Books bring them some sort of peace,” explained Mark Feiring, who serves as the group’s executive director.

In a typical year, the Maryland Book Bank would move nearly 450,000 books into the hands of kids in underserved neighborhoods for free. Now, the nonprofit has started packing and shipping books to kids and educators, as they’ve had to restrict access to their warehouse where kids would usually pick out books in-person.

“We usually have hundreds of volunteers come into the warehouse and help us sort thousands of books. All of a sudden, we’re doing that with five people,” Feiring said.

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