Northern Illinois University studies McHenry County’s nonprofit sector

‘COVID-19 revealed that [nonprofits] are truly the backbone upon which essential services are delivered in a time of need,’ one nonprofit leader says

McHenry County nonprofits estimate they lost out on $10 million in fundraising because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new Northern Illinois University study of McHenry County’s almost 2,000 nonprofits.

Almost 70% of nonprofits lost revenue from fundraising events, and about 39% reported declining direct contributions, according to a news release.

The findings are part of a study that marks a collaboration between the Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies at NIU and Crystal Lake-based Not-For-Profit Resources Inc.

“Nonprofits as a whole are a hardy lot and are used to ‘doing a lot with very little.’ COVID-19 revealed that they are truly the backbone upon which essential services are delivered in a time of need,” said Laurie Bivona, program and outreach director at Not-for-Profit Resources. “The study illustrates how much they stepped up to the plate and how vital they are to our community.”

The study provided a glimpse at the structure of McHenry County nonprofits, as well as their funding, programs, challenges and the affect of COVID-19. It also provided an NIU undergraduate student with hands-on research and nonprofit experiences.

“This study can be used by the government and business sectors to understand the scope and depth of the nonprofit sector, whose work contributes to strong communities working alongside the other sectors,” said Alicia Schatteman, director of the Center for Nonprofit and NGO Studies who served as principle investigator for the study. “Thriving communities need all three sectors working together and planning for the future.”

As the community and nonprofits recover from the pandemic, the study can serve as a “foundation for advocating for access to greater resources and funds,” according to the release. Bivona said she hopes the study will serve as a catalyst to building greater cooperation among nonprofits, funders, government, business and the community.

Other highlights from the study include:

  • More than 50% of nonprofits said their greatest professional needs currently are resource-sharing and training.
  • 56% of nonprofits are delivering their programs and services to a greater extent because of COVID-19.
  • More than 26% of McHenry County nonprofits operate with a budget of less than $100,000, while 36% have budgets totaling more than $1 million.
  • Almost 90% of nonprofits measure or evaluate their programs and service.
  • 91% of nonprofits use volunteers, and 75% have paid staff.
  • About two-thirds of all nonprofit employees live in McHenry County.