Chattanooga-area nonprofits share the pandemic's impact to their organizations and brainstorm potential solutions

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Teachers and volunteers help pack care packages in the auditorium at Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts.

A local look ahead

The Chattanooga Nonprofit Alliance was founded at the outset of the pandemic to advocate on behalf of the collective community of area nonprofits. The consortium's 40 partners span the gamut, from large social service providers like the Chattanooga Area Food Bank and the YMCA to niche organizations including the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga and ArtsBuild. The alliance is also working to develop and administer a fund housed at the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga to finance shared resources with the highest possible impact, such as a producer to assist multiple organizations with digital events.

"We mobilized at the beginning of this to speak for all nonprofits, but especially the non-frontline responders," says Phil Trammell, president of the local Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter and a member of the new alliance steering committee. "We would say the symphony needs as much love as the food bank. All those other things that you're going to want to be there when this is over someday, they're going to need help now to sustain themselves."

Kim Shumpert, head of the nonprofit alliance and the Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute, says the new group was "borne from both the threat and the opportunity of this COVID-19 moment."

"We seek to effectively ensure the long-term economic vitality of the Greater Chattanooga nonprofit sector. Our goal is to prevent sector collapse by collecting data that provides a 'state of the sector' perspective biannually, educating our community on ways we can modernize our approach to the philanthropic sector, and helping nonprofits reduce costs by funding resources shared in common by multiple agencies," she explains.

By the numbers

3,059, number of nonprofits in Hamilton County

3,476, number of nonprofits in surrounding 17 counties combined

77, number of respondents to impact questionnaire by Chattanooga Nonprofit Alliance

5, percentage of total number of regional nonprofits those respondents represent

97.4, percentage of respondents who already indicate moderate to high interruptions to programs, services or general operations due to the pandemic

40.3, percentage of respondents who anticipate at least a 30%-60% reduction in revenue due to the pandemic

9.1, percentage of respondents who anticipate more than a 60% loss

3, number of months of reserves nonprofits typically have on hand

$31.6 billion, annual revenues from nonprofits statewide

62.3, percentage of respondents who say staff size has remained the same - largely due to temporary Paycheck Protection Program funds

445, number of jobs lost from a 70%-80% reduction in staff at just 2 respondent agencies

75,540, estimated total number of jobs created by nonprofits across the immediate 17-county area

Source: "The Economic Role of the Regional Nonprofit Sector" draft report, Chattanooga Nonprofit Alliance

Potential solutions to lessen the pandemic's impact on nonprofits

* Lift current grant restrictions and dedicate funding to go to operations.

* Offer no-cost extensions on any current grants.

* Award multi-year funding to allow for planning ahead.

* Make grants more known and easily accessible.

* Provide support to new organizations that have been underrepresented in previous funding cycles.

* Match funds to organizational fundraisers, expanding the impact.

* Encourage collaboration and triaging so that there is little duplication of services and there is a continuum of assistance.

* Cover expenses in categories besides payroll and rent.

* Help fund additional support staff whose job is to help one or several organizations with common tasks.

Source: "The Economic Role of the Regional Nonprofit Sector" draft report, Chattanooga Nonprofit Alliance


* How Chattanooga-area nonprofits, businesses and government agencies worked together to address community needs amid the pandemic

* We Over Me: Borne of the pandemic, grassroots benevolence organization takes its first steps

* Grassroots Chattanooga mask makers step up for frontline workers, family members

* How do virtual fundraisers compare to the in-person events of years past?

* Philanthropy in times of crisis: How will the coronavirus affect giving?

* A glance at how the pandemic has impacted Chattanooga-area nonprofits dependent on volunteerism