Pandemic, disasters create challenges for nonprofits


While it’s been a rough year for a lot of people, 2020 has been especially tough in Louisiana.

On top of the pandemic and recession the rest of the world has been dealing with, the state was hit by two major hurricanes this year, including Hurricane Laura, a 150-mile-per-hour beast and the strongest storm on record to make landfall in Louisiana.

Many citizens turn to nonprofit organizations for help during natural disasters. However, COVID-19 and the associated economic downturn have strained nonprofits that serve people who already were struggling before the pandemic.

This is also true of Union Parish nonprofits. Jean Jones, Program Director for the Union Museum of History and Art feels that 2020 definitely affected the museum and the plans that had in store for this year. “The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic stalled our big plans that were set to launch this year,” said Jones. “Expansion of services to our community and expansion of our donor base have been put on hold,” Jones continued.

The coronavirus that causes the illness and the restrictions on large in-person events imposed to help control its spread have caused many nonprofits to cancel fundraising events or shift them to the internet. Mix in a record-breaking hurricane season, and Louisiana’s charity sector is facing acute needs while simultaneously rethinking their business models.

How potential donors feel about their finances is another factor. Economic and political uncertainty can cause people to hold back even if they are not personally experiencing hardship. While tax benefits usually aren’t the main reason people give, federal tax policy changes implemented in 2017 may discourage some potential donors because with a larger standard deduction, people have to give more to get a tax break.

As restrictions were lifted, the museum was able to offer a moderate number of events making sure that all safety precautions were put into place. However, with the rise in cases, more restrictions may be forthcoming.

These restrictions and the strain on individuals and business finances, less money overall is available for donating. The United Way, Trees of Righteousness, Broken Wings and the Union Parish Library are other groups in Union Parish who have felt the strain of many people to help with very limited resources.

These local nonprofits are grateful to those who have been able to give during this difficult season. “We are so grateful to our existing donors who have been generous in continuing their support of our operations,” Jones said. “We are eager to get back to normal.”