Effects of COVID-19 Felt Across Appalachian Ohio’s Nonprofits

Nonprofits Identify Needs in Broadband Access and Serving Youth

July 2020 
Above photo courtesy of The Athens Photographic Project

Appalachian Ohio – The reverberating effects of COVID-19 have been felt in every community across the country. In Appalachian Ohio, where nonprofit and other community organizations already worked pre-pandemic with the added challenge of far fewer available philanthropic dollars to invest in their missions, these nonprofits have seen existing challenges exacerbated and new barriers arising.

A number of foundations serving the region began partnering to identify where the greatest gaps for nonprofits were currently and which gaps might appear as the effects of the pandemic continue longer-term. These partners – Athens County Foundation, Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, Osteopathic Heritage Foundations, Sisters Health Foundation, and the Cincinnati Office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland – began investing in emergency response independently, but also launched a survey of nonprofits together to better understand the most pressing needs for these organizations now as well as to look ahead to the coming months. 
Through the first round of this survey, a number of key issues became clear across counties:

Broadband Access

In a region with widespread challenges in accessing broadband, the effects can be felt in education, health, and business. What these nonprofits highlighted was that they were often challenged in transitioning their services into virtual services because their clients could not access sufficient broadband to continue accessing services, be that telehealth or education. Of nonprofits responding to this survey, 53% reported that lack of client access to broadband was a barrier to their work in this environment.

Youth

Of the nonprofits surveyed, those serving youth reported the biggest drop in being able to continue their services with 68% reporting they had suspended service to youth based on the current climate for their organization, leaving many young people in Appalachian Ohio without the supports they need.

Fragile Funding Streams

Nearly 90% of the organizations participating in the survey reported that the amount of operating reserves they have on hand to continue their missions would last less than one year. For many nonprofits that pour funds into their mission and rely on sources of revenue like fundraisers and grants that have been cancelled or slowed during this season, their reserves are already being stretched during a time when the need for their services is rising. What’s more, Appalachian Ohio’s nonprofits and communities are faced with a philanthropy gap that leaves the region with nine times fewer philanthropic dollars than the rest of Ohio, which means far fewer dollars for grants, scholarships, and other community investments.

The survey will be conducted again later this summer to see where shifts in need or opportunity has changed for these organizations. The results can serve as guides for others looking to invest in the needs of nonprofit organizations serving the increased needs of Appalachian Ohio’s communities. 

About the Athens County Foundation 
The Athens County Foundation invests in local strategies to empower Athens County residents and build on the strengths of our region now and for generations to come. For more information, visit athensfoundation.org.

About The Federal Reserve of Cleveland
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland serves the Fourth Federal Reserve District, comprising Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia. The Cleveland Fed’s research helps to support and inform the region the Bank serves, the national economy, and the banking industry by increasing understanding of important issues such as inflation, unemployment, inequality, bank regulation and supervision, and more.

About the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio
The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) is a regional community foundation serving the 32 counties of Appalachian Ohio. A 501(c)(3) public charity, the Foundation creates opportunities for Appalachian Ohio’s citizens and communities by inspiring and supporting philanthropy. For more information about FAO, visit www.AppalachianOhio.org.

About The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation of Nelsonville
The mission of the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation of Nelsonville (the Foundation) is to improve the health and quality of life in the community through education, research and service consistent with our osteopathic heritage. The Foundation advances this mission through strategic partnerships, multi-year funding commitments, funding collaborations and significant investments in southeastern Ohio. In addition, the Foundation pursues opportunities to advance innovative solutions demonstrating long-term impact for vulnerable populations, measurable outcomes and sustainability. More information about the Foundation is available at osteopathicheritage.org.  

About Sisters Health Foundation
Guided by its vision of healthy people in healthy communities, the Sisters Health Foundation supports efforts that promote and address healthy eating, active living; thriving neighborhoods; and mental health and addiction in the Mid-Ohio Valley. For more information, visit www.sistershealthfdn.org.