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East Tennessee nonprofits report $12.5 million revenue loss in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic

Officials found that nonprofits were able to mitigate some of the damage done by canceled fundraisers with both PPP loans and COVID-19 relief funds.

The COVID-19 pandemic upended businesses across the U.S., including charity organizations. Nonprofits in East Tennessee reported that they lost $12.5 million in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Way of Greater Knoxville and the Alliance for Better Nonprofits partnered to survey nonprofits and gather data about how the pandemic impacted them. They gathered data about nonprofits' operations and finances from 217 agencies across all East Tennessee counties.

A majority of agencies, 62.5%, reported having to cut programs due to the pandemic. A majority also reported a change in demand for services last year — 114 agencies in total.

According to the report, almost 76% of nonprofit agencies anticipate a loss of revenue too because of changes to fundraising events. Almost 35% of nonprofits plan on applying for the current round of Paycheck Protection Program loans to mitigate losses.

Around 70% of agencies applied for PPP loans at least once to make up for lost revenue.

"We asked agencies about their revenue losses in our very first survey, but here we are asking again as we enter the second year of this devastating pandemic," said Matt Ryerson, president of United Way of Greater Knoxville. "That means a second year of canceled fundraisers, of donor loss, of reduced programming."

Nonprofits also said that they have been struggling to fill volunteer needs that have been historically filled by older populations who are more susceptible to COVID-19, despite also seeing an increase in the ability to engage volunteers virtually.

"Nonprofit organizations serving children and youth, seniors, the disabled, those experiencing homelessness, the immigrant and refugee community, as well as our arts and cultural organizations, those who care for the environment and for the well-being of animals, and so many more, change lives, enrich lives, and, yes, save lives every day – and they deserve our respect and support," said Dr. Jerry Askew, president of ABN.