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First COVID-19 regional nonprofit survey results released

First COVID-19 regional nonprofit survey results released

FORT MYERS, Fla. (April 7, 2020) – In order to understand the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey was conducted in late March targeting the nonprofit sector in Southwest Florida.

Funders in Southwest Florida collaborated to launch a short poll to assess the needs of the nonprofit community amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Partners included Central Florida Behavioral Health Network; City of Cape Coral; Lee County Human and Veterans Services; Lee Health; Richard M. Schulze Foundation; United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee; and Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

The nonprofit survey collected data from more than 200 organizations from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Respondents represented health and safety; arts, community and culture; education; equity and empowerment; environmental; climate change and animal organizations.

Disruptions to programs and projects, health and safety of staff and community, and fundraisers being canceled were the top three concerns voiced by respondents. These were closely followed by concerns about impacts on staffing as well as loss or funding from major funders, donors, and/or sponsors.

Sixty-four percent of respondents reported seeing increased or stable demand for their services since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Simultaneously, 98 percent of respondents reported that the pandemic would either somewhat or severely impact their budget negatively. A significant number of respondents realize they must adapt to serving existing or new clients with fewer financial resources available. Ninety-seven percent of respondents anticipated seeing a medium or high likelihood that COVID-19 will negatively impact their programs and services. Almost 50 percent of respondents reported having three months or less saved in operating reserves.

“This information is vital to help us understand how to come out of this pandemic and be better prepared for the next unforeseen disaster,” said Jeannine Joy, president and CEO of United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades, and Okeechobee counties. “It’s important to continue to gather data and share these findings with our region so we can understand community needs and inform regional funders and donors about where their investment is needed.”

The Southwest Florida Emergency Relief Fund was established in March and is collecting private funds to be used in the Southwest Florida region to help neighbors with food, shelter and basic human needs due to the economic challenges caused by COVID-19. The fund will complement the work of public health officials and expand local capacity to address the outbreak as effectively as possible. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is administering the fund and partnering with the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties to distribute the funding to nonprofits on the front line working with those most affected.

Funders are relying on surveys to supplement that information they are gathering in the field to make well-informed decisions about supporting the community at this time. For example, initial findings showed the greatest need was access to food resulting in the Southwest Florida Emergency Relief Fund making its first distribution of $30,000 to the United Way for food distribution to the nonprofits serving the public.

Donors can give online at or text GIVESWFL to 444999. Contributions are tax deductible as allowed by law. One hundred percent of the funds donated through the Southwest Florida Community Foundation will be used to provide emergency funds to directly help people in Southwest Florida.

“Now more than ever we need to work and innovate together to help each other,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “Our neighbors are really hurting, and every dollar donated will stay in our community to help others.”

The nonprofit survey results can be found by visiting

This initial survey and analysis of the results are the first step in what is planned to be an ongoing monthly exercise to understand the continuing and changing impact this pandemic will have on our community.

Southwest Florida Community Foundation
Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Our ambition is a more vibrant community that will continually address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties in Southwest Florida. We invite you to join our family and invest in the community with us!