Short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nonprofit sector and volunteering

Csaba Bakó


In spring 2020, a few weeks after the start of the first COVID-19 lockdowns, SIMPACT Public Benefit Nonprofit Ltd. initiated a survey to assess the short-term impact of the pandemic on nonprofits organizations and their long-term expectations. With 218 respondents, this was the first large-scale survey covering these topics, and its findings and related recommendations were presented in various forums. The results of the survey clearly demonstrated the initial shock in the NPO sector: two thirds of NPOs anticipated a deep and prolonged crisis and a significant decline in social impact. 75 percent of respondents had to suspend ongoing programs and projects and one-third terminated their operations fully in Spring 2020. Furthermore, almost every other organization had difficulties recruiting volunteers.

In 2021, we initiated a follow-up survey to investigate to what extent these pessimistic expectations were confirmed and to draw conclusions for nonprofit organizations. After the initial shock of 2020, contrary to fears, 2021 proved to be easier than expected for many, with some organizations experiencing significant growth. Still, 2021 was a challenging year for the nonprofit sector. The research identified four external and five internal factors that highly impacted whether an organization coped with the crisis successfully. The COVID-19 period also brought significant challenges for the recruitment of volunteers.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofit organizations, social impact, funding, volunteering, good practices,