[caption id="attachment_209113" align="aligncenter" width="2481"] Although the COVID-19 pandemic led to a record number of unemployed Delawareans facing food insecurity, volunteers and donors stepped up last year to help meet the need, Food Bank of Delaware officials said. It was one of many Delaware nonprofits reporting a record year for donations and volunteerism. | PHOTO COURTESY OF FOOD BANK OF DELAWARE[/caption]
Delaware’s nonprofit organizations proved to be more than capable of getting the job done in 2020 due to increased public support in spite of increased demands for services, a lagging economy and volunteers worried at first about possible COVID-19 infection.“As a result of the pandemic, the number of homebound seniors using Meals on Wheels Delaware services increased by more than 40%,” said Randi Homola, the organization’s design and marketing manager. “The number of meals served to seniors in need increased by over 26% in 2020” – a total of more than 877,000 hot meals.
[caption id="attachment_209118" align="alignleft" width="200"] Nonprofits reported a big uptick in donations and volunteers during the pandemic in 2020. | PHOTO COURTESY OF FOOD BANK OF DELAWARE[/caption]
“We didn’t have any difficulties in getting volunteers after the first few days,” noted Kim Turner, communications director of the Food Bank of Delaware. “After a while, we started having more volunteers coming in as families – an opportunity to get out of the house.”The number of people experiencing “food insecurity,” or a lack of consistent access to meals often due to poverty or closure of programming, increased from 121,000 people to about 160,000, Turner said.“A lot of people donated their federal stimulus checks to the Food Bank,” she added about how help came from a wide swath of the public.Meanwhile, the Delaware Community Foundation (DCF), which manages contributions from more than 1,000 charitable funds established by individuals, families and corporations, increased its annual donations by more than 35% to $31.2 million last year.“We worked hard to reach small nonprofit organizations which were impacted more-heavily by COVID, the ones who didn’t have a financial cushion,” DCF President and CEO Stuart Comstock-Gay said. “Delawareans saw the need, and they stepped up.”According to the Blackbaud Institute, overall charitable giving in the United States increased by 2% in 2020 over 2019, with the average donation to human services organizations coming in at $610. The average online donation was $225, with nonprofits receiving about 10.9% of their total fundraising from online giving.At the same time, “the pandemic dealt a real blow to nonprofits who rely on volunteers,” according to a Fidelity Charitable survey, which reported that “two-thirds of donors said they decreased the amount of time they volunteer, or stopped entirely, due to the pandemic.”“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed at least two things: the importance of having spent decades building on-the-ground relationships with our agency partners up and down the state, giving us the ability to rapidly put help on the streets through partners we know and trust,” said Dan Cruce, chief operating officer of United Way of Delaware. Additionally, he said, UWDE’s ability to collaborate with other leading statewide nonprofits allowed the organization to “raise and distribute millions of dollars to provide both immediate relief in the form of food, shelter, and utilities.”According to Comstock-Gay, favorable federal tax incentives for donations and a rising stock market that boosted the worth of the portfolios his organization manages helped to further raise funds during the pandemic.“We raised $5 million in COVID relief in partnership with the United Way and other organizations,” he said, and it was able to tap into $3.5 million from DCF’s Forever Fund, which comes from unrestricted money from donations.Public institutions were also able to help out during the crisis.“We partnered with the Food Bank of Delaware to hold 10 food distribution events on our campuses,” said Mark Brainard, president of Delaware Technical Community College, adding that the college has also hosted COVID testing and vaccination events.According to Turner, two events that occurred before the onslaught of the pandemic were instrumental in helping the Food Bank better meet unexpected demands brought on by the pandemic. One was having recently moved into a much larger facility, one with 80,000 square feet of space and additional refrigeration capacity.“Beginning in 2018, we began receiving from the U.S. Department of Agriculture food purchased from American farmers hit by the tariff wars,” Turner said. “So, we already had a fairly decent warehouse of produce with adequate refrigeration. And the added space made it easier to spread out volunteers to work in smaller groups and add extra shifts.”And, according to Comstock-Gay, the same federal incentives remain in place, as well as a potentially favorable stock market, for a repeat nonprofit funding performance for the current year.By Roger MorrisContributing Writer