Last summer, when COVID-19 infection rates were low and at least some outdoor events were feasible, we checked in on the state of nonprofit organizations in New Jersey, so many of which routinely rely upon events to drive their donation campaigns.

Now, as then, nonprofits are still suffering, but they are inching forward and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, according to Linda Czipo, president and CEO of the Center for Non-Profits, headquartered in the Mercerville section of Hamilton in Mercer County.

"We see this in other crises as well," Czipo said, echoing a point she made last August. "Crises like this hit nonprofits first, and any recovery that happens tends to reach them last."

The pandemic has been a "long haul" for these charities, Czipo said, much like the symptoms experienced by some who've had the virus, but the groups have continually stepped up to maintain a presence and influence in their communities.

That includes efforts to assist and lift up frontline workers, and keep counseling and child care services running.

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"Nonprofits have done a lot of pivoting and doing really creative things to find ways for people to volunteer and become involved, and stay involved, so that services and programs can be provided," Czipo said, specifically shouting out performing arts groups.

But part of the problem is that many who might otherwise be eager to volunteer for a nonprofit organization just haven't been comfortable with in-person, hands-on work. That's understandable, Czipo said, although the gradual embracing of virtual and digital technologies has been a "godsend."

"If we had had this pandemic a few decades ago, this just wouldn't have been an option, and thinking about how much worse off everybody would have been if those kinds of things were not available," Czipo said.

What nonprofits don't want, however, is for tech to be a barrier to the access and potential for interpersonal connection that has been their lifeblood for so long.

The Center for Non-Profits' annual survey report, Trends and Outlook, took a look at what organizations in New Jersey most specifically need going forward, and two-thirds said they had received COVID-19 relief from the government.

A quarter of those groups said they would not have made it through last year without that assistance, about the same percentage that responded they needed more help if they are to survive 2021.

Czipo said that the key is making sure that all nonprofits are eligible for aid, not just a portion of them.

"To the extent that those programs can continue to be made available, that's absolutely essential from the federal government and the state," she said.

And while demand for the services provided by nonprofits increased, their overall funding did anything but, and of the one-quarter or so that laid off staff in 2020, half have not yet restored those cuts.

For more information and to find out how you can get involved or donate to a charity of your choosing, go to njnonprofits.org.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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