Many local nonprofits say they have seen monetary donations increasing and more volunteers returning to help in person in recent months, but they are still experiencing hardships tied to the pandemic.

Christian Community Action, a Christian-based charitable organization in Lewisville that provides meals, financial assistance, counseling and other programs, has seen requests for services increase nearly 400% since March 2020, Development Director Tiffani Davis said.

“Things [in the world] are beginning to get to a new normal,” Davis said. “But for us, we haven’t seen that. The requests are just incredible.”

The agency had a record year, serving more than 11,000 people in fiscal year 2020-21, which ended June 30. That total surpassed a goal the agency set by nearly 3,000 people, one report showed.Other nonprofits said they had their own challenges. Denton County Friends of the Family had the added expense of sending those in need of shelter to hotels so they could quarantine. The Lewisville Salvation Army had to cancel programs because of a volunteer shortage. And PediPlace ended up restricting volunteer access in its health clinics due to COVID-19 concerns.

“[The pandemic] was a stressful time and remained a stressful time because changes took place all the time,” PediPlace President and CEO Larry Robins said. “It’s not done. There’s a lot of hope. There’s a lot of optimism. There’s a lot of tools at our disposal we didn’t have a year ago. But the pandemic is far from over.”

A drop in volunteers

A 2020 survey done by United Ways of Texas and the OneStar Foundation, in partnership with the Center for Nonprofits & Philanthropy at Texas A&M University, found that nearly 60% of nonprofits experienced severe decreases in volunteers due to COVID-19.

Salvation Army Lewisville, for example, has had to reorganize due to a lack of volunteers, while at the same time the number of people it supports more than doubled, said Capt. Charlsie Godwin, who heads up the Lewisville location with her husband, Capt. Ben Godwin.

The Salvation Army has 22 locations in North Texas that provide food, housing and ministry services to people in need.

“We’ve really struggled to find new ways to do things because volunteers haven’t come back,” Charlsie Godwin said. “Some of our volunteer groups that were running programs are so small now they can no longer do so.”

Christian Community Action logged about 5,000 volunteers last year, 1,000 less than what it usually sees, according to Davis.

But more recently, volunteer numbers and hours have been increasing, something Davis said the organization is optimistic about.

Other organizations lost volunteers due to physical locations being restricted. Denton County Friends of the Family, a shelter and advocacy center for people who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault, found it more difficult for advocates to support victims, said Lori Nelson, director of community engagement.

The organization has a 24-hour helpline that pairs volunteer advocates with sexual assault victims during their forensic medical exams. But pandemic protocols prevented advocates from entering the hospitals until April, Nelson said. The program switched to offer pairings over Zoom using tablets.

“Most of the victims in the hospital declined talking to an advocate on the iPad,” Nelson said. “You know, it’s different than a face-to-face response.”

Many advocates who had nothing to do ended up leaving the program, Nelson said. Denton County Friends of the Family is now trying to build that program back up, she said.

PediPlace, which provides primary health care for underserved children, has also lost volunteers due to health precautions. The clinic, located in Lewisville, helps children across North Texas and into Oklahoma.

Robins said staff wanted to be proactive in keeping a safe clinic environment, which meant turning away a significant number of volunteer nurses and nurse practitioners.

“Our decrease in volunteers and community persons actually in the clinic in 2020 until June of this year was very much self-imposed,” Robins said.

A rise in donations

While volunteer numbers dropped, many local nonprofits have seen a spike in monetary donations. Officials have said this became a way for people to still help while keeping safe and socially distant.

North Texas Giving Day, an online, nonprofit fundraising event held annually in September, raised $66 million this year, the highest amount of donations in the event’s 13-year history, according to the NTX Giving Day website. The fundraiser helped 3,366 nonprofits throughout the region, including 51 in Lewisville, Flower Mound and Highland Village.

“Nonprofits are sharing their stories, their successes and their challenges—especially during the pandemic,” said Chris McSwain, the event’s director of community engagement. “In times of crisis, we’re always thinking, ‘What can I do? What’s my place?’ And having this connection to nonprofits is a great place to start.”

Apart from the regional online fundraiser, some local nonprofits saw an increase in direct donations as well.

PediPlace received more than $1.09 million in donations in 2020, up from an annual average of $907,132 in previous years, Robins said.

While donations have increased, allowing PediPlace to continue to provide children with needed items such as clothes and food, expenses for the last two years have also increased, Robins said. PediPlace purchased a significant amount of personal protection items, such as gloves, masks and sanitizing equipment, he said.

Christian Community Action also saw an increase in the early months of the pandemic, with more than $3 million in donations in fiscal year 2019-20. Donations declined in fiscal year 2020-21 to about $2.26 million, the agency reported.

“Everybody gave so much last year that [there is some] donor fatigue,” Davis said. “We had to increase our budget by $1 million just to keep up with the need, but the donations are not matching the needs.”

The pandemic also disrupted fundraising events, including those for Flower Mound-based Cloud 9 Charities, which helps get children and families off the streets.

Its annual beer and music festival called Brew Fest was canceled last year due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns, owner Kim Cloud said.

“In 2021 we were able to put on just a small event with two bands and one beer stand, rather than an entire tasting event,” Cloud said. “It worked out well, but boy, did we barely make it into that fiscal year. It was a very small event compared to our normal events.”

Denton County Friends of the Family saw an increase in items rather than money donated. Proceeds from its thrift store, Upscale Resale, help fund the nonprofit’s operations. Nelson said she thinks the uptick in donations is because more people have been home cleaning out their closets.

“That has really been a saving grace for us,” Nelson said.

Holiday season needs

During the holiday season, several nonprofits are holding gift drives and other fundraisers. Christian Community Action is collecting toys and gifts for all ages, and PediPlace is collecting winter coats for children age 2 and up.

The Salvation Army is doing its annual Bell Ringing campaign, its largest fundraiser of the year. Charlsie Godwin said they are in desperate need of volunteers.

“Everything that goes into those red kettles stays locally for us to continue programs and services throughout the year,” she said.

People can also volunteer as bell ringers if they are not able to contribute financially, she said.

Several nonprofits said they have found this holiday season to be particularly busy.

“The December holidays are a very difficult time for our families,” Robins said, adding that his nonprofit and others like it help families give gifts in a dignified way.

William C. Wadsack contributed to this report.