By David Wade

BOSTON (CBS) – The coronavirus is hitting Massachusetts nonprofits right in the pocketbook. The state is home to thousands of those organizations working on education, health care and helping the most vulnerable among us. But the virus is forcing cancellations of fundraisers that provide the money the groups need to do their important work.

“This situation is unprecedented,” said Paul Medeiros, the president and CEO of Easter Seals Massachusetts. He’s concerned about the organization’s bottom line. That’s because they’ve had to cancel the Evening of Empowerment, Easter Seals’ biggest fundraiser. “That event can bring in as much as $250,000 to the organization, which is over a quarter of our fundraising in a year,” he explained.

The organization felt it just couldn’t risk a gathering of several thousand. But the loss could hurt the people they’re trying to help. “I do worry for the impact to our clients who really rely on services from our organization and others,” Medeiros said.

“In the past couple of days, the number of cancellations have skyrocketed,” said Jim Klocke, the head of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN). Some of the desks in their Boston office are empty because staffers are working from home due to the coronavirus. The MNN represents about 7000 nonprofit, some of which are worried about being able to maintain their helping missions.

“Most nonprofits operate on thin margins. So you try to make every dollar count. When something like this comes along, you worry that you can’t do everything you need to for everybody,” Klocke said. The nonprofit sector also employs hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts. “One of the biggest economic sectors in the state. If there were a slowdown, it would present challenges for people who work for nonprofits,” said Klocke.

Now, groups like Easter Seals have to try and make up for losses due to fundraiser cancellations. And they’re not alone. This is fundraising season. If the virus continues to spread, the effect on nonprofits will only grow. It’s not just fundraisers that are being canceled — face-to-face meetings are also on the chopping block.

David Wade

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