Charity check-in: navigating COVID


The Winnipeg Foundation’s Bellwether survey initiative

The Winnipeg Foundation strives to support community in every way possible. Part of that responsiveness is understanding what charities are facing. In spring 2020, The Winnipeg Foundation conducted an eight-week COVID-19 sector survey. The Foundation invited 18 bellwether organizations, representing its five Cause areas, to provide information on their service and delivery situation amidst the pandemic.

Seventeen organizations participated in the initial survey and were invited to take part in a follow up survey conducted in September 2021, and again at the beginning of 2022, with a response rate of 80 per cent (14 charities). Results from the findings help inform The Foundation’s grant-making.



Every organization surveyed was affected operationally by the omicron surge in January 2022. The majority cancelled, paused, or changed in person delivery to minimize transmission risk. Other challenges identified included sick staff, additional costs for extra personal protective equipment (PPE), and difficulties fundraising.


The majority of organizations identified staffing as the biggest challenge in business continuity. The physical health/illness and mental health/fatigue of staff, along with family responsibilities, were identified as factors challenging operations. Filling vacant positions/staff turnover, orienting new staff, and having stable, long-term funding for staff positions also were identified as challenges.


Planning is key to anticipating future needs, which the pandemic has made incredibly difficult. When asked, one-third of the organizations indicated they were planning one year or less in advance; four were planning for more than one year; and the remaining organizations indicated that their plans continued to evolve while keeping long-term goals in mind.

In March 2022, The Foundation checked in again with the bellwether organizations. After two years of changing health mandates, new COVID variants, and constant uncertainty, we wanted to understand what the cumulative toll has been.


Exhausted. Burnt out. Uncertain. Those are the words of the leaders in the non-profit sector when asked about the impact of the pandemic and current state of the sector. After more than two years of the chaos of the pandemic and the sector stepping up to serve the most vulnerable, serving more with less, and a high human cost of those served and those who serve.


Influence. Invest. Support.

  • Influence policy makers to make systemic change – now is the time.
  • Invest in the charitable sector by donating or volunteering – it is the best way to support the most vulnerable in our community.
  • Support the charitable sector – and one another.

This story is featured in the Spring 2022 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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