The following information was collected April 27 to May 5, 2020 through a Missio Nexus initiated survey in partnership with SOE. Thirty-six short-term mission agencies of varying sizes across North America contributed.
36% of the agencies have begun a process of creating a contingency plan for the impact of COVID-19 on their ministry, 50% have not. Missio Nexus has created a tool to help agencies think through potential scenarios for COVID-19 impact – Agency Planning Tool. There is sure to be long-term implication and travel restrictions that will impact the sending of teams well in to 2021.
Agencies that send to only one country may face greater difficulties depending on the COVID-19 impact on that location. Globally sending agencies may be able to adjust trips to different areas and offer alternatives to those still interested in joining teams.
The USA, Central America, and Latin America represented the largest conglomeration of countries where short-term teams have been sent. Yet the global impact of COVID-19 leaves very few locations untouched. As of early May only a handful of countries have been reported free of the coronavirus. As the disease spreads globally we will see new “hot spots” and ongoing travel restrictions and warnings.
Only a handful of agencies have made the difficult decision to cancel all trips for 2020 they were each diverse in where they send, and they all send to multiple locations. Most agencies are being cautious in their approach to cancelling trips or are only doing so on a limited scale. Global partnerships, ongoing projects and financial stability hinge on these trips taking place. Most likely within 30-45 days these numbers will change if global travel limitations remain in place.
54% of the agencies are holding donated funds for canceled trips for people to be able to travel in the future. 36% are either refunding donors or asking the donors for their preference. High levels of communication with team members and donors is critical during this time to ensure donations are processed correctly and donors fully understand the impact of their funds. Adjustments may need to be made for future trips with travel limitations being unknown. It may be necessary to consider creating a pledge system that allows for donations to be collected at a later time.
It is clear that agencies feel it is too early to be limiting trips for 2021. Agencies are either continuing to recruit or slowing their recruiting process to allow for more time to identify the lingering COVID-19 impact. Long-term scenario planning will help agencies think through possible tipping points for cancelling trips or adjusting them to new areas.
There is a pretty even distribution of how agencies are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on their operating budgets. 29% have already created a new budget, while 46% are in process or plan to begin the process soon. Clearly this is a time to be prudent in planning and conservative in spending. Consideration should be given to any new initiatives that can be delayed and a tightening of the budget will help ensure longer-term solvency if the crisis continues.
27% of agencies expect a greater than 50% “hit” to their budgets. 34% of agencies expect a 21%-50% “hit” to their budgets. 25% expect less than a 20% “hit” to their budgets.
Budget “hits” in the previous graph find their impact mostly on operations, travel and new initiatives. With travel natural being reduced by flight limitations there may be ways to divert money to other areas. If new initiatives can be delayed till the end of 2020 or 2021 agencies may have enough solvency to stay strong and limit the impact on the staff. Mid-year and year-end giving will be critical, along with agencies securing loans through the Federal stimulus package.
Most organization have the ability to financially endure the COVID-19 crisis which is extremely encouraging. Creating budgets that have margin allow for continued ministry through lean days and open the possibility of building reserves at year end. Due to the volatile nature of the economy and global issues, ensuring there are reserves should be a priority of every agencies and its governance board.
For the agencies that have long-term staff on the field that facilitate teams and foster partnerships the vast majority have decided to stay on the field and weather out the COVID-19 crisis. At this point in time no organizations have decided to indefinitely pull their staff from the field.
None of the participating agencies in this survey have had to make the difficult decision to release staff. The vast majority, 66%, are continuing to carry out their normal tasks even if that means doing so virtually. 22% are taking extra time for longer-term planning and catching up on administrative tasks.
Without face-to-face contact maintaining global partnerships is difficult and does not create ideal situations. Most agencies have increase prayer and awareness for the issues that their partners may be dealing with, which is critical. 21% have either increased funding or have sent supplies to support their global partners. Increased communication is essential in continuing to build relationships and ensuring our partners we are not distancing from them . For global partners that are more remote and less impacted by COVID-19 it is important to explain to them the direct impact that this disease has had on more populated areas and specifically on your agency.
96% of the surveyed organizations are planning and hoping for some form of normalcy in 2021. No one has taken enough of a hit that they are reorganizing or changing their mission. Only a couple of agencies are in a serious crisis management situation to remain soluble through 2020. We are sensitive to the impact that this situation has collaterally on us as mission leaders. It impacts our ministry, our partners and our every day life. We still face many unknowns for the future – will the virus go away, will it resurge in the winter months, will a vaccine be created and distributed globally? We can trust in is God’s sovereign hand guiding and overseeing this whole pandemic. We can pray for endurance and God’s protection over all of these mission agencies and the gospel ministries that they represent. We can also lean in to the body for strength, wisdom and encouragement. Missio Nexus offers many way of engaging for more information on how you can join this association of Great Commission ministries check out the reasons to join today.