On the Front Lines: Health and Human Services Organizations During COVID-19

December 2020

Health and Human Services (HHS) organizations are often the boots on the ground direct care providers for some of our most vulnerable populations. These organizations provide essential services that are often the difference between life and death for those on the fringes of the traditional healthcare system.

For years these organizations have been experiencing increases in demand, while simultaneously combatting extreme inconsistency in government funding. These challenges have only been exacerbated by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which put these organizations on the front lines of a global crisis and exponentially increased the need for their services.

To drill down into specific challenges impacting HHS organizations, we analyzed their responses to our annual benchmarking survey.

Here are our top findings:
 

HHS Organizations are Divided on Performance

Despite the challenges they face, our survey found that nearly half of HHS organizations say they are able to maintain more than adequate funding and/or are experiencing growth. However, the survey was fielded just prior to the emergence of COVID-19 in the U.S., so it’s possible their optimism has dwindled. It’s also important to note that the majority of respondents identified as either surviving or struggling. For these HHS organizations, the events of 2020 have likely worsened their outlook even further.

HHS organizations: 47%25 are thriving, 48%25 are surviving and 5%25 are struggling
 

Funding is Top Priority

HHS organizations are typically heavily dependent on governments and agencies for funding, but over the course of the past several years, funding cycles have been inconsistent at best, leaving many organizations struggling with prolonged financial uncertainty.

77%25 say variability in revenue is a significant challenge, 33%25 rank securing revenue as their #1 priority and 22%25 say revenues increased substantially last year
 

Organizations May be Falling into the Starvation Cycle

Many organizations prioritize spending on programs: Nearly all (95%) respondents report that 70%-99% of their expenditures are program-related. This often comes with a cost: Many organizations aren’t properly funding their internal infrastructure—functions like human resources, information technology and other critical functions.

Our survey found 44%25 of HHS organizations claim securing capital needed for infrastructure investments is a challenge.

Long-term underfunding in these areas creates unrealistic expectations around the true costs of running these organizations. This phenomenon is known as the “starvation cycle.”

Graphic of the starvation cycle
 
This phenomenon also leaves organizations vulnerable to any unexpected costs. Sixty percent of respondents in our survey have six months or less of operating reserves on hand, meaning managing COVID-related expenses like PPE or remote work software likely presented substantial issues.
 

Technology Helps Fuel Care

Despite funding issues, HHS organizations are still working to manage the myriad of challenges they face. From transitioning to a partially remote workforce to enabling telemedicine visits for rural populations, technology can assist HHS organizations in performing their vital work. With limited resources, it’s important that organizations choose to invest in the right technology resources that can help manage demand and/or lower costs.

63%25 want to improve operational efficiency and 34%25 hope to improve delivery of programs and services
 
BDO TAKE: While HHS organizations face many challenges, they remain a vital part of delivering care to those who need it most. By shoring up liquidity and making smart investments in technology, organizations will be able to continue to help serve our most vulnerable populations.
 
For information on how to help your HHS organization during this time, please visit our Crisis Response Resource Center and subscribe to our nonprofit blog. For more findings from our annual benchmarking survey, download the full report.