This past year has brought forth significant pressures for all of us, especially those providing housing and services for older adults. We sit here in the fall of 2020 with some painful memories, but also a wealth of lessons learned. Ziegler regularly interfaces with senior living chief financial officers (CFOs) and other financial professionals and we have spent significant time assessing the financial impacts of COVID-19. We know that while the impact varies greatly across providers, in general, expenses are up, while revenue is down. What does this mean for financial planning for provider organizations?

Let's look at some insights from nonprofit providers we found in our annual Ziegler CFO Hotline poll, which is devoted to tracking monthly fee increases. We use this survey to assist organizations with budgeting for increases in the year ahead. While this year's survey mimicked previous years' surveys in a number of ways, we chose to dig deeper into the psyche of nonprofit CFOs related to their outlook and approach to budgeting in 2021.

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While recognizing providers are balancing educated projections with historical trends, we asked CFOs if they are financially planning for another year of COVID-19 impact as was seen in 2020. As detailed in the chart to the right, slightly more than half indicated that they feel COVID-19 will continue to have negative financial impact in 2021, but only for a partial year. We interpret that as cautious optimism. One in 10 CFOs are optimistic and indicated that 2021 is anticipated to be better than 2020. The remaining 37% are being highly conservative in their budgeting, reflecting a difficult year as was seen in 2020. 

What about monthly fee increases? Candidly, we anticipated projected monthly fee increases for 2021 to be above previous years, simply given the financial pressures resulting from COVID-19. Surprisingly, this was not the case. In fact, the projected increase of 3.05% is the lowest average reported increase since 2015. We believe this is a function of several things.

First, communities are highly aware of the sensitivities with the resident population and a significant increase during a time when a number of amenities and services (e.g. communal dining, activities) have been limited. Significantly higher fee increases would likely result in notable pushback. Second, as a reminder, as a nonprofit senior living and care sector, we entered the pandemic financially and operationally strong. There are clearly exceptions to this, but this stability heading into March has assisted with weathering the storm.

We are optimistic that better days are ahead and the survey results tell us we are not alone in that thinking. At Ziegler, our team will continue to be diligent in monitoring financial and operational metrics on a regular basis so we can assist communities in making sound decisions for the months and year ahead.

To access the full Ziegler CFO Hotline report, please click here. Thank you for all you are doing every day and if we can be of additional support with any of your planning or capital needs, please reach out to any one of our Ziegler team members.

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For more than 115 years, Ziegler, a privately held investment bank, capital markets, and proprietary investments firm has specialized in serving the health care, senior living, and education industries. Throughout that time, they have held a steadfast commitment to creating a positive impact on the communities they serve. Based in Chicago, with additional offices throughout the country, Ziegler provides capital, investments, and advice to its clients.