Nonprofits and Coronavirus, COVID-19: 7 Things You Should Do Now
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Nonprofits and Coronavirus: Uncharted Territory
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has created a challenging situation, to say the least, for everyone us, with varying impacts around the globe and across the United States. The situation is evolving daily, if not hourly, and many organizations are struggling to meet needs or even find a new (hopefully temporary) normal in the midst of much chaos and uncertainty.
Nonprofits are no exception. What nonprofits should be doing really depends on the nonprofit. There is no doubt you will encounter new challenges in the weeks and months ahead. Nonprofits that rely on in-person fundraising events, group training, or networking conferences will face a significant challenge. Those that provide goods and services to at-risk populations may also face a unique set of challenges in being able to continue service.
Helpful Nonprofits and Coronavirus Resources
Nonprofits and Coronavirus: 7 Things
For nonprofits and coronavirus, it is critical to keep lines of communications open with your governing board, your employees, donors, volunteers, and the people you currently serve. Share as much information as possible from credible sources and make sure to avoid speculation. If you are required to change your hours of availability, cancel events, or even temporarily shut down, it is important to be transparent about the decision-making process.
Review any continuity or disaster recovery plans that are currently in place. If you don’t have these plans, or you’re not sure where to start, there are outlines available for free.
Your continuity plan should include an ability to transition to virtual meetings and events. There is often a cost involved with setting up this infrastructure but Higher Logic is making its technology available for free for the remainder of 2020.
Also, make sure that you have an online community established to communicate and connect people with the latest updates. This might include a social media group, email blasts, and even live or recorded video updates. Open, credible communication is the key here, for your staff, donors, community partners, volunteers, and the people you serve.
2. Remote Work Plan
If you don’t have a plan for working remotely, it’s time to get busy and create one. While it isn’t possible for all nonprofits to work remotely, necessity may drive innovation in this circumstance as we struggle with coronavirus challenges.
Where it is possible, making this option available can help your employees by providing them the ability to work and not use vacation or sick leave (or worse) to make ends meet during the outage. In fact, a quarantine could make working remotely the only option, so it’s very important to be prepared for this eventuality even if you do not have a regular work-from-home policy.
Many enterprise providers are making their tools and technology available for free during the Coronavirus COVID-19 crisis. Here are some additional ideas:
There are a number of free offers going around — some for nonprofits, and many for anyone. As you select any new tool(s) to use, be careful not to build a dependency on the technology, or new processes, unless you are prepared to continue use after the free period ends. While most of these tools are nominally-priced, it makes sense to investigate what that cost is before jumping in.
A comprehensive list of Fintech firms offering their products and services for free during the crisis can be found here at Forbes.
3. Ask For A Seat At The Table
If your nonprofit doesn’t already participate in public decision-making, now may be the right time. If it makes sense to your nonprofit’s cause, ask for a seat at the table as your local government is assembling task forces to deal with community impact. Be insistent that your nonprofit participates in the decision-making process so the needs of the people you serve are met.
The National Council of Nonprofits, along with other national partners, sent a letter to Congress on March 11 advocating nonprofit input be included in any economic relief provided by the government.
4. Use Your Voice To Promote and Defend
Be a voice for civility and healing in your community. Make sure you speak out against wrongs you see in the community where opportunists are using the crisis to take advantage of others. But, also use your voice to promote the good news of people helping those in need, donors stepping up, and selfless volunteers who put themselves in harms way for others.
5. Financial Stewardship
Now is the time to take care of your nonprofit’s finances. While you may have a sustainability financial plan and budget in place, many nonprofits have shifted the conversation to survivability.
During the unprecedented time, there are many experts offering sound advice on issues around finances, staffing, what this all means for your team and those you serve, and how to come through this intact and maybe even stronger.
6. Take Care of Yourselves
Taking care of yourselves may be the most difficult thing you face because your mission is all about serving and caring for others. While this contagion creates physical havoc on many who contact it, it is easy to overlook the mental health challenge at hand — a side-effect of crisis, social distancing, and an upending of everything we thought to be a normal way of life.
Every social aspect of life — vacation escapes, dinner parties, family reunions, even catching up at the office — has been eliminated in a very short amount of time. This makes it incredibly important to practice self-care while we fight this battle. Whether it’s managing stress and anxiety, or just coming to terms quickly with change, we all face our own individual challenges.
One way to create a sense of normalcy is to encourage video conferencing amongst your team rather than conference calls. Seeing expressions and smiling faces is useful in staying connected. Here are a few other things you can encourage your team to do while we work through this challenge:
Exercise: There is a universe of free workouts on YouTube and many instructors are now live-streaming classes from home. If you can do so safely go for a walk or run outside. Breathing fresh air can do wonders.
Prayer & Meditation: It is so important to take time for yourself — quiet time to reflect, give thanks, be grateful, and energize. With households now being a little more crowded for long periods of time, find a specific time during the early morning or late evening to escape long enough to do this for yourself. Encourage everyone in your family to do the same.
Limit Online Time: Not much explanation needed here, but my guess is that you are spending even more time online now. Studies show the detrimental effects of this, especially during times when there is so much conjecture, rumor, and unfounded speculation going around. Limit your time online to connect with friends and family and to get information once or twice per day from a trusted news source.
Cooking and Baking: Physiological studies suggest that people who take a turn at small, creative projects — especially cooking and baking — report feeling more relaxed and happier in their everyday lives and at times of significant stress or turmoil. The act of creating in the kitchen, portioning, measuring, timing, etc, gives the brain a sense of being in control, which is something much needed in times of uncertainty.
There are many other suggestions for coping including taking on a new hobby, reading, housecleaning, decluttering, and spending more time with your pet. The bottom line is activity. Find a way to add value to yourself or someone else. Stay active and do not allow your mind to spin with all of the what-ifs, and whatever you do, stay away from political news and media trolls who will tell you exactly how to feel and what to think.
7. Be Tactful
You would never want your nonprofit to be seen as trying to capitalize on a crisis (remember that perception is reality). Your messaging should acknowledge the difficult time and uncertainty everyone is going through. It should also address your nonprofit’s and clients’ needs directly.
Showing how fundraising dollars will be used and why they are more important now than ever before is a crucial step. Organizations that support the homeless, victims’ services, specialized needs, and health care may have real needs to fund raise right now, so your appeals should be specific to that need. If your nonprofit doesn’t directly support vulnerable populations, make sure your communication is relevant. If your nonprofit can help in any way, it should be reflected in your messaging, but appealing for donations may not be viewed appropriate at this time.
This Will End
Yes, as much as we seem mired in the moment, this crisis will end. We all want to say goodbye to coronavirus and all the new terminology we’ve learned, like social distancing, self-quarantine, and flattening the curve. We will get back to doing the things we do, and your nonprofit will continue to serve the people who rely on you. In every crisis there is an opportunity. While there is never a time you should be seen as taking advantage of a crisis, it is important to find the opportunity to grow, and not shrink, in the midst of change. We do this by putting one foot in front of the other, being grateful for the resources we have, and continuing to use those resources to help those we can help.
Coronavirus, COVID-19, may change the way your nonprofit does business in the future. It may certainly better shape your preparedness for uncertainty, and it will definitely make you appreciate a world capable of overcoming adversity. We will all get through it, together.
Below are some additional resources to help you stay on top of nonprofit developments during the Coronavirus COVID-19 crisis: