Nonprofits and Coronavirus — Effecting us all

Being a board member of the Southern California Mountains Foundation (SCMF,) a nonprofit located in San Bernardino that supports youth development through conservation initiatives integrating environmental education and stewardship of our natural environment, allows me to see the challenges the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19 is presenting to nonprofits. The virus is creating an evolving situation with varied impacts around the world and across the states. Because of this, I wanted to share our methods to prepare and respond to this deadly virus.

Bottom line — What does this mean for nonprofits?

It’s not shocking that many nonprofits will face new challenges in the weeks and months ahead. Let’s face it, the world that we lived in 12-months ago may never exist again. Many nonprofits that hold large conferences, conduct in-person fundraising events, or provide classroom training sessions may need to assess their options. Those that provide services to at-risk populations that unfortunately are at the highest risk of acquiring the virus may be facing unique challenges in serving their communities.

Ok enough doom and gloom — what do we do?

This is not the time to put our heads in the sand and hope it all goes away. First and foremost, we need to communicate with our board members, employees, volunteers, donors, and the people we serve. Everyone we know is getting updates from daily news conferences, reading the oh-so reliable Facebook posts, and listening to various government officials. This is why it is crucial that we continue to share information and resources from credible sources, such as the (WHO) World Health Organization and the (CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Transparency is key, whether it is about remaining open for business, adjusting hours or services, or making the tough decision to furlough staff and employees — be honest and open.

It’s time to go virtual

Across the US and the world, educators, businesses and our nonprofit communities are making daily shifts in operations in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19. To slow the spread and keep us safe, public health experts recommend that people avoid being in groups of 6 or more.

While nothing is quite like face-to-face events, rather than canceling, many organizations are opting to transition to a virtual environment or to host engagement virtually. For some, this transition will be fairly seamless, but for other organizations unused to working or collaborating remotely, this will require some significant adjustments in the work style, culture and use of technology.

The SCMF approached this change in two ways:

(1) Utilizing Zoom for the daily administrative functions. Staff is staying home, however, they are being particularly mindful of continuing to create connections and building the team culture. Now more than ever you’ll want to build connections and reduce social isolation. When you’re in a brick and mortar office, lots of culture and connections happen in informal settings: a quick chat before a meeting starts, a conversation about your weekend in the kitchen area or a passing hello in the hallway. When you shift to a virtual environment, your team loses some opportunities for those informal interactions–but you can still have them.

(2) Selecting 51by1 who partners with Ambertag, a third-party technology training company focused on working with nonprofits and veterans groups. There are hundreds of online training programs, however, it is important to find one that can work with your staff and culture. The combination of 51by1 and Ambertag brings expertise in developing curriculum and training schedules that work well with the Urban Conservation Corps. In addition, they train on technology such as data science, digital marketing, and administration, all of which are transferable to the real world, allowing for job options once the virus is gone.

Start a fundraiser for your nonprofit

During these crazy epidemic times, it is even more important for nonprofits to provide support to their communities. The SCMF is able to maintain the basic needs of facilities, trails, and program sites while supporting communities needing help with delivering food through limited government funding and donations from the community. A steady stream of donations is the key to keeping nonprofits functioning. One way the SCMF is tackling this challenge is by setting up a GoFundMe page.

Be Compassionate!!!

Finally, the most important component while dealing with Coronavirus is that we must remain calm and, above all, be compassionate. We demonstrate compassion and integrity when we don’t blame victims or perpetuate fear of people based on ethnicity. If unfortunately a staff member or volunteer of your nonprofit contracts this virus, Do Not label them with a “Scarlet Letter” or use them as an example of “what not to do”, understand that epidemics have far-reaching effects on societies and their economies, and it is likely that every country, city, and nonprofit organization will be touched in some way by the effects of coronavirus.

Be safe! And please give your thoughts….