Nonprofits and Coronavirus, COVID-19

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The novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, is creating an evolving situation with varied impacts around the world and across the states. We are updating this page regularly with the latest information and resources that nonprofits can use to prepare and respond.

First and foremost, we all need to keep open lines of communications with our boards, employees, volunteers, donors, and the people we serve. As part of that, we should continue to share information and resources from credible sources, such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And we need to be transparent about our decision-making, especially for those nonprofits that now remain open to provide vital services in their communities, but may need to scale back due to lack of available resources or staffing.

Caring for our communities and ourselves

As we all practice physical distancing to benefit physical health, we need to be aware of its effects on mental health. (BTW, we prefer the term “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing,” because people can still maintain our social connections in many positive ways.) The social aspects of our lives, from the escapes of concerts and movies to the simple opportunities to chat around the water cooler, have been upended. So, it’s important to practice self-care as individuals and as small groups during this time. Encourage your organization to hold virtual staff meetings by video conference, rather than just by phone. Getting to see other faces is just a small gesture, but it’s beneficial.

The CDC has resources for managing anxiety and stress. For a little more fun, check out this list from Quartz of 15 ways to practice self-care in the time of coronavirus. And for anyone with children, the National Association of School Psychologists shares a resource on talking to kids about COVID-19.

Resources for funding

An eye on nonprofit operations and bottom lines.

Conversations about nonprofit sustainability have turned into conversations about their survivability. The following resources look at some details

Keeping equity front and center

Data on how the pandemic and economic crisis are affecting nonprofits – nationwide and state-specific

No sector-wide national surveys exist that provide data from the field about how the linked crises are affecting nonprofits. There are, however, many state reports of the impacts on nonprofits. And there are some nationwide and regional surveys and reports that provide some insights.  We have gathered data and reports on the pandemic's effects on nonprofits and will update the page when we discover new data of interest. ​

The road to reopening

When will it be the right time to return to your pre-pandemic workplace?

The answer will be different for every organization based on multiple factors. The first factor, of course, depends on your mission. If your mission has been “essential” and you’ve remained on-site, what changes will you need to make to accommodate (potentially increased) clientele and any returning paid or volunteer staff? And for those who have continued to work on-site, what additional support do your staff need in terms of time off, longer breaks, or mental health services? For those reopening our doors, we’ll need to consider factors such as the size and layout of the workspace – for individual employees, clients, and visitors – in common spaces and at workstations. Other factors depend on your geographic location, the spread of COVID-19 in your region, and any public health orders by government authorities. And throughout, we all need to consider not the quickest or easiest ways to do something, but rather seek the highest common denominator of what’s needed by our staff members and the people we serve who may be at higher risk of contracting the virus or developing severe complications. A good working mantra could be, “Safety of others is our highest priority.”

Fortunately, you don’t have to invent a totally new wheel. Here’s an initial list of resources you can explore.  NOTE: What follows is not meant to be regarded as comprehensive guidance. We urge every nonprofit to consult the latest recommendations from the CDC, as well as your state and local officials, plus guidance from trusted sources within your subsector (such as for pre-schools, dental clinics, or the like) when making reopening decisions.

How will nonprofit workplaces and work practices need to change?

Even as external indicators show an eagerness by some to reopen everything, we all need to do what is right, not what may be popular in the moment. Simple logic and logistics may dictate the need to take more time. First and foremost, flexibility will need to be at the center of these decisions and processes.

  • For both safety and peace of mind of those on-site, each organization should have adequate quantities of hand sanitizer, cleaning/disinfecting supplies, and personal protective equipment for your staff. With so much demand for these products right now, it may be difficult to acquire what you need early on.
  • Keep in mind that everyone will have different realities outside of the office. Access to child care will not be back to normal right away, so some staff may continue to require flexible work schedules.
  • Similarly, access to transportation to and from work sites may be challenging for some employees, as physical distancing rules may restrict carpooling arrangements that existed pre-COVID-19. Also, public transportation may not be back to normal for quite some time. And, even if public transportation is running, some staff will avoid it for a while for their own safety. If employees previously relied on public transportation for their commutes, will some need to drive to and from the office? Is there adequate parking for them?
  • Workspaces where people previously worked in close quarters will need to be reconfigured and/or staff coverage staggered to continue to allow for adequate physical spacing. You may also want to institute a schedule for lunch breaks to avoid too much overlap in a small kitchen or break room space.
  • Just as you child-proof a home, virus-proof your workplace. What high transit doors can you prop open? In which high-touch, high-volume places can you place disinfectants (such as near the copy machine, the refrigerator, and the microwave)?

And those are just a few of the questions that will need to be answered. Below are some additional resources to facilitate consideration and preparation:

State-by-state resources

Click the map below for links to state-specific resources for nonprofits that we have identified. We are updating the map as we become aware of additional resources.

Advocacy for nonprofit missions

In times like these, policymakers are making fast decisions that could help or hurt the work of your nonprofit for a decade or more. Advocacy is not an option for nonprofits, it’s a requirement right now.  Without collective nonprofit advocacy, nonprofits would have been left out of the major federal relief legislation. And it will be key at the state and local levels as those governments set up programs and slash others as state and local budgets take a hit in the months ahead. Nonprofits need to have a seat at the table as local, state, and federal governments set policies for relief and later turn to recovery.



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