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Adapting to a Crisis in the Age of COVID-19

nonprofit Crisis response ideas covid-19

Nonprofit organizations deliver valuable services to the communities in which they work. In times of crisis, these services may become even more important, delivering a wide range of community-oriented services to those who need it most. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, nonprofits have had to make sudden and uncomfortable changes, not only in their service delivery models but also in organizational management, volunteer development, and a myriad of other factors.

Nonprofit Crisis Response Tips

Nonprofit crisis response plans are critical to protecting the organization and its volunteers. If you operate a nonprofit organization and your programs or services have been disrupted by the coronavirus and the COVID-19 infection it is responsible for, you may have questions about how to best adapt during crises. Here’s how.

Meeting a Crisis Head-On: The Crisis Management Team

Every organization relies on its management team, and in times of crisis, a specialized crisis management team is an integral part of successful nonprofits. In simple terms, your organization’s crisis management team should be composed of leaders who have experience in identifying changing needs and the authority to make the changes that allow for continued service.

At the core of the crisis management team is the need for transparency. Recording all decisions and sharing them with stakeholders ensures that the organization remains focused on the issues at hand, even as those issues become fluid and unpredictable during a crisis.

Establishing Communication Channels

Nonprofit organizations typically develop strong working relationships with community leaders, politicians, business owners, and regulatory officials. During times of crisis, these relationships are critical. A crisis demands a different way of communication; in many cases, the organization’s messaging may shift depending on the stakeholder group(s) involved. Just like in the decisions of the crisis management team, all communications must be transparent, and attention must be paid as to how and when to communicate with groups – even those groups your organization might not typically engage with.

Paid Staff and Volunteers: The Lifeblood of Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations depend on the hard work of paid staff and volunteers alike. COVID-19 has created many negative effects, including the impact on those human resources. Lower staffing levels may be related to the spread of illness within the ranks. Some organizations are curtailing certain services by reducing staffing levels as a means of protecting their people from becoming infected, or infecting clients. It is imperative that organizations protect their people, through appropriate distancing, personal protective equipment, reassigning duties to eliminate contact, and other practical and appropriate methods.

A wealth of COVID-19 resources, including webinars and news that may be of value to nonprofit organizations’ paid staff and volunteers, can be found at the Venable LLP website.

Nonprofit Financial Issues in the Wake of COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues its spread, it has forced organizations of every type and size to reevaluate their operations. Nonprofits, in particular, are often dependent on corporate, government and/or individual donations for funding. As the pandemic continues, these funding sources may become unreliable, although incentives for charitable donations or grants are emerging. For now, organizations must continually evaluate their financial positions going forward, and may need to tighten controls on nonessential spending.

There are several funding possibilities being spearheaded by federal programs. The first comes from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which has released several memoranda designed to ease certain funding access restrictions for nonprofits and to waive deadlines for funding applications. These memoranda have also addressed reducing interest rates for certain nonprofits as well as to provide a mechanism for debt forgiveness.

Organizational Crisis Response

As this pandemic crisis continues to open up a discussion regarding the financial health of a nonprofit organization, there are three crucial components to consider that can help an organization recover from future economic downturns, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, or other crises. For more information on how to prepare, visit our blog post regarding the preparation for financial disruption, When it Rains, Is Your Nonprofit Waterproof?

The CARES Act, formally known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, was passed by Congress in March. While nonprofits are not traditionally defined or viewed as small businesses, the CARES Act contains provisions to allow such organizations to apply for certain financial relief efforts, including access to the Paycheck Protection Program and small business disaster loans.

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