How can nonprofits prepare and respond to the coronavirus COVID-19 to maintain the safety and health of their employees while also responding to the needs of the at-risk, marginalized, low-income and otherwise disadvantaged communities?
Larger nonprofits might have more resources to be responsive, though they’ll still face some major challenges. You can bet the leaders of those organizations are working over the weekend and in the evenings to come up with a plan.
But for some of the smaller nonprofits – which in Austin, constitute most of them – their ability to respond might be hampered. Think about the services provided by nonprofits on the front lines of this crisis:
Central Texas Food Bank and food pantries helping low-income families access food and supplies
Child care providers like Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area
…and many more.
Now let’s consider those organizations and how they might be able to activate some of the recommendations for preparing and responding:
- Stockpile supplies. Hello, we’re a nonprofit. Have we met? Most nonprofits don’t have a savings account or reserve of cash for times of crisis. That’s not their fault, that’s just what most donors demand of them. Donors and funders want their money used for specific purposes, on the people who need those service — immediately. It’s the rare donor/foundation/business that says, “Put this donation in savings for a rainy day.” How many Austin nonprofits have a fund separate from their organization that they can pull from when times get tough? Very few.
- Cancel everything. So, close food pantries? Close community clinics? Close homeless shelters and soup kitchens? Close after-school programs and facilities? Stop meal deliveries to the isolated and elderly? You can’t shut down basic needs for people who don’t have the means or mechanisms for supplying their own.
- Work from home. Social workers cannot work from home. They’re hands-on, working right alongside the people they serve, in their homes, schools, agencies, etc. And as for other types of employees, most nonprofits don’t have the technical capabilities to allow employees to access shared drives or even email remotely.
- Stay home when you’re sick. It must be noted that the 2018 City of Austin ordinance that would have required most nonprofits to provide paid sick leave is still in limbo in the courts, as a number of pro-business groups have sued to stop it. During this coronavirus crisis, the U.S. Small Business administration recommends businesses actively encourage their employees to take sick leave, but nonprofits might not provide enough sick leave for their employees and might not be able to do their work shorthanded.
- No large gatherings. Conferences, panel discussions, classes, meetings. If they’ve been cancelled, nonprofits might not get refunds for tickets. Plus, this is gala season, after all. Many fundraising events rely on day-of fundraising to meet their goals. And fundraising events tend to deliver the operational funding nonprofits need.
- Step-up cleaning efforts. See “stockpile supplies” above. We know there are many nonprofits who just get by on the minimum cleaning efforts as it is. Stepping up cleaning at their office cost more money. Also, you can imagine that stepping up cleaning at the places where they provide services also costs them more money.
It’s true that these efforts costs all businesses more money, but we contend that nonprofits are in a unique situation. With the current coronavirus COVID-19 crisis, the demands on nonprofit services will increase but the resources they have to meet those demands may not. But you can help.
Please consider donating to those nonprofits that provide services in these categories. Yes, it’s true that Central Texans just contributed a record-breaking $12 million to +750 nonprofits in our community. But your donation can be a powerful way to flatten the curve and slow the spread of this virus, especially in those communities that are most vulnerable.
The Amplify Austin site makes it easy for you to give. You can find any of the above-mentioned nonprofits on that site, or search in these categories to find others.
This crisis is an opportunity to bolster our systems so that they are strong enough to protect the least among us. “The only way any of us is truly protected is if the least among us is protected.” While you’re hunkered down safely, supporting those on the front lines can help protect everyone else.