What Can Nonprofits Learn From Dealing With A Public Health Crisis?

New services, new messaging, new virtual workspaces – brands in every industry have been forced to shift. But while we all race to adapt to the new normal brought on by COVID-19, nonprofits in particular are taking a devastating hit.

Not only are donations dropping due to concerns of market downturn, but resource scarcity (such as groceries for food pantries) and operations disruptions due to virtual offices are making it harder than ever for nonprofits to function.

But big challenges fuel big thinking. We’re seeing nonprofits across the country embrace creative tactics to continue to help their communities. Their success stories can teach us a lot – not just about how nonprofits can react during the COVID-19 pandemic, but how they can adjust their response plans to be better prepared for any future crisis.

Think Digital

We all may be practicing physical self-isolation, but our world is as connected as ever thanks to the digital tools we have at our fingertips. Whether it’s providing tips and resources via Instagram, coaching through video webinars, or providing support through virtual one-on-one conferencing, nonprofits have options for continuing to impact the communities they serve.

And the benefits of these digital tools go both ways. Take Upaya for example – the organization’s annual Gala is always their biggest fundraiser of the year, generating around one quarter of the operating budget. Like many nonprofits, Upaya was forced to consider canceling the event as COVID-19 concerns grew, missing out on much-needed donations.

But while Upaya did cancel the physical event, they held a “Virtual Gala” instead and actually surpassed their original fundraising goal.

The lesson? A strong digital presence has always been important for nonprofits, but now, a creative digital strategy is a necessity. Your current and future crisis plan must consider how to communicate with your stakeholders when you can’t be in person. For more tips, check out our post on delivering virtual meetings and events with impact here.

Partner Up

When chaos strikes, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our own challenges and struggles. However, nonprofits throughout the nation are discovering just how powerful working together can be.

For example, realizing donations were flowing in more slowly and resources were running short, The Rhode Island Foundation and the United Way of Rhode Island teamed up to provide financial help to other nonprofit organizations that are responding to the coronavirus outbreak. And in Delaware, four of the state’s largest nonprofits have banded together and pooled their resources to help their communities during the coronavirus outbreak.

Consider the Global Scale

Because of the reach of their work, nonprofits like The Red Cross or United Way probably had “global event” baked somewhere into their crisis strategies. But for nonprofits who don’t work on a worldwide scale, a crisis of this magnitude likely wasn’t on the radar. Many never considered what it would be like to have all of their employees/volunteers at home at the same time, or what a mass shortage of resources might mean.

Our hyper-connected world means we’re seeing more issues have a global impact. In the future, even smaller, local nonprofits will have to plan and prep for more widespread crises.

In our times of need, nonprofits are the first to leap into action. Now, it’s our turn to help them. Please consider supporting some of the vital organizations making an impact during this unprecedented time, such as:

For questions, guidance or support with your efforts, Padilla’s COVID-19 Response Team is here to help.

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