Advice for Funders:
1. Don’t think about cutting back; instead, think about giving more.
Giving declined 15% following the 2008 downturn. Even after the current COVID-19 crisis dissipates, its effects will be longer-lasting and exacerbate current societal inequalities. As of March 19, 40 U.S. foundation signed a “Pledge of Action” for institutional philanthropy to change its priorities and practices in order to help more with the current crisis. Even if you are not interested in joining the pledge, read it for ideas about how you might adjust your individual practices.
2. Check in with your grantees.
Touch base with nonprofits you support and see how they are doing. What do they need? How can you help?
3. Favor general support.
Consider more unrestricted support and less program support, so that nonprofits have more flexibility to respond. If events have been cancelled, give what you would have given anyway and designate the support to where it is most needed.
4. Prioritize those most vulnerable.
Ask your trusted nonprofit grantees how they will be adjusting programs and services to help those who will need it most to weather the current crisis: the homeless; the hungry; refugees and asylum seekers; the very poor; socially isolated people; prisoners; the frail and elderly.
5. Don’t lose sight of your unique interests.
Even while increasing consideration of assistance to meet urgent community needs, think about how you might both respond to the COVID-19 crisis and keep supporting particular interests, such as funding for the environment or refugees. For example, for those funders interested in combatting fake news, there are several interesting initiatives to counter the spread of misinformation about COVID-19.
Advice for Nonprofits:
1. Re-think and re-purpose.
Within your mission, take a moment to think about how you might adjust your programs and priorities to respond to the current crisis. Can you re-deploy event staff to manage a robust series of on-line events? Can you re-purpose a program to help with community-based needs for food for vulnerable seniors or on-line education programs for out-of-school kids? Also, don’t be afraid to use extra time from events and programs that are postponed to work on sustainability efforts for your nonprofit (such as researching new funders and planning fresh communications efforts).
2. Check in with your donors.
Touch base with your donors in a sensitive way to let them know you are ok and still keeping up the important work and mission of the organization. Ask about how they are doing and offer a phone or video update.
3. Ask for help.
As you touch base, ask for help if you need it. Encourage continued giving. If events are cancelled, ask for the same donations anyway. Ask for donations to a special Reserve Fund or Emergency Fund if you have special needs, such as evacuating staff or fellows.
4. Look out for special initiatives and information to help nonprofits get through this difficult time.
For example, Tech Soup has recently posted information on Nonprofit Resources for Remote Work During the COVID-19 Outbreak. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has gathered Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak: Resources for Nonprofits, an article that gathers information on response funds, how to manage through the crisis, what to do about fundraising (including events), how to access remote work technology, and even self-care for employees.
5. Re-do your Strategic Development Plan.
With so much uncertainty, it’s time to dust off your Strategic Development plan and begin to think about how to make some adjustments. If you don’t have one yet, write one. Include how you will manage through a period of upheaval likely to last over the next 6-18 months. However, don’t stop essential engagement activities either. Keep reaching out, keep sharing information, and be creative with those individuals and institutions who support your mission.
Final and Most Important Advice that Applies to Us All:
6. Be positive!
While the crisis is upending our world and every sector, it may also be an opportunity in many ways for positive social change. As we learn better how to work and go to school remotely, as communities come together to support each other, there is the opportunity for courageous leadership, breathtaking innovation, and even positive environmental progress.
As Mary E. Black, a physician from Northern Ireland who has worked in many war zones, writes in a blog in the British Medical Journal (BMJ): “Covid-19: This Too Shall Pass.”
She says, “In times of crisis, we all get to decide. Courage and kindness or looking out for yourself? The first will be what sustains us, individually and collectively. Choose decency. Then add a large dose of medicine and science, mix it up with a heavy dollop of common sense and garnish with courage.”