As I See It by Missy Gale, CFRE, President & CEO
Nonprofit Organizations Across North Texas Rally to Respond to COVID-19
Last month I was at the Giving Institute’s spring meeting with colleagues from across the United States. The impact of COVID-19 on nonprofits had just begun to unfold. Now, in our fifth week of sheltering at home and working remotely, March 12 seems like a long time ago. Nothing could have completely prepared us or our organizations. We are still far from knowing what our “new normal” will look like. Based on my early career experience working in health care public and media relations, I immediately focused my team on being proactive. My eye was on assisting our clients and North Texas nonprofits in any way we could. It is far easier to act than to react.
Every nonprofit in North Texas has been affected by this pandemic:
- organizations working on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis by providing health care
- organizations providing safe shelter
- food banks and pantries
- organizations specializing in childcare
- educational organizations providing remote schooling
- cultural institutions and arts organizations
- outdoor parks and recreational facilities
All of them are doing their best to respond to their missions. At the same time, our incredibly generous North Texas funding community is responding, offering ways for front line organizations to receive emergency support.
We opened our ears and offered our expertise.
Since opening a call bank manned by a dozen expert of our expert consultants, we have completed more than 30 complimentary consultations with North Texas nonprofits. A list of clients and other organizations who have reached out to us is at the end of this article. We encourage you to visit their websites to learn how they are responding and how you can help them fulfill their vital missions.
Here’s what we have learned from our conversations.
Health care service organizations worked quickly to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and prepared their staffs and websites to receive in–kind donations. Their efforts paid off as food and supply donations pour in from local businesses and citizens. This wave of generosity has required extensive planning to manage the acceptance and distribution of these items while maintaining appropriate safety precautions.
Most organizations who had upcoming spring special events had to decide whether to postpone or cancel them. These decisions were made swiftly, usually within the first 10 days of the pandemic. They gave their sponsors and donors the choice to have their donations refunded, applied to an upcoming event or, if cancelled, left with the organization as a straight donation. Performing arts, parks and recreation and cultural institutions made tough decisions that had more far reaching implications including significant revenue losses.
Social service agencies with government grants experienced losses immediately. Many had to furlough or lay off employees. Future implications for North Texas nonprofits will only be known as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.
Questions that are emerged as central to every nonprofit’s purpose included:
- What are the most appropriate ways to continue stewarding, cultivating and soliciting donors?
- How do we sustain operations during a crisis?
- How do we effectively organize to work remotely?
- How support our boards as they govern in these times?
- How can I lead and manage my staff as well as anticipate the burden, revenue, expense and losses my organization will incur?
We’re ready to partner with our insight and our services
Our team has written insightful blogs that have been posted on our social media and can be found on our website. Topics have covered leadership, working remotely, the role of the professional fundraiser and more. In the upcoming weeks we will continue to offer specific tools, resources and responses to frequently asked questions. The M. Gale team remains available for one–on–one conversations.
We are also offering assistance with a great variety of work to be done now including:
- funding and donor research
- fundraising scenario planning
- shifting development strategy
- donor relations
- data base preparation and stratification
- board governance and facilitation
- communication planning
- team building and coordination
- providing interim resources
I leave you with these thoughts:
Charitable organizations at their core exist to provide a service to the community. During times of crisis, every nonprofit organization should first look at its mission, not its revenue. Of course, we all need revenue to support our programming, staffing and services. But philanthropic revenue flows more readily to nonprofits when they offer solutions that donors can understand and easily invest in. Initial giving in response to crisis helps meet immediate needs. It is generally given in response to an outcry of concern. Larger and long-term giving is what will be needed for recovery.
Today, while our communities are shut down during COVID-19, nonprofit leaders need to ask these critical questions:
- What are we here to provide?
- How may we provide what is central to our mission that will benefit those who are needing our services in this time of crisis?
- Who else in my community is working to do the same? How can we collaborate with them now to maximize our combined resources?
- What are we learning about our constituent’s needs as a result of this crisis and how will we improve or change what we do as a result?
Your messages to your constituencies who you serve should address three issues:
- who you are
- why you are here
- what role your organization plays in North Texas, now and in the future
Optimism and purpose should ground your messaging
Messaging using the “glass is half full” approach encourages others to partner and collaborate with you. Everyone needs to feel that now. What I recognize most, throughout all of my interactions, is that everyone is concerned about one another today. Our hearts and ears are open. That may be the gift this crisis has given us.
From this authentic place, people will resonate with your cause. Continue to offer them the opportunity to support you in your great work. Begin to outline and communicate what you’ve learned, including long-term solutions. In times of scarcity, people want to know that the investments they make are necessary and important. Communicate in a tailored and careful way, with sensitivity taking care not to flood email and social media repetitively. Finally, as a charitable organization, be accepting and understand fundamentally with great respect, that when those who care about your organization can, they will support you.