By Sawyer Lipari, Senior Director
COVID-19 has had a vast impact on the world. The virus has caused an overwhelming amount of damage to human lives, and the resources needed to fight the pandemic have proven scarce. Nonprofits continue to be an essential lifeline to help the people and communities they serve overcome a crisis—whether that be a global pandemic or the racial injustices and discrimination we are seeing across the nation. These organizations play an instrumental role in building healthy communities, while providing critical services that contribute to economic stability and mobility.
During a crisis, people are looking for strong leadership, necessary resources, reliable information and updates, and simply, but importantly, an overall sense of community and support. Nonprofits can be just as critical as government organizations, yet more nimble—and now, more than ever, are an invaluable tool to help address these vital needs in times of crisis.
It is important for nonprofits to be vocal and visible in a crisis for many reasons:
Nonprofits offer hope and guidance to the communities and individuals they serve. These organizations are the backbone of our communities and continue to provide support to our most vulnerable populations—despite the lack of resources that might be available. They continue to be one of the first organizations to step up and step in during a crisis and are often one of the first places their constituents turn to for assistance and guidance.
Thanks to the combination of strong community relationships and intimate local knowledge, these organizations often understand—better than anyone else—their communities’ needs and the best ways to meet them. In addition to providing services for the most vulnerable, they also bring communities together to share and to learn, which not only strengthens communities, but creates opportunities for people to feel supported, welcomed and safe.
Nonprofits provide vital—and regular—updates to its constituents. Take this pandemic for example. There is a lot of information being shared, and honestly, it is overwhelming to try to take it all in and comprehend. Nonprofits are a reliable and trusted resource to the community—and leaders of these organizations often represent the voice of the people they serve. They mine the necessary channels—from the news to government sources—and connect with key state and community leaders, in order to compile and provide the most essential information to share with their communities.
Furthermore, nonprofits can simplify complicated information and deliver it to their communities through the most appropriate channels. An overlooked issue amid the COVID-19 pandemic is that much of what comes from the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services can be very complex.
Nonprofits are all for collaboration, which can be transformational. Collaboration helps increase organizational effectiveness—advancing a mission more successfully and more effectively—and drive broader social and systems change. Strong, well-resourced nonprofits that are connected to other philanthropic institutions and the decision-making infrastructure in their communities can catalyze growth and opportunity—which is instrumental in a crisis.
Through partnerships, nonprofits are focused on change beyond their organization. Collaborations and partnerships help strengthen programs, bring together community and increase resources, especially in times of immediate need.
While it is important for nonprofits to be vocal and visible in a crisis, it is also important for the community to continue supporting these organizations. According to the Harvard Business Review, many nonprofits are under-resourced—of the 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States, 65% have budgets under $500,000. Currently, many nonprofits are dealing with an increase in demand for their programs and services, coupled with significant disruptions to their funding streams and capacity. These nonprofits require sustained support to meet this increasing demand, and the long-term impact will affect the capacity of many nonprofits to serve their constituents in the months—and years—to come.
It is without question that nonprofits are essential to the communities they serve and advocate for—not merely in a crisis. Their sound and trusted guidance, reliable means of communication and ability to unite is critical in making sure our communities continue to grow and our most vulnerable are always supported. And it is imperative that we, as a community, never forget this.