NONPROFIT LEADERS: WE’RE HERE FOR YOU
Charities and nonprofits exist to help Canadians when they need it most. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits are on the frontlines providing essential care, programs, and services to our country’s most vulnerable. As every industry adjusts and adapts to this new normal, we know that collaboration and knowledge exchange within the charitable sector is greatly needed.
Postponing our upcoming Federation Leaders’ Knowledge Exchange event meant we had to find another way to facilitate these critical conversations. In response to COVID-19, we invited senior leaders from some of our country’s largest charities and nonprofits as well as sector experts to a virtual meeting of the minds. Together, we discussed how current events are impacting communications, fundraising, program delivery, corporate/community partnerships, and more. Participants exchanged creative ideas, uncovered opportunities, and shared some of the best practices they’ve learned while navigating these unprecedented times.
Nonprofit response to COVID-19 resources and recommendations:
The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) needs your voice. They’re conducting a series of surveys to shape provincial policy discussions and advocate for emergency relief for nonprofits. The findings could strengthen government strategies to support the sector and those it serves. They’ve also compiled this list of useful resources.
On a national level, Imagine Canada is advocating for stimulus funding to assist charities, nonprofits, and social enterprises through this challenging time. They’ve requested $8 billion in grants and interest-free loans. Learn more, sign your name, send a letter to your MP, access resources, and add your voice to this important initiative.
Support your staff
Social isolation can take a toll on your team’s mental health and wellbeing. Check-in with them often to keep them informed and engaged. Consistent, open, and transparent communication is key. Find a mechanism to obtain feedback (start a group chat, create a survey) and uncover how your organization can be of support. Be sure to provide as much information as possible and communicate internally before making any announcements to external stakeholders and the public. Information is rapidly changing in this climate so be sure to get your team onside before going outside. If potential layoffs are on the table, address them candidly.
Are your staff or stakeholders at risk? Lung Health Foundation is here to help your nonprofit response to COVID-19. The virus affects the respiratory system and their team of certified respiratory experts are available to provide education and answer questions (1-888-344-LUNG and www.lunghealth.ca). Volunteer Canada has also put together a number of resources to help manage and protect volunteers. If you’re pivoting from an in-person event to a virtual one, they also have resources regarding virtual volunteer management.
Don’t stop fundraising
Communicating your ask without sounding tone-deaf is a sector-wide challenge. Your fundraising message shouldn’t go away. Think about how it can be reframed in the context of current events. Essential programs and services are still essential and communities depend on them. Focus on the impact of funds raised and how that impact relates to the world today. Relationships between donors and nonprofits are characterized by trust so be clear and transparent. Your stakeholders might be feeling helpless and you can provide them with a sense of community, an opportunity to make a difference, and a means to help. You might be surprised by the support and participation you receive. Use this as an opportunity to lay down long-term strategic thinking and be ready to switch the message when the ‘temperature’ is right.
Reimagine your events
With in-person events being postponed and cancelled it’s important to adapt. Start by forecasting anticipated revenue loss, then get resourceful. Contact those who are close to your organization. For example, if they’ve already purchased tickets to a gala that has to be cancelled, ask if they can still donate those funds. Pivot your event and go digital. Be direct with audiences and ask them to support in new, interesting, and reimagined ways. This could be an opportunity to reach and attract new audiences who did not traditionally take part in your event. People are looking for community activities and ways to combat isolation which may increase virtual event participation. It’s also an opportunity to strengthen stewardship, check-in with donors while prioritizing their health and wellbeing.
Many companies will still hold meetings and communicate with employees online. Can you encourage them to share content that’s related to your cause in presentations and emails? Find new (uniquely digital) ways to engage them. Your business models and fundraising experience could provide a direct service to your partners and your resources might be of great interest to them now. Recognize that existing business models are being flipped on their heads and try to find creative ways to collaborate. Be flexible and willing to adapt to leverage your partner networks in innovative ways.
The infrastructure of program delivery is rapidly changing. Currently, schools and community centres remain closed, while food banks and shelters, for example, remain open. How can nonprofits continue to provide programs and services to beneficiaries directly? It’s time to come up with creative solutions to modify regular operations. For federated national offices and senior leaders, it’s a crucial time to support local branches and initiatives as they implement these new ideas.
Have more questions? We’ll keep the nonprofit response to COVID-19 conversation going, hosting frequent virtual meetings on topics of interest to nonprofit leaders. If you’d like to be added to these virtual meetings, please send us a note. We’re here for you.