How Nonprofits Can Effectively Respond To Covid-19
The global pandemic has reached alarming proportions, with no signs of abating. Mass layoffs, shutting down of businesses, and market volatility have led to an economic downturn. The social impact is equally devastating. Nonprofits can serve as a beacon of hope and usher in change amid this gloom. A nonprofit organization’s real strength lies in its ability to respond effectively to the needs generated due to this crisis.
Challenging The Challenges:
The first step to preparing an effective COVID-19 response is to understand the pandemic’s impact and the needs that arise from it for communities. COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on human life and livelihood. Lockdowns and social distancing have driven millions to loneliness. Mental health issues, substance abuse, and aggravating poverty are among the many problems that need to be tackled.
The Social Impact Of Covid-19
Nonprofits need to be prepared to respond to COVID-related issues effectively. So, let us take a closer look at some of the challenges that the pandemic poses.
- A Toll On Mental Health:
According to a recent KFF Tracking Poll, COVID-related worry and stress have caused adverse effects on the mental health of 53% of American adults. Individuals already suffering from mental health disorders and substance abuse have been pushed further into the abyss during the pandemic.
Business shutdowns, job losses, and fear of contracting the disease have heightened depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Nonprofits need to gear up with responses to these needs.
- Impact On The Elderly:
Extended lockdowns have left the elderly unable to provide for themselves physically. Social distancing has aggravated their loneliness and adapting to the new normal may cause them severe anxiety and distress. Thus, the pandemic has affected senior citizens on physical, mental, and emotional fronts. Nonprofits must focus on this group’s needs and develop responses that can help the elderly resume leading a fulfilling life.
- The Problem Of Misinformation:
Fake news, misleading statistical data, and misinformation are spreading rampantly, even as research and information on COVID-19 are still evolving. Myths surrounding the disease can cause anxiety, losses, and worse. Awareness campaigns by nonprofits can go a long way in tackling this evil of misinformation.
- Increasing Incidence Of Domestic Abuse:
Due to the forced lockdown, domestic violence against women and children is on the rise. Held captive in their own homes during the pandemic, they have no place to escape. Nonprofits can effectively address these issues through helplines for people in distress, suicide counseling, online educational campaigns, and other programs.
The pandemic has led to indirect effects too. New challenges have emerged in seemingly unrelated areas. For instance, the education of 1.6 billion learners has suffered; that is 9 out of every 10 students in the world. (Source: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/statistics-are-key-to-understanding-covid-19/). Without access to e-learning devices, underserved communities are the worst affected. In another instance, school meal programs have been disrupted. Consequently, food and nutrition levels are expected to fall, severely affecting the health of children and women in the communities, in particular.
Building An Effective COVID-19 Response: The Way Forward
To address these and other issues arising from the pandemic, nonprofits need to build suitable COVID-19 responses. In this changed context, nonprofit organizations need to focus on their key strengths, realign their programs and resources, and develop new creative strategies to adapt. Nonprofits can achieve this even while staying true to their mission and principles. In fact, the mission can serve as the north star, guiding the direction and decisions towards the redevelopment of programs, to serve communities effectively.
Analyzing the challenges, experiences, and issues of our network of nonprofits has brought to the fore, some effective solutions to address key issues. Let’s look at a few of these:
1. Assess The Financial Position:
One of the scarcest resources for most nonprofits is finance. Understandably, it is also the most vital. To ensure optimum use of this resource, each nonprofit needs to ask itself the following questions – What are the resources currently available? Which activities and programs need to be funded on priority? If approaching new donors is expensive and cumbersome in the current circumstances, can existing donors be approached for more funds? Are there any creative ways to maximize the runway for the utilization of funds through effective utilization?
Thus, nonprofits need to assess their current financial position, available resources, monthly expenditure projections, and funding needs. Various possible scenarios need to be analyzed for fundraising in the times ahead.
2. Build Resilience:
The next step is to strengthen the position of your nonprofit. As they say, adversity is the best teacher. Find creative solutions to generate funding flows. This is the time to strengthen bonds with your donors, reach out to them earnestly. Engage with your volunteers more frequently and meaningfully. Make them feel empowered and driven as part of a larger purpose; engage them in a long-term relationship.
3. Adopt A Flexible Approach To Funding:
Nonprofits that can pivot and adapt are the ones that will survive and thrive despite this pandemic. Traditional norms and constraints with regard to acquiring funds need to make way for a more flexible approach and attitude. Convince donors to contribute flexibly and allow the use of their funds for different activities. For instance, a nonprofit dedicated to the cause of hunger eradication may channelize its funds to address the more pressing need of creating hygiene awareness for COVID-19 prevention through mass communication campaigns.
4. Revisit The Mission And Pillars Of Your Nonprofit
Revisit your nonprofit’s mission statement once again and internalize the guiding principles and values, the pillars on which your nonprofit stands strong. Use them to navigate through complex decision-making processes, conflicting viewpoints, and tough choices.
According to Pooja Rai, CEO of Anthill Creations, a nonprofit in India, COVID-19 initially appeared to spell the end of the road. As a nonprofit dedicated to creating outdoor “play spaces” for children from weaker sections of the community, the task seemed to be redundant as children would not come out to play. Instead, Anthill Creations revisited its core belief that children need play. They recognized that this core belief is true in these testing times as much as it was in the good times. From this emerged a creative solution: If children can’t come out to play games, let’s take games to the children. The idea that emanated was “Play in a Box”, a creative kit comprising six games and one activity that further all-round development of children.
“Play in a Box” kits by Anthill Creations, are designed to ignite children’s curiosity and creativity, and enhance their physical development, cognitive skills, creative expression, and social and emotional skills. Games and activities are designed for different levels, specific to each age group. These kits enable the education of children in primary grades, a section that has been relatively ignored by online education, without the need for any gadgets and devices. With over 2000 boxes distributed and many more in the pipeline, Anthill Creations has successfully made a pivot to address the emerging needs of the communities it works with while staying true to its purpose and mission.
5. Study The Changing Community Context
While revisiting your nonprofit’s mission is critical, it is equally important to understand the changing needs of the community you serve. The massive changes in the community landscape are creating new challenges for parents, children, professionals, and all sections of society. It is vital to observe the changes closely and find solutions that fill the emerging need gaps. For instance, Anthill Creations observed that families within its underserved communities do not own gadgets. Therefore, e-gaming and other digital ideas would not benefit the children of these communities, further alienating them. Moreover, parents were burdened with the loss of income and livelihood, leaving them with little time and energy to attend to their children’s needs. Play for children was certainly not a priority for parents in these testing times. In this scenario, the “Play-in-a-Box” kits developed by Anthill Creations served as a win-win solution, giving children an engaging means to play, learn, and develop their capabilities, without needing supervision from parents, and without a device or gadget.
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