Things to Remember (and do)
It is hard to keep track of the days right now (and it is only going to get harder before it gets better). In between the numerous calls from worried clients, I've been thinking about what you can do in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
First and foremost, we all need to keep open lines of communications with your boards, employees, volunteers, donors, and the people you serve. As part of that, you should continue to share information and resources from credible sources, such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And we need to be transparent about our decision-making, whether remaining open for business, adjusting hours or services, or making the tough decision to cancel events or temporarily close the doors.
Review your sick leave policy and, if possible, enhance the flexibility of that policy to give comfort to your employees - particularly hourly employees - about taking time off. This should go without saying, but you cannot do the work that you do without the dedicated staff that works (oftentimes) around the clock ensuring that hungry babies are fed. Before the government takes action (if they take action) seriously consider your sick leave policies and identify ways to take care of your staff during these uncertain times.
Review your organization’s business continuity and recovery plan. You don’t have one and you're not sure where to start? Nonprofit New York has made this sample business continuity plan free for everyone to access.
Go virtual. While nothing is quite like face-to-face events, rather than cancelling, many are making events virtual.
Keep in communication with your community. Broadcast information about COVID-19 from credible sources and your services to your staff or people your nonprofit needs to stay in touch with.
Plan for working remotely. Dust off or establish policies for remote workers and telecommuting. Remote work isn’t possible for all nonprofits. But for those where it is feasible, making this option available can help provide comfort to your employees that they can continue working without needing to draw down on their leave - and mandatory quarantines may make working remotely a necessity. Don't forget the importance of equity. Your staff may not all have the same access to equipment or a quiet space in their home, so be sure you are doing what you can for your team.
Take care of your organization's finances. Conversations about sustainability have turned into conversations about survivability. As many nonprofits look at their financial bottom line and the difficult decisions regarding what to do about staffing (and what that means both for there are options to consider. I recommend reading this article for some ideas, and I recommend doing your own research to prioritize the people that you serve and the people that serve them - your staff.
Participate in public decision-making. If applicable to your nonprofit’s mission, demand a seat at the table as the local government is putting together response task forces. Insist you and your partners are at the table so the needs of the people you serve are fulfilled and you can be part of the “information movement” of gathering and sharing information.
Be a voice for civility and healing. Speak out against acts of discrimination and xenophobia you see in response to this spreading disease. Please help our communities by helping to counter discrimination. This is a scary time for everyone - especially for Chinese Americans, immigrants, undocumented people, autoimmune compromised people, low-income people, and many more. We must support our communities as a whole and encourage civility across the board.
Take care of yourselves. As we all practice social distancing to benefit physical health, we need to be cognizant of its effects on mental health. The social aspects of our lives, from the escapes of concerts and movies to the simple opportunities to chat around the water cooler, have been upended. So, it’s important to practice self-care during this time. Encourage your organization to hold virtual staff meetings by video conference, rather than just by phone. Getting to see other faces is just a small gesture, but it’s useful. The CDC has resources for managing anxiety and stress. Remember, we all may be "working from home", but really we are very stressed, very concerned people with families and loved ones who are trying their best to work. You must take care of yourself and your family before you can take care of others. And that is okay. These are unprecedented times. Be easy on yourself.
As this crisis continues, I don't want to spend too much time on the gloom and doom that may be on the horizon. However, I am here as a resource to help you all change the world. Look out for more resource sharings and emergency funds as they become available.
We are all in this together.