Let’s be real – whether you are genuinely worried about the coronavirus or feel like it is all a big media hype (during a campaign year), you are affected by this virus. Grocery store shelves are low on toilet paper, schools are closing, events are canceled, and so much more! Here’s the bottom line…we will get through this but the concern and hesitation your nonprofit may be experiencing is real. This will likely impact your organization’s financial situation.
Across the nation there is major fear and big decisions being made surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus and your commitment to being responsive to the needs of your program participants, event attendees and committed supporters is important. While the complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is not fully known, reported illnesses have ranged from very mild (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe, including illness resulting in death.
Nonprofits that raise, and depend on, a large portion of their revenue from walkathons, galas, luncheons, conferences, and other events face doubts at this time. It is currently the perfect storm for an economic downturn and nonprofits cannot afford to ignore their strategic business decision at this time.
Nonprofits everywhere are in a bind with revenue generating events. If you cancel your event; you will lose funding. A loss of jeopardizes your ability to deliver your services. But if you don’t cancel your event, then you are at risk of having low attendance and decreased donor giving due to the economic uncertainty. Many express greater concerns about what the pandemic may mean for their financial well-being than for their health. Therefore, donors or all levels are rethinking their capacity of giving and nonprofit are seeking ways to hold unconventional events that keep the revenue stream unharmed. For example, nonprofits are working tirelessly to convert group walks to virtual walks so people can raise money without assembling in crowds. Nonprofits are making agonizing decisions to cancel their galas and fundraising breakfasts. And cancelled events mean doing business in other ways. If you chose to push out your event, select a date in November or December and communicate this new date with your supporters immediately.
Bobby Ehlert, benefit auctioneer with Inspire Hearts Fundraising has experienced many cancelations first hand. He has provided a nonprofit resource to help your agency get through these difficult times. Access the resource here.
If you are moving forward with your event, like many have chosen to do, here is my advice.
Top 5 Recommendations for you:
1. Be proactive - Let your attendees know your plans (If everything is business as usual, it is important to share that.) Get ahead of the decision and let people know that it's still happening.
2. Go Virtual - If your agency is planning a conference or something that has the ability to go online and move your event to a virtual platform.
3. Use precautions - Inform your supporters of your safeguards, any staff that show any signs of illness have been asked to stay home.
4. Limit any communal items - Eliminate any group access to stacks of silverware. Instead, provide your guess with pre-wrapped utensils. This will limit the amount of touches that people will share on any given item.
5. Keep your environment clean - Keep all surface areas clean and provide plenty of soap and hand sanitizer for your volunteers.
As you consider your programs and employees, shift your programs to virtual and encourage your employees to work remotely at this time. Especially if they have a compromised immune system or are experiencing symptoms of sickness.
Setting up a work-from-home program is arguably easier for large employers with big budgets, existing remote work policies, and access to resources that small businesses, nonprofits, and local governments might not have. For those employers with limited access to resources, Skye Mercer, HR Consultant / Leadership Coachhas a resource on her website sharing her five proven steps to quickly set up your work-from-home program. You can access her article here. (If your organization would like to consult with a HR professional to ensure safeguards, contact Skye at www.skyehrconsulting.com)
As mentioned earlier, we will get through this. We have gotten through many unreliable times before and this is no different. But I do recommend revisiting your strategic plan. Does it include a crisis communication plan or contingency plans for reduced revenue? Just this week, I have met with a handful of my strategic planning clients to discuss their critical concerns. All are worried about their organization’s sustainability plans while some have already experienced initial revenue loss. Some clients are asking how they can create remote board meetings until the concern fades away.
I also recommend staying in communication with your colleagues and professional peers now more than ever. Have open discussions and share resources with one another. Reach out to professionals that can guide you through these choppy waters with strategy and best practices. The effects of the coronavirus outbreak have a commonality with the 2008 financial crisis, specifically, its unknown magnitude. Ironically, The Rayvan Group started in 2009 after I become a reduction in force due to the economic downturn. The financial upset is not new to me. It is now that we need to become forward-thinking and creative in the way we do business and how we build sustainable business practices in light of the current financial state. If you wish to schedule some time to discuss your nonprofit’s strategy with me, I always have time for a phone call! Reach out to me and let’s find a time to connect.
The Rayvan Group, LLC / www.therayvangroup.com