As many have come to realize, we are facing a truly unprecedented time. The COVID-19 Pandemic has spread quickly throughout the US, and with it has come tremendous challenges for individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations alike. Nonprofits have been hit particularly hard during this time, having to cancel fundraisers, reduce staff and volunteer time, close operations, adapt to increased needs, and more.
Supporting charitable causes has always been at the core of our mission, so we felt we needed to do something to help. As a response to the current pandemic, we donated a total of $600 to nonprofit partners in our local communities (near our Texas, New Hampshire, Florida, and Chicago offices). The organizations we chose were greatly impacted by the outbreak, as they offer human services such as housing, food, and care for those in their communities.
After speaking with our partners, we wanted to share what they are currently doing to adapt to this challenging time, how others can support, and any helpful advice or resources they have for fellow organizations.
The Visiting Nurse Association of Texas
The Visiting Nurse Association of Texas works to assist the elderly in maintaining their independence by providing services that allow them to age comfortably in their own homes. These services include hospice care, a meals on wheels program, and palliative care.
Since they serve more than 4,000 homebound senior citizens in Dallas County, ensuring that seniors continue to receive meals and care has been their top priority throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. Due to the current situation, they have been faced with shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) used in hospice care, and have had to drastically reduce the number of staff and volunteers in order to lessen exposure of the virus as much as possible.
In order to adapt and respond to the current situation, they have had to implement various new measures. These include thorough employee screening for those who are ill or potentially exposed, distributing shelf-stable meals to seniors along with regular food deliveries in case delivery has to shut down, and introducing a virtual delivery method that allows volunteers to call seniors and note any feedback they have. Volunteers will be able to use the VNA app to call and remind seniors to eat their meal, check in on their well-being, and follow up on needs in a timely manner.
In addition to these measures, Jennifer Atwood, Director of Development & Communications at the VNA, had some advice for other organizations. She recommended that "each nonprofit should look to any regulatory groups they must comply with and any other industry-specific resource to guide their own response." She added that the Visiting Nurse Association is following guidelines from CMS, HHS, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organizations to guide their clinical decisions. In regards to their meal service programs, she said they are working closely with Dallas County and Meals on Wheels America to determine the proper steps to take.
The VNA stressed in their COVID-19 Response that making a donation is the best and safest way to support the Visiting Nurse Association of Texas during this time. It costs about $6.50 per day to feed a senior, so any amount helps. They are also in need of volunteers to help with their newly introduced virtual meal deliveries.
To make a donation, you can visit their page here.
Gather is a New Hampshire-based nonprofit that works to fight hunger in the Greater Seacoast area. They do this through a food pantry market, emergency food aid programs, meals on wheels programs for both kids and seniors, holiday food distribution, education and outreach programs, and more.
Like many food pantries and distribution services, Gather’s main concern is ensuring that everyone has access to food when they need it. One of the ways that Gather responded to the virus was by quickly reacting to school closures and starting up their ‘Meals 4 Kids’ program. Seneca Bernard, Associate Executive Director at Gather, explained that this program offers "a free farmer's market in several locations around the Greater Seacoast area, so kids will have the 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 5 snacks that they would receive if they were in school." This program is currently available in the areas of Rochester, Newington, Kittery, Hampton, and Seabrook.
Seneca mentioned a few additional measures they are taking in regards to their food pantry market and other services: "We have only been allowing a limited number of members in the pantry market at a time in order to provide social distancing, but also to allow for shoppers to have a choice in what they get. We have also instituted regular hand sanitizing and changed our hours to allow staff to clean more often and more thoroughly." In addition to this, he noted that temporarily suspending programs that take large amounts of staff time helped them to streamline programming and focus on their greatest needs. As far as the food pantry, Seneca explained that they "recommend the mobile market model. It allows spacing between members, allows choice, and is easy to establish."
United Community Options of South Florida
United Community Options of South Florida, an affiliate of United Cerebral Palsy, is a nonprofit that strives to make a positive impact on the quality of life for children and adults living with disabilities, as well as typically developing children and their families. They provide a wide range of services including schooling, adult learning & employment programs, leadership programs, residential options, transportation, advocacy, and respite services.
They serve over 2000 children and adults in the area, including in long term care facilities and residential group homes. Like many other organizations, they are facing shortages of supplies and have had to close a long list of their programs and postpone fundraising events in order to keep everyone’s safety a top priority. Their official COVID-19 update mentioned that this crisis ‘ is causing major financial stress due to unplanned and increased expenses relative to staffing, supplies, and reduced income from funding sources that are based on attendance.'
David Perez, Assistant Director of Development at UCO, explained that the response from the community so far has been incredibly positive: "we are fortunate to have received many donations in regards to food, water, paper towels, toilet paper, masks, gowns, hand sanitizers, and other things to ensure we keep our Group Homes, clients, and staff safe and sound during this time."
Recent UCO Facebook Post Regarding Produce Donated to Group Homes
His advice for other nonprofit organizations was to "stay calm and patient, we will all get through this together. I would suggest reaching out to your Board Members, Vendors, & Corporate Partners to see how they are doing if you have not already and ask for support. Another important thing is to research and apply for grants that can assist with cost of supplies and offset financial losses."
David also mentioned that webinars have been an incredibly helpful resource for their organization, as many have assisted them in adapting their fundraising strategy as a response to the situation.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana
The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana have a mission of providing a caring and compassionate environment for families with a hospitalized child. They offer families a private room to stay and meals while their child is in the hospital, and currently serve 162 families in their houses. In addition to their houses and family room programs, they also offer a Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program that provides medical care to children in under-served areas throughout the city of Chicago.
As part of broader community and country-wide efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, Ronald McDonald Houses have had to greatly limit the number of volunteers in the houses, including those who help make meals each day. Since volunteers provide both the manpower and financial support to make the meals, this places a heavy burden on the organization. They are also not able to accept home-made meals or other physical donations due to safety concerns.
As a response to this, they have come up with a few alternative ways for supporters to offer help. In their COVID-19 Update, they mentioned that supporters can make financial donations to help pay for meals and supplies, purchase restaurant gift certificates and mail them to any of the house locations, or cater a meal for families through their 'Meals from the Heart' program. This offers a way for supporters and volunteers lend a helping hand, without putting anyone's safety at risk.
RMHC Chicago Staff Dropping Off a Catered Meal for Families
If you work for a nonprofit organization, we hope this post gave you some helpful ideas on how you can continue to stay positive and adapt throughout this time. For a running list of nonprofit and crisis fundraising resources, you can also visit this page on Bloomerang.
For all others, we encourage you to support your local nonprofit organizations in their efforts if you are able to. Many charities have been using social media as a tool to communicate their crucial needs during this time, and have even created dedicated pages on their website to keep supporters informed.
Stay healthy and safe out there!