By Robin Thompson
In times of crisis people often look, even come to expect, that nonprofits will be there to help. COVID-19 now threatens that assumption.
A recent survey conducted by the Foraker Group, a 501©3 organization that serves to strengthen statewide nonprofits and tribal organizations, found that for over 450 Alaskan nonprofit groups, 80% have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and 69% have reported their ability to deliver services have been disrupted.
Two different kinds of groups are struggling to survive” said Laurie Wolf, President and CEO of the Foraker Group. “The health and human service groups are having to ramp up and adapt rapidly to meet the need without enough people or funding to do it and the loss of charitable revenue do to canceled efforts and the arts, culture, animal, and many childcare organizations have temporarily closed and lost revenue but most continue to maintain their facilities and missions while acting in the name of public health.”
“Those organizations rely on earned revenue, they rely on tourism dollars, they rely on local dollars, and they rely on the ability for people to congregate,” said Wolf. “In the name of public health everyone is doing their part and are temporarily closed, but we have to remember that we need all of those organizations to be here when we are ready to reopen.”
As revenue losses continues to worsen, The Foraker Group is working diligently with their partners, including the National Council of Nonprofits, to ensure nonprofits in need are included in federal relief packages.
“There is federal relief coming and we do expect to see some state relief,” said Wolf. “I think people often think, ‘let’s help out businesses,’ but it is vital that the nonprofit sector is included in the public policy response at every level to ensure that decision makers fully understand the critical services nonprofits provide.”
Many organizations are taking heavy financial losses from incurred expenses of cancelled events or fundraising activities, leaving questions for many of their events’ ticket holders. Some promoters are trying to reschedule events while others are facing the challenge of finding enough revenue to process refunds.
“This is the time that Alaskans can really step up and be amazingly generous right now. If it’s financially available for you and your family don’t ask for a refund, just make it a donation and feel great about it.” said Wolf. “If people have the ability not just to give right now, but also to give again we encourage them to do so, either through Pick.Click.Give or directly to those organizations that they care about, that they want to be standing beside with when this is all over.”
With the ‘hunker down’ call across the state, losing volunteers has had a major impact on operations for nonprofits but those organizations are quickly adapting and finding safe ways to volunteer, said Wolf. While many nonprofits along with their staff have gone to working remotely, websites and phone numbers remain active and updated to provide the public with information including ways to volunteer.
“The Food Bank is still accepting volunteers to work in their warehouse. We do know there are lots of grassroots activities being organized on Facebook,” Wolf said. “I’ve seen everything from helping to make masks for our grocery store workers and health care professionals, to just amazing acts of gratitude and organized groups on Facebook who are really thinking about how to help our neighbors in a safe way.”
Wolf shared that other ways to help can include purchasing extra groceries or cleaning supplies and donating them to food banks, youth and adult homeless shelters or senior living facilities.
“Alaska relies on nonprofits in ways that Alaskans may or may not realize. It’s really important to raise awareness about the role they play in our communities, both big and small, urban and rural,” said Wolf. “We can be physically distantly and socially connected. And I just encourage all Alaskans to really navigate that space. Just because we can’t be near each other doesn’t mean we can’t help one another.”
Nonprofit groups experiencing hardship are encouraged to contact the Foraker Group directly. The group is providing a free series on COVID-19 response and education helping to navigate relief packages and providing video recordings directly through their website.
It should be noted that no healthcare organizations answered this survey even though more than 50% of all Alaska healthcare providers are nonprofits. This is likely due to the enormous workload the healthcare field is facing currently. That said, it’s safe to assume healthcare organizations serving on the front lines of this pandemic are losing critical revenue with the cancelation of elective procedures and routine appointments.
For more information regarding the survey or to find support for nonprofit organizations contact The Foraker Groups directly at www.forakergroup.org or call 907-743-1200.