[UPDATE: November 12, 2020]

An organization’s messaging takes on added importance during a crisis like this one where there is no quick or straight path to the end of the disruption and chaos. The communications strategy must be developed to explain an uneven recovery not only to outside funders and supporters – including the community! – but also to staff members who will be feeling unsettled and worried. 


[UPDATE: August 25, 2020]

The key to successful crisis communications at this point in late August 2020 is to continue a two-way dialogue encouraging a “culture of inquiry” and collaboration. A special challenge is to be transparent about why your decision-making process for the organization must remain fluid due to rapidly changing circumstances on the ground: the COVID-19 pandemic’s surges of spread and the promise of more government aid without delivery.


[UPDATE: June 25, 2020]

“COVID-19’s parallel unfolding crises present leaders with infinitely complicated challenges and no easy answers. Tough trade-offs abound, and with them, tough decisions about communicating complex issues to diverse audiences.”

Experts advise keeping up the (hopefully already begun) open, straightforward, and honest communication with all stakeholders as the COVID-19 pandemic crisis continues. In a crisis like COVID-19, “when information is unavailable or inconsistent, and when people feel unsure about what they know (or anyone knows), behavioral science points to an increased human desire for transparency, guidance, and making sense out of what has happened.”

Just as important, it’s key to make this a two-way dialogue: encouraging a “culture of inquiry” and collaboration.


[March 31, 2020]

Well ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, some organizations had adopted crisis-communications plans. But even for them, the sheer magnitude of this emergency has rendered some aspects of that prudent planning ineffectual.

As with the topic of crisis management, there is an established body of knowledge and experience from past crises that can guide the nation’s nonprofits as they develop and implement communications strategies through these unprecedented times.

Contact FPLG (619) 780.3839

Now more than ever, it is essential that you communicate your message and mission to your stakeholders. While there is so much you can’t control during this crisis, there is one thing you can control: your story. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will; leaving others to fill in the blanks about what your organization is doing.

— Karen Kemp (8/14/20)

Be honest about what you don’t know but are working to figure out…..It’s OK to say you don’t know something. We’re all figuring things out, so if you don’t know when you’ll reopen or reschedule a program, communicate that. And be sure to follow up. Updates that let folks know when you’re likely to announce dates, what you’re monitoring and how you’re making decisions will further build your relationship with audiences.

— Erin B. Hart (7/8/20)

Since many nonprofits can no longer count on earned income, contributed income will be your savior. If… you ask. When you don’t ask, you don’t get. And since other nonprofits are asking, your constituents may switch their loyalties to those who gave them a ‘feel good’ pay-off at a time they really needed one.

— Claire Axelrad, J.D. (5/11/20)

When a disaster or crisis arises, your organization should have a well-considered plan of action to communicate both internally and externally to all stakeholders including the public and media. This plan identifies who will (and will not) speak on behalf of the organization, how the messages will be developed, how all staff and board members will be prepared to deal with inquiries, and how the response will be evaluated afterwards so that improvements can be made to the plan, as needed.

— The Standards for Excellence Institute  (undated)



Remote-Work Costs: Must Nonprofit Reimburse?

[June 5, 2020] Among the many adjustments that employers - including nonprofits - have had to make during the COVID-19 pandemic is the abrupt switch to remote work for some or all of their employees. That includes making sure that everyone in the workforce has needed hardware, software, and internet and phone connectivity.  California is among the jurisdictions that initiated early and mandatory stay-at-home orders for a large portion of the population and economy. There [...]

Filing Deadlines Extended for Nonprofit Organizations

[April 24, 2020] By the third week of March 2020, governments at all levels had begun to respond to the many questions and issues raised by the COVID-19 emergency, including - most notably - the curtailment or suspension of operations and activities by individuals and entities on account of new stay-at-home orders  and recommendations.  The necessary federal emergency declaration under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Act was made in mid-March. The [...]

UPDATE: The CARES Act and Nonprofits

[March 27, 2020] The third prong of the Congressional response to the COVID-19 pandemic - the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (S. 747) - is now before the House of Representatives, having passed the Senate on Wednesday. The House is expected to approve it today with overwhelming support; voting is expected to begin shortly.  It could be signed at the White House and in effect before the end of this weekend. [...]

Some Good News: Funders are Stepping Up

Ten days ago, we posted Funders Must Step Up - Right Now! (March 16, 2020).   That same morning, influential blogger Vu Le had posted Funders, this is the rainy day you have been saving up for. Mr. Le has long been a vocal critic of many foundations’ viewing the five percent payout figure in the tax code as a ceiling instead of what it is: a floor.  During that week, as most of us were [...]

Nonprofit Board Meetings in an Emergency

The devastating pandemic has brought sudden and profound challenges for all of us.  In What Nonprofit Board Members Should Be Doing Right Now to Address the COVID-19 Situation, (March 16, 2020), the experts from BoardSource write:  “As the world responds to the threats of COVID-19, many nonprofits and their boards are wrestling with difficult questions and decisions.”  A rewrite of that sentence may be in order; every nonprofit and its board is flying blind in [...]

The Charitable Sector: COVID-19 Relief and Economic Stimulus Package

America's charities request $60 billion infusion of support to help the most vulnerable March 18, 2020 The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic facing the country is having a profound impact on the economy and has greatly expanded the need for charitable organizations to provide additional services in an unprecedented manner. At the same time, the economic downturn will undoubtedly result in a contraction in contributions and other sources of revenue which are the lifeblood of many charitable [...]

Coronavirus and Nonprofits: Challenges & Resources

What a difference a week makes. Last week, the news media focused on the minutiae of the primary-election horse race. This week, Americans have been forced to confront the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. For the nonprofit sector, the emergency becomes a double-barreled crisis: we are both victims and saviors. This is not an unfamiliar conundrum; there are frequent natural disasters that devastate one area or another. This nation’s charitable organizations - and, in particular, the social [...]

Funders Must Step Up – Right Now!

“Funders,” writes nonprofit blogger Vu Le, “this is the rainy day you have been saving up for.”  Recently, we wrote about Mr. Le’s earlier plea for America’s foundations to step up their payouts beyond the “five percent rule” in the federal tax code. In an article last summer, he characterized it as a moral imperative: The ethical argument for foundations to increase their annual payout rate beyond 5% (August 4, 2019). This morning, it’s a [...]

Small Business Association Disaster Loan Guidance and Resources

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has an existing program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, that extends disaster relief loans to small businesses, including nonprofits, to help alleviate economic injury caused by disasters.  On Thursday, March 12, 2020, the SBA announced that the program will be available to claims arising from COVID-19.  The SBA will work with state officials to offer loans of up to $2 million.  “These loans may be used to pay [...]

Go to Top