[UPDATE: November 11, 2020]

The past few weeks have brought into sharper focus the shape of what American society and the nonprofit sector in particular may face in the coming months. [See COVID-19 RESPONSE HOME PAGE]

The pandemic, as predicted, has worsened dramatically all around the nation. Hoped-for reopenings must be delayed. But there are likely one or more vaccines that may soon be approved, pending verification of preliminary safety and efficacy data. Widespread distribution in the short term, though, will be hampered by logistical challenges.

The November 3rd election results mean a shift in administration in Washington, DC, and a top-priority focus – already underway in the planning stages – on the COVID-19 crisis. Whether there will be significant financial assistance may depend on the outcome of the upcoming Georgia Senate runoffs.


[UPDATE: October 24, 2020]

Now, well into autumn, we face a worsening of the pandemic around the nation and continued uncertainty. The prospect of government aid has not yet materialized and may not happen at all.


[UPDATE: September 24, 2020]

The summer has drawn to a close, but we remain in a state of confusion and uncertainty even about when or how parts of the community (including the nonprofit sector) can safely reopen. There has also been a devastating delay in the next round of much-needed government financial help.

Experts advise continuing to use the tools of “scenario planning” to navigate through the next weeks and months when so much remains up in the air.


[UPDATE: June 24, 2020]

“Nonprofit leaders need to keep reminding themselves,” advises expert Alan Cantor, “that this is an unprecedented time.” And “more than one person has joked,” he explains, about “returning to a time … that’s precedented.”

The pre-COVID-19 body of crisis-management literature continues to grow during these strange and unsettling times. But it seems that there are more and more questions, and few satisfying or definitive answers.

Just as we had begun to acknowledge the stark reality that our new “normal” of quarantine and lock-down could last many months, there was an abrupt shift in May. Suddenly – and against the advice of health experts – all 50 states moved into multi-stage “reopenings.”

There were warnings that premature action might spur new infection hot spots resulting in the need to rollback reopening permissions. We’re already seeing the validity of these predictions with disturbing disease trends and statistics in many states and some key turnabouts by political leaders in those jurisdictions.

These fluid and unfamiliar circumstances present even more of a challenge for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021 than would have been the case under a steady, albeit grim, reality of a long-term, shut-down nation.

While there’s been an extraordinary financial response from the government, it’s not nearly enough to meet the needs of the nonprofit community and of its constituents and beneficiaries in the near term. Bureaucratic obstacles and challenges have marred the delivery of this important aid and lawmakers continue to fight over the contours of additional assistance packages.

Nevertheless, in this enormous global crisis, there are already success stories and lessons learned that can be shared.

This section includes more detail in sub-parts: Directors’ Duties Now; Crisis Communications; Crisis Planning; and (the newly added) Reopenings.


[March 31, 2020]

From time to time, individual nonprofits – or all of them in a particular locale – face challenges from natural or man-made disasters, economic turmoil or political instability. And some organizations face emergencies that may have been prevented through proper planning.

There is a body of information known as “crisis management” that collects and analyzes how leaders – governmental, business, or nonprofit – have navigated through uncharted waters.

While the global pandemic is deeper and broader than many of these earlier crises, they provide important lessons for us. The philanthropy sector has been generous in rapidly publishing articles, blog posts, and other advice as well as scheduling free webinars. This knowledge bank can help us, collectively, make our way through the difficult days, weeks, and months ahead.

Contact FPLG (619) 780.3839

America has never needed more from civil society. That’s because our country is being rocked by a health pandemic, an age-old racism pandemic, economic upheaval, sweeping cuts in safety net programs, an existential climate crisis, and the increasing political vitriol that’s killing efforts to address these daunting challenges…. But civil society is in crisis too. Many parts of our helping-and-healing sector have been hit in the solar plexus by COVID-19 and its economic fallout.

— Mario Marino (9/20)

….[N]onprofits desperately trying to survive intact against the forces of change may be headed in the wrong direction. An orientation that centers the civil sector as agents for change is not only healthier but more powerful, a mindset that’s more attractive to those looking to it for leadership in dark times.

— Ruth McCambridge, NPQ (9/14/20)

The nonprofit community anxiously awaits the time it can return to “normal.” But many philanthropy thought leaders increasingly urge against going back to how things were before COVID-19 turned the world on its head.

— Linda J. Rosenthal, J.D. (8/4/20), FPLG Blog

Battered by COVID-19 restrictions, the cascading, deep economic recession, and falling contributions, many nonprofits are like flooding submarines, in the middle of the ocean and taking on water….Even seasoned administrators who’ve faced down one crisis after another are being tested to the limits by this one’….The flooding submarine metaphor is grim but offers some useful crisis-response advice that may help nonprofits avoid the worst.

— The NonProfit Times (7/22/20)

The volatility and uncertainty of the past few weeks has left many nonprofit leaders feeling like they’re in a tailspin …. Reground yourself in why your organization does what it does, and use that as your north star to help determine what you need to support that vision, both financially and in terms of organizational capacity.

— Amy Celap et al, SSIR (4/30/20)

“What’s our plan?’ Even in the best of times, the pace of change and the unpredictability of the environment in which we work makes it hard to plan. So, in the shadow of COVID-19, when it is impossible to predict what will happen tomorrow or even an hour from now, how do you plan and what do you plan for?

— Jeff Walstrom, Starboard Leadership Consulting (3/20/20)



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 [...]

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