[UPDATE: November 13, 2020]
The severe spike in COVID-19 cases all around the nation as well as the likelihood that one or more vaccines may become available (soon in limited distribution and more widely perhaps in mid-2021) brings the planning process for the nonprofit sector into somewhat clearer focus than even a month or two ago.
Using “scenario planning” as the theoretical framework, there are fewer possibilities. Of course, the delay in what everyone had hoped might be continued phased reopenings makes the path forward for the nonprofit sector more precarious.
Whether there will be a much needed infusion of financial help from the federal government remains unclear.
[UPDATE: September 24, 2020]
Planning has remained fraught with uncertainty as the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to be marked by surges and retrenchments. Now it seems clear that “scenario planning” – rather than traditional “strategic planning” – is the best way to meet the current and upcoming challenges.
[UPDATE: June 25, 2020]
A key question for each organization is how to plan – if, indeed, planning is even possible in the face of massive and unprecedented uncertainty.
But the experts diverge on the best approach. Some experts advise doubling down on the “strategic planning” that many nonprofits have adopted. Others say that “scenario planning” is the only logical choice in the current volatile circumstances.
“The goal, nonprofit leaders need to remind themselves, is not necessarily the survival of their individual organizations, but ensuring ongoing services and support for their constituents.” That’s why many more groups than usual are at least considering merger or collaboration possibilities.
And now that all states are “reopening” in phased stages, the planning issues facing nonprofits around the nation have become considerably more complex. Also, because of starkly rising infection rates, there may be a slowing of these reopenings or even retrenchment back to an earlier, more closed-up operational situation.
[March 31, 2020]
Nonprofit organizations must take important steps now to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and – as much as possible – plan for the near future and their ultimate survivability. There are several essential steps:
- Review finances and, particular, the cash position
- Assess damage to revenue streams
- Determine where reduced operations will cut expenses, or where government programs or emergency loans or benefits may help
- Review all policies, procedures, and insurance coverage
- Review all grants and contracts: in certain cases, a “force majeure” (Act of God) clause may be in effect that will excuse performance or eliminate penalties
Some organizations have business continuity plans in place but even those may turn out to be inadequate in light of the catastrophic events we face. For the many other groups without advance plans and policies in place, the task will be more daunting – but necessary.
Experts concur on one important point: Communicate regularly and consistently with everyone inside or outside the organization, including donors and funders.