As the world continues to confront the COVID-19 global pandemic, nonprofit organizations are managing their response as providers of essential services to communities and individuals in a time of crisis, as well as managing the safety and security of their staff. Nonprofits play a pivotal and critical role both in a direct and indirect way. They face everyday challenges in society, such as food insecurity and poverty, while also creating thriving communities.
However, during a crisis, their role and response are augmented. Nonprofits find themselves at the front lines of emergency response during a crisis, whether it is a natural disaster, an economic recession, or a global health emergency.
The nonprofit sector’s immediate role and invaluable work have never been more visible than they are now. However, while organizations continue to deliver necessary services, a change in operations as a result of the pandemic, means that many nonprofits can no longer fill other essential roles, such as providing social cohesion and connection – which represents a significant loss for people who rely on these for social well-being. Physical distancing rules mean a change in operations for many organizations that can no longer provide the kinds of connections that they previously did, compounded by a decrease in various sources of revenues, such as event cancellations. As a result, not only are many nonprofits faced with revamping how they deliver services, they are also seeing an increase in demand for those services in a time when their revenues and abilities are decreasing.
Past experiences provide some understanding of effective ways that nonprofits can prepare and manage during an emergency. In Alberta, there are lessons learned from the Calgary flood in 2013 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016. As natural disasters, neither of these are directly comparable to the current circumstances.
However, all three are emergency situations with similarities that can be examined.
Many current issues are emerging for nonprofits that reflect these past crisis situations and give some guidance as to what actions the sector can take during these exceptional circumstances. A human resources crisis, a financial crisis, and the illumination of the inequities that are leaving some people more vulnerable to the effects of this pandemic are all issues that must be addressed.
By necessity, emergencies send all organizations – including nonprofits – into crisis mode. During this time, it is also crucial to start thinking about the future prosperity of the sector once it is past managing a crisis and working toward recovery. The current pandemic and resulting public health crisis have illuminated gaps in the sector’s social fabric, and all organizations can be part of advocating for a better future for all.
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CCVO (Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations) is a member-based charitable organization that was established in 2004 to strengthen Calgary’s vibrant nonprofit/voluntary sector, and address sector-related public policy issues in Alberta. The high quality of life enjoyed in our communities is built on many of the programs, activities, and services run by more than 26,000 nonprofits and charities that make up Alberta’s nonprofit sector. We are proud to support these organizations through our sector research, advocacy, and informed convening and programming activities.