Nonprofits: How do we take care of our own?

People are suffering and struggling. Everywhere. We are all being asked to go over and above to help each other and our communities. Nonprofit workers are on the frontlines and while their heroism is on display, their struggles are often hidden. These are healthcare and childcare workers; those who work for foodbanks, housing shelters, and social service organizations. We’re also talking about people who have dedicated their lives to advocacy, working in think-tanks, developing policy, pursuing legal strategies, scientific research. And we cannot forget our artists, dancers, actors, writers, and musicians ….

Nonprofit workers: the heart and soul of our sector. Can we put them first?The nonprofit sector is diverse and often invisible. And no different from anyone else! That means nonprofit workers are dealing with issues such as inadequate or nonexistent health insurance; job insecurity; access to affordable quality childcare; food and shelter; mental health issues; transportation….

We have to prioritize our nonprofit workforce and help ensure they have the resources they need so they can reach out and do the things that they do: they are the ones who bring our missions to life.

Nonprofits are like the restaurant industry: we are people serving people. And we have to be creative in finding ways to take care of our nonprofit workers so they can be there to take care of all of us. Restaurants are seeking ways – as they can – to keep their employees together as family, to crowdsource on their behalf, give up executive salaries on their behalf. They are repurposing so they can keep people on their payrolls. We have to do the same.

Nonprofit leaders including CEOs, presidents, board chairs, and funders who believe in their organization need to find a way to care for those who are the heart, soul, and brain of that nonprofit. Our suggestion: develop a fund to make sure those who run an organization on a day-to-day basis are secure. We must “start at home,” to make sure staff have the resources they need.

Nonprofit workers: the heart and soul of our sector. Can we put them first?Different communities and organizations are approaching this differently: what’s most important is putting your people first. We have to put on our oxygen mask before we help others. And our nonprofit workers need an oxygen mask.

Two Facts: Nonprofits shed more than 1.6 million jobs from March through May, or 13 percent of all nonprofit jobs… That’s equivalent to 8.8 percent of an estimated 18.7 million job losses seen in that time across all nongovernment jobs. (Chronicle of Philanthropy June 26, 2020) And, a significant number of nonprofits will be forced to consolidate or close their doors. This could be 10% or as high as 40%, according to Deloitte. How will we care for our people?

Here are a few actions to consider: establish an ongoing fund, a reserve fund, an emergency fund. Talk to your donors about the needs of your staff as well as the needs of those you serve or advocate for.  Be an example: some CEOs and senior level staff are taking salary reductions to help ensure that lower-paid team members won’t have to take a hit and will be able to care for their families. We have to be sensitive to the needs of the people within our organizations.

Nonprofit workers: the heart and soul of our sector. Can we put them first?This builds morale, loyalty, and hopefully reduces turnover and increases productivity.

Importantly, it sends a message to your constituency that everybody matters. It would be so hypocritical not to care for those who make it all happen.

We are nothing without our people: they are the ones with relationships; community knowledge; intellectual capital; know-how; and organizational history. They are us.

Finally, we have to keep reimagining our future. Download a scenario planning tool from Deloitte: this can help you prepare for what may lie ahead, and you can use it with an eye towards “how do we serve those who serve us?”

Show what you are really made of. Don’t forget your own family – the nonprofit family! We have to care for each other.


Don’t forget:


Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you find your way through this unknown time. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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