How Nonprofit Leaders Can Keep Their Organizations Afloat

It’s hard to imagine the extent of the destruction and pain Covid-19 will cause to people around the world. In the United States alone, more than 30,000 lives have been lost and millions of jobs have evaporated, and this is only the beginning. Nonprofits will provide an essential lifeline to help people get through this crisis and will be an essential part of recovery efforts. In crises, we need the knowledge, skills, and service of these organizations. Just as critical as the government, yet more nimble, they are now an essential tool for societies to address vital needs.

Many nonprofits have big and important missions, but most are under-resourced. Of the 1.5 million in the United States, 65% have budgets under $500,000. The domestic violence shelter, the food pantry, the local free clinic — these groups are typically run on shoestring budgets with volunteer staffs. Your jaw would drop if you knew how many executive directors work 65 hours a week and are paid for 20. And again, this is on a good day. And these are not good days — not even close.

Nonprofits are struggling in a way that I, a veteran in this field, have never seen before. In Verona, Wisconsin, the Badger Prairie Network can’t keep up with the demand for its food pantry services; both food and financial donations and hours worked by volunteers are down. At Ray of Sunshine, an equine therapy program for those living with cancer in San Diego County,  immunocompromised clients can’t come, and leaders are struggling to raise the money they need to keeping paying staff and caring for the animals.

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