Canadian nonprofit and community-based organizations (NGOs, CBOs) are facing uncertain futures in this era of COVID-19. Already the social and economic costs of the pandemic are being felt by individuals, communities, and across the country as a whole. Some of those costs are manifesting in the form of job loss, homelessness, and increased incidences of domestic violence among others. With higher demands on NGOs and CBOs, a second wave may prove to be a critical hit to some of the organizations holding the safety net for vulnerable populations.
The State of NGOs and CBOs in a COVID-19 Landscape
Canadians are playing their role in flattening the curve, however, Imagine Canada reports that organizations are still straining to meet an influx in demand. In response, many are adapting how they run their programs, but the subsequent financial downturn is causing some to reduce their staff and dip into their financial reserves. The Ontario Nonprofit Network, which represents 58,000 NGOs, supports these findings with their COVID-19 provincial survey results on the current state of the sector, challenges, and recommendations for assistance.
Additional and necessary costs to keep community-facing staff and clients safe are adding to financial pressures. New training protocols, personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitization, and protective barriers are just some of the added operation costs. In remote communities, the cost of adhering to new safety protocols could mean delays or continued closures.
Fortunately, collaborative and multi-sectoral innovation is arising in response. This means an uptick in remote programming possibilities.
Keeping Internal Communications Safe
Social distancing and personal comfort levels delay onboarding new staff and conducting meetings where spaces are insufficient to maintain 2 meters apart. Using online platforms such as Slack, Asana, and Google helps overcome those barriers.
Google-for-Nonprofits is currently being offered in partnership with Fuse Social and Capacity Canada. As part of the initiative, Google is giving free access to paid Google products and one-on-one learning support from a Google volunteer. Additional Nonprofit Plans are also available at a lower rate to meet the needs of larger organizations.
For organizations where laptops are scarce but needed for Work From Home accommodations, TechSoup’s Refurbished Hardware program sells low-cost, high-quality laptops.
When working online, Okta specializes their services for the nonprofit sector. The platform takes care of privacy and security concerns by focusing on identity access and management options, such as Single Sign-On and Multi-Factor Authentication.
Learning from Each Other
Online and interactive platforms allow for crowd-sourcing information and ideas that fill knowledge gaps and create alternative avenues for programs and services. This is particularly useful for organizations that do not have the time or funds to deep-dive into best practices and innovation.
Among the organizations sharing knowledge in Canada is CATIE, which focuses on HIV and Hepatitis C support. They hosted a webinar session for remote programming with vulnerable populations where consistent and personal support is required. Sage complemented this webinar with its list of resources, which can be used as a base for transferability between program and sector needs.
For additional tips on creating inclusive webinars and feeds, see here.
Oxfam recently released its recommendations for community-facing staff during COVID-19.The report calls for the creation of alternative engagement plans with communities and additional project stakeholders. Among the suggestions are:
- Mapping communication chains for effective information sharing
- Establishing relationships with local health facilities
- Speaking with communities about risks and potential “hot spots”
To supplement the report, they have attached guidelines on combating stigma and using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and physical distancing measures.
Capacity-building in the Organization
The Canadian Red Cross is providing self-paced online learning, virtual classrooms, and in-person training for Preventing Disease Transmission. The course is targeted at Canadian community organizations and volunteers in charge of COVID-19 response and working with vulnerable communities.
Alternatively, non-Canadian organizations that do not meet the eligibility requirements can turn to DisasterReady. The educational platform released a free Remote Programming Course to educate and prepare organizations.
Considering Your Community
Meeting communities where they are is crucial for an effective response. The differing needs of groups and identities may make remote programming impossible or require additional supports, such as designing outreach with assistive technologies for users with disabilities. The above resources, therefore, should be adapted to fit the context of your organization, location, and client needs.
Organizations designing remote programs outside of their immediate physical community should collaborate with local leaders. Their knowledge of the communities will translate to more efficient use of available resources that keep up with changing socio-economic dynamics and caseloads in the area.
PeaceGeeks is committed to supporting our partners in the community and nonprofit sector as a whole while we navigate the rapidly changing circumstances caused by COVID-19. If you know of any additional resources or have insights in moving forward, please comment below.