The unique struggles of non-profits during COVID-19

Published: Apr. 3, 2020 at 6:42 PM AKDT
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In the days of 'the new normal,' we're all doing a lot more depending on one another. Many people and businesses have similar problems to deal with that are caused - and eventually will be solved - by orders to stay at home. However, for non-profits, advocates say based on what kind of organization it is, needs vary greatly.

Laurie Wolf is the CEO and President of the Foraker Group, a non-profit that does advocacy work for other non-profits who said they are seeing two main kinds of impacts from the coronavirus.

"We've got this immediate impact and then we have a long term impact that we are all starting to try and understand," Wolf said.

The first, she described, are the non-profit groups who share space on the front line of the pandemic. Shelter services and healthcare organizations are some that fall into this category. She said these places are stretched thin due to COVID-19, but they still have to provide services essential to society in this time.

Wolf said this category is normally always looking for people and resources, but these days the need is amplified greatly.

The second are groups facing almost the opposite impact and having to slow their operations or even close their doors. These are organizations that work in fields like art advocacy, childcare, and religious congregations.

Diane Kaplan, President and CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation said there is some overlap. One example she used are childcare groups like Camp Fire, who are figuring out how to take care of the children of first responders while they directly help with the epidemic.

Both are concerned with how the second group will fare in the long run.

"The arts organizations we are particularly worried about because they are always fragile for the most part," Kaplan said, "they live on the edge all the time and depend so heavily on ticket sales, admission fees, galas, and other fundraising."

However, both the non-profits who are busier than ever and the ones that can't operate have one big problem in common with coronavirus.

"Compounding all of this is that they've lost their volunteer base who are so much the heart of so many non-profits because volunteers are being asked to hunker down," Wolf said.

Wolf and Kaplan said that help is on the way for those folks.

Wolf said non-profits will be included in monies received by Alaska from the CARE Act. However, since they didn't qualify for aid before, the legislation will still have to figure out how much non-profits will receive from the roughly $1.25 billion coming from the federal government.

Wolf said the Foraker Group is working with the legislation to influence that decision.

Kaplan said there should be something for all the organizations to get some form of aid.

"Some will be major recipients of federal support for activities directly related to COVID-19, others will be eligible for other kinds of support," she said.

Kaplan added that the Rasmuson Foundation is constantly looking into all forms of aid from state, federal, municipal, and private levels for non-profits. She said an additional $2 million from the foundation is being used to help fill the gaps too.

Wolf reminded that

were made available Friday that non-profits can apply for.

There's lists of resources for non-profits on the



With so many moving parts and things being figured out, Wolf said those applying need to be smart and patient about the process of getting aid.

"There's lots of choices, which is wonderful and amazing," she said, "but it also means that we have to be thoughtful about what choices we're going to take advantage of."

While these are hard times for most people, Wolf and Kaplan said the work of non-profits touch many lives, sometimes without people realizing it. For the people and organizations who can, they encourage folks to see if they can afford to help through donations or other ways.

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