If you have been thinking about getting involved — or getting more involved — in your community, the old saying, “there’s no time like the present” has rarely been truer than it is right now.
Whether you are interested in donating money or giving time, communities and the organizations that serve them are looking for donors and volunteers who are ready and willing to help.
As local, national, and global economies wrestle with the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the heightened impacts of racial and social injustice, and contentious national and local elections, people in every community are struggling. People who were already vulnerable are particularly in need. The nonprofit, charitable, and community organizations that are often a safety net and the underlying fabric of a community are working hard to keep up with client and constituent demands. At the same time, their funding and support — whether from individuals, the public sector, or the private sector– is not keeping pace.
You can take a few easy steps now that could make a material difference in how organizations and communities can respond to immediate needs and begin to think about recovery and rebuilding after COVID-19.
Why is it crucial to act now?
Communities need all the support they can get during this crisis. One of the benefits of individual action through volunteering and personal philanthropy is that it can be a quick and immediate response. The majority of philanthropic giving in the U.S. comes from individuals. Government support, which is intended to be significant and long term, takes time. Your time and your dollars can help right now in these critical moments.
Many nonprofit and charitable organizations, from art museums to food banks to afterschool sports programs rely on income from events, program registration fees, and other fees for services they cannot currently provide. Without this income, they can’t pay salaries, benefits, rent, or any number of other expenses to keep their doors open. Individual donor dollars will be a significant factor in these organizations’ ability to weather this storm. Right now, every dollar and each day counts.
Organizations that typically utilize volunteers to help with everything from afterschool tutoring to planning and running events to sorting and distributing food have had to rethink their overall operations and how to safely engage the volunteers they need on to help their programs meet the needs of their clients and communities.
How do I get started?
If you’ve been holding off for any reason, now is the time to act. Here are some easy steps you can take to get started:
1. First, keep supporting the organizations you’re already been giving to. They will need your consistent contributions over the coming weeks and months. Make sure you’ve reached out to them to understand how you can be of help.
2. Consider giving to your local COVID-19 response fund. In many communities, these funds are being organized and managed by local community foundations, with rapid distribution to organizations on the front lines of response across the community.
3. Support organizations that serve people and communities most impacted by this multi-layered crisis. Ideally, support organizations that are founded and/or led by people from those same communities — they are the experts, and they know what is needed.
4. If you’re looking for new organizations, learning more about a cause or issue you care about, or want to validate the viability of a nonprofit, GuideStar and Giving Compass are great resources that can help.
5. Finally, if you’re looking for support in planning, or research for your giving, organizations like community foundations, philanthropic advisors, and online resources can help you ensure your giving goes where it’s most effective and best aligned with what you care about. As you’re thinking about how to most effectively donate your money, make sure to check out some good practices from a collection of leading foundations across the country.
Volunteering Your Time
1. First, decide whether you prefer (safe), in-person volunteering or virtual volunteering. There is no right answer — both in-person and virtual volunteering offer a variety of impactful and rewarding options.
2. Keep supporting the organizations you have already been volunteering with or giving to. They will need your consistent support over the coming weeks and months. Reach out to understand how you can help.
3. If you’re looking for new volunteer opportunities with new organizations, check out resources from organizations like VolunteerMatch, which allow you to search using a variety of criteria including geography, cause areas, skills and “virtual” to find something that’s right for you.
4. Consider your skills and expertise and how you can utilize them to support the issues, causes and communities you care about. Many organizations are looking for skills in areas like finance, marketing, and project management as well as subject matter expertise in areas including education, the arts, construction, healthcare and hospitality.
Thank you in advance for the action you’re about to take.
About Yvonne Thomas
Yvonne has spent more than two decades working across philanthropy, communities, education, business and government. She is the founder and principal of Proximity, providing strategic consulting and advising to individuals and organizations to help them create greater social impact. Proximity helps individuals and organizations engage social impact with confidence by helping them grow their knowledge, develop clear goals and strategies and implement plans that ultimately lead to greater impact. Prior to founding Proximity, Yvonne held a variety of roles within Microsoft Philanthropies. Most recently, as the director of global programs, she was responsible for global strategy, programs and partnerships across more than 60 countries. Before to joining Microsoft, Yvonne worked in the nonprofit sector, with a focus on youth development.