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Nonprofits adapt, adjust to continue to serve during pandemic

Sid Wilson (Submitted photo by Kim Brock)

Sid Wilson, executive director of the South Baltimore Learning Center. (Submitted photo by Kim Brock)

Running a nonprofit is not easy. It certainly is not easy amid a global pandemic and financial challenges, yet many Maryland nonprofits continue to make positive change amongst the communities and constituents they serve.

As president and CEO of Maryland Nonprofits, the statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and advocating for nonprofits in the state of Maryland, Heather Iliff and her team have worked tirelessly to help Maryland nonprofits learn about and how to apply for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other forms of state and government relief for COVID.

In the first draft of the CARES Act, nonprofits were not originally included, so Maryland Nonprofits banded together with organizations like theirs across the country to advocate for nonprofits to be included. Their efforts were successful, and Iliff is happy to report that the organization helped bring in more than $500 million in resources to help local nonprofits get through the pandemic.

Maryland Nonprofits recently conducted a survey in which they are still analyzing, but in preliminary results, Iliff said the survey showed that approximately 67% of respondents received PPP loans and other forms of state and other government relief for COVID.

Like many nonprofits who offer in-person programs, Maryland Nonprofits pivoted their programs to a remote environment after the pandemic was declared.

“It was important to us to provide the education and information on these programs,” she said. While operations have gone virtual, participation in their education workshops, seminars and programs has tripled. The silver lining in all of this, Iliff said, is that going virtual has leveled the playing field so that more organizations, whether they are in Western Maryland or the Eastern shore, can participate.

While many nonprofits throughout the state were able to shift their programs online, or pivot their offerings altogether, almost 30% of nonprofits continue to offer some sort of programs within the community.

“This is just indicative that nonprofits are on the frontlines serving vulnerable residents, helping them get access to food, medicine, health care, information about the virus, yet at the same time these same organizations are getting hit themselves, an economic impact and a human toll, yet they still continue to serve,” Iliff said.

Sid Wilson, executive director of the South Baltimore Learning Center (SBLC), a 30-year-old nonprofit dedicated to providing functional literacy, workforce development, life-skills training and career preparation services for adults, has had to shift its entire program offering online. Enrollment is up by 11%, said Wilson, which presents a new opportunity to reach additional learners who were unable to commute to their location.

However, many of the learners they support do not have access to the technology required to take online courses. SBLC is working with organizations to fill those needs and gaps.

“With the generous support of our current funders, we’ve purchased several laptops and ‘hot spots’ to help many of our learners participate in their classes. However, we have many more learners still in need, so my goal is to identify additional funders who can help. No amount is too small. It all adds up,” said Wilson.

Nonprofits rely heavily on donations and support, yet many individuals and businesses are facing similar financial struggles due to COVID-19.

Carrie Rich

Carrie Rich, CEO and founder of Global Good Fund. (Submitted photo)

“Raising money as a nonprofit proves to be challenging in a year when so many people dealt with personal financial changes,” said Carrie Rich, CEO and founder of the Global Good Fund.

Her organization supports social entrepreneurs and leaders who are working to solve society’s greatest social issues. Each year, innovators are selected for a fellowship program which includes executive coaching and $10,000 each in targeted funding. The funding is usually used exclusively for leadership development, Rich said, but this year they made some changes.

“Given the pandemic, we immediately released all funds to our 2020 Fellows for their use of choice so they could keep businesses afloat,” Rich said.

While this year looks different for their program, many of their fellowship leaders, Rich said, continue to make a positive change in the communities that need it most.

While SBLC and the Global Good Fund have been able to adjust their programs, some nonprofits have had to make the tough decisions to layoff or furlough employees, said Iliff.

“If they are at a point of struggling, that is an important time to engage their board of directors and take a deep look at the extent to which they can meet the moment. Are there current programs and services they can pivot to address, or do they need to put their operations on pause for a while?” said Iliff.

She suggests that nonprofits make short term and long terms plans to move forward and develop creative ways to involve past funders and donors to meet the current needs of the community. She also added that Maryland Nonprofits provides ample support to help nonprofits at any stage.

“We serve as a support system and advocacy network for nonprofits and organizations. As they are working tirelessly to meet the needs of their communities, we are here to support them in their endeavors,” said Iliff.

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