Even during the best of times, it is impossible to generalize about our social purpose sector.  Especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic, some nonprofit agencies are bursting at the seams, while others have minimal to no programmatic activity happening at all.  Many are trying to quickly switch to virtual with training and contacting clients. We know that flexibility is a hallmark of working at nonprofits, so you are likely in better shape than other businesses might be. 

Helping Staff Struggling With Illness

With COVID migrating across CT, chances are that you may have a colleague who is sick or has a family member who is ill. As you learn to handle the new Emergency Paid Sick Leave under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act which went into effect recently, remember that this will be stressful in so many ways for your colleagues. This Act extended sick and family leave into the world of organizations with under 50 employees, so get ready. The US Department of Labor (DOL) has more details on the act including eligibility, amounts and exemptions. Subsequent FAQ’s have been issued with more on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  These new rules apply for those who are sick or quarantined but not for non-affected employees of any entity which the government has closed due to the pandemic (ie gyms). The CDC has a great overview of various things to consider at your offices to keep safe those who do need to be physically present.

Lower Program Activity Level? Try Something Different 

For those nonprofits who have had to go to a remote work set up and whose volume of activity is lower than normal, now is an opportune time to catch up on some items that have been lingering on your agency’s “to do” list. You can start by taking a look at your personnel in detail and building an activity plan that sorts out which staff member can cover which activities. Guidelines to consider include

  • Making technology and remote working as broadly available as possible to all your staff, while also ensuring enhanced security on the technology you provide. Remote work is not just for senior management.  
  • Updating your Human Resources/Employee Manual. If your policies don’t have a section on remote working and use of technology, add it now and inform your team. HR policies, such as confidentiality and codes of conduct, should be the same in remote work setups as in-office work. 
  • Grant funding. As you know, if you have whole staff positions allocated to program grants, their tasks need to relate to the providing of a program. You should consider contacting your grant provider about changing your grant to a general operating grant which would allow you to reassign personnel to any activity. The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven has been open to this kind of change, see here. Even if your grant provider won’t budge, you can try some of the program-related work ideas below. 
  • Developing Staff Skills. As a supervisor, check your notes from your last round of employee evaluations or reviews and see what subjects your staffers were interested in learning – perhaps honing their accounting skills or technology skills. Your staffer might be able to enroll in a course and/or some educational materials might be available online for little/no charge.

Work From Home (WFH) Projects You Can Tackle Now 

  • Augmenting or revising your impact metrics systems for program-related staff. This is an ideal topic for team meetings and discussion using shared documents to build new concepts such as tracking success metrics over longer time periods, or researching what other agencies and grant-makers are excited about. This work would qualify as program-related, so you’d have to worry about changing staff allocations if your funding can’t be converted to a general operating grant.
  • Training colleagues on virtual technologies. For the staff or team member for whom all things techie seems easy, encourage them to do one-on-one tutorials with other staff on various platforms, whether that be Microsoft Team, Google Docs, Dropbox or Zoom. The training of program staff is often allowed in program grants so their time can be used for these activities and still be covered by your grant. 
  • Social media upgrading and training. With more people trained on creating and posting content, your social media platforms can blossom, see here.
  • Contacting donors and development databases: Get caught up with your donors by updating records in your database. And one can always send out personalized thank you messages to donors. 
  • Submitting grant applications: Now might just be a great time to broaden the team working on grant applications using document sharing technology. 

Working from home can be isolating. Make sure to keep in contact with your colleagues who are remotely working on a frequency that works for both your schedules. Survey your staff and set up a weekly (or more frequent) check-in via a phone call or use one of the many free video applications online. Also, as a supervisor, set time boundaries on when you expect your remote working staffers to be available through a shared calendar. Be aware that virtual meeting technologies are new to many people and may require a bit of training to get started. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the changes happening at such a rapid pace, and aren’t sure where to start, the iMission website has resources available to point you in the right direction, including which Connecticut State DOL unemployment programs are best at this time to protect any staff you do have to furlough.  


About the Author:

Dorothy Adams is a nonprofit interim executive and serves on the board of the CT-based community development lender, Capital for Change. To contact Dorothy directly, you can find her on LinkedIn