Nonprofit organizations count on volunteers, donors, and countless other forms of community support to survive. What happens when the entire community has been told to stay home for an entire month? Adapting to social distancing—the necessary precautions we’re all taking to combat the spread of COVID-19—has been a jarringly steep learning curve, so I reached out to several organizations around Kansas City to answer the question: How can people help these next several weeks while keeping everyone’s safety top of mind?
It sounds simple but following your favorite organizations on social media and subscribing to their newsletter will keep you informed of their current needs, requests, and recommendations. And when you’re done reading, spread the word! By sharing on Facebook, retweeting on Twitter or forwarding a newsletter, you quickly amplify their message and expand their audience. Many organizations have posted specific recommendations, including United Way of Greater Kansas City’s Crisis Volunteer Guide.
You don’t have to leave home to help. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kansas City posts a Wish List of food pantry goods, storage and paper items, cleaning supplies, linens, and other household and other personal items. And while online shopping and delivery are easiest and safest, they also have an area outside the house designated for drop offs.
As President & CEO of Nonprofit Connect, Luann Feehan always has her eye on the current state of area nonprofits while looking ahead to the future. “Actively recruit for volunteers now,” Feehan suggests, “so when the virus subsides and we get back to work, volunteers will be ready to help organizations ramp back up.” She noted it’s also a good time for current volunteers to step up as mentors. “Reach out and talk with new or prospective volunteers about what you do, why you do it, and then help train or guide them.”
Many organizations have reimagined their in-person gatherings as virtual events, making it even easier for supporters to participate. “We moved our spring Walk MS to #virtualWalkMS,” says Jenna Neher, President of the Midamerica Chapter of the National MS Society, “and we are seeing the truly creative, tenacious and inspiring nature of people in the MS movement come through. For people with immune disorders like MS, the current situation is even more isolating. Taking the opportunity to learn about your neighbors who are disproportionately at risk helps us all become a more compassionate community. I’ve seen this virtual landscape blossom across our entire KC community.”
Foster from home
Recently KC Pet Project’s urgent request for volunteers came with a bonus: A new friend while you work from home. “On March 17, we asked for people to sign up to be emergency fosters for our pets,” explains Chief Communications Officer Tori Fugate, “and so far, we’ve received more than 600 signups from people in the community who want to help, which is amazing!” KC Pet Project is also working on new Lost/Found pet programs to help stray pets get home faster.
Help a neighbor
Bike Walk KC, an advocacy group focused on creating safer streets, has creative ways to blend service with physical activity. Liz Harris, Marketing and Events Coordinator, suggests making grocery runs for high-risk neighbors by using a RideKC Bike. “The first 20 minutes of every ride is free,” Harris says, “and small businesses get free access during the lockdown.”
Share some joy
After making the difficult decision to cancel the entire spring season of Girls on the Run—which was set to have record-high participation—President/CEO Gina Lichte is focused on the silver lining. “Let’s use this time as an opportunity to push spreading small joys,” Lichte says, “by decorating sidewalks with motivational messages, buying gift certificates or ordering takeout at local businesses, writing thank-you notes to nurses and doctors, etc. Then share how you’re nurturing your physical, emotional, and spiritual health during this time by using #GOTRKCathome so we can all stay connected!”
Ask your friends
With so much uncertainty right now, it may be tough for you to write a big check to your favorite organizations. But Facebook fundraisers are an easy—and highly shareable—way to encourage your friends and family to give small amounts that could add up to a healthy donation for these local nonprofits.
Even in the best of times, every volunteer or donor will help these organizations fulfill their mission. It’s just true now—more than ever.
—Jake Jacobson is VP of Growth and Partnership at Native Digital, a KC-based marketing firm specializing in brand strategy, creative messaging and performance marketing. He is an active volunteer and board member for several local nonprofits.