Most of us can remember a time when we confronted a particularly tough personal challenge and emerged triumphant. In the end, though we might have felt battle worn, our sense of accomplishment far outweighed the fatigue.
This past year has been sort of like that. As we begin to rise from the ashes of the COVID-19 pandemic, we might feel depleted, but we can also feel pride in the way our community came together.
We are especially proud of our nonprofit community. These courageous organizations worked tirelessly to assist individuals and families facing uncertainty – families who didn’t know where their next meal might come from, who worried that they’d lose the roof over their heads, or who were forced to juggle work and their children’s remote learning. The agility, problem solving and resilience these nonprofits organizations showed was impressive.
Our role throughout the pandemic has been to support frontline nonprofits through grantmaking from our COVID-19 response fund. In total, we distributed almost $720,000 in grants to nonprofits in Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.
We recently surveyed these grant recipients, and here are some of my observations after reading their responses.
• Nonprofits are excellent collaborators. We heard story after story about partnerships created to tackle pressing issues. Organizations addressing food insecurity, in particular, found ways to work together. Food pantries partnered with other food pantries, suppliers and even farmers. A respondent wrote, “The pandemic has brought more attention to partnering, which is a great thing.”
• Nonprofits understand the importance of volunteers, especially during a crisis. Because of safety issues, many volunteers had to take a break, which put nonprofits in a bind. However, organizations found workarounds. “We were able to develop a coalition of 24 helping agencies and faith communities, which allowed us to deploy volunteers where they were most needed,” one respondent told us.
• Nonprofits know how to pivot. Crisis fuels innovation. “We had to re-engineer our meal delivery program to help vulnerable individuals affected by COVID-19,” one group told us. “We expanded meal delivery from five to six days, and adopted new safety practices.” Other agencies revamped childcare programs to provide remote learning opportunities, which was critically important for parents unable to work from home.
• Nonprofits are creative problem-solvers. One organization that relies heavily on older volunteers, who, for safety reasons, could no longer volunteer, used their grant dollars to hire and pay local out-of-work food and beverage employees to do the work instead. What a smart idea!
• Nonprofits are scrappy. They know how to accomplish a lot with a little. They’re creative problem solvers. And they do all of it with heart. During the pandemic they were called upon to do more than ever before.
We should all be proud of the immeasurable contributions our nonprofits make to our local communities.
Scott Wierman is the president and CEO of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.