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Nonprofits are taking stock of just how bad things are and could get — and how quickly they have had to change and may need to change.
UTEC’s mission is “to ignite and nurture the ambition of our most disconnected young people to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success” and the organization works in Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill, Massachusetts. I had written about UTEC and its CEO, Gregg Croteau:
Any given day finds Croteau and UTEC’s ‘street workers’ sitting at a bedside at a hospital after a shooting, visiting a gang member in prison, or attending a funeral. These are the places where UTEC staff find they can best begin the process of recruiting a young person to leave street life behind.
That was then. But, in the wake of COVID-19, UTEC’s leaders felt they had no choice but to close the site where they run their programs — though they’re seeking to provide as much structure as they can to the young adults in their programs remotely. They are staying connected through texts and phone calls and are delivering food daily to the young adults’ homes.
“Our biggest need right now is flexible funding to offset any gaps, cover for the unexpected costs, and help us keep all young adults on payroll, which we have assessed to be at least $83,000 for the first month,” Croteau told me over email. “We run social enterprises, which account for 15 percent of our annual revenue. Our catering and events business has already lost roughly $50,000 in cancelled events over the 30 days. And our cafe is now closed, which will likely result in another loss of about $6,000 per month. This will only increase over the coming weeks.”
Most shocking in Croteau’s email, and a sobering counter to the more optimistic news Moore had shared with me, was this: “We have recently heard from a few funders that they may need to decrease the size of their grants, given the anticipated economic decline.”
But UTEC’s mission remains as crucial as ever — and now with a different angle on individual and community health. “With young people less engaged, and, while we try to loop them into the daily news about COVID warnings, we are concerned that them having more idle time could result in an increase in youth-related violence. We need to prepare how to continue to provide such intervention work without putting our staff in harm’s way,” Croteau explained. “Additionally, those young adults who are incarcerated run the risk of being very socially isolated. Jails are limiting visits, so our streetworkers will not be doing their usual weekly one-on-ones.”
These are the harsh realities for many nonprofits. And the implications for funders are significant. There has been much good advice offered by leaders such as Antony Bugg-Levine of Nonprofit Finance Fund — I don’t want to repeat all that here, though I do want to endorse it!
But where many have suggested funders should maintain funding levels, I want to suggest they go further. I believe funders should be asking themselves fundamental questions about their role and payout levels in this time and consider increasing their support for at least key grantees even as their own assets decline.
Read the full article about supporting nonprofits by Phil Buchanan at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.