The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Savannah’s nonprofits and community organizations at a time when they are needed most
| Savannah Morning News
This is an op-ed by Moncello Stewart, a lifelong Savannahian who serves on the board of a number of volunteer and community service organizations.
The global impact of COVID-19 has inevitably affected our livelihood, forcing us to adapt and transition into what we have disdainfully coined as our “new normal.” Two of the most impacted groups have been community groups and nonprofits.
These organizations serve as a liaison to our local community, connecting individuals to vital resources; identifying key issues and challenges within our community; and strategizing solutions with necessary partners. Operating with mostly volunteers and few paid staff, they deliver mighty impacts to the community.
With COVID-19 reducing the workforce, community groups and nonprofits felt the pinch and were forced to function with reduced staffing and funding. Organizations had to discover new ways to provide their services while maintaining a relationship with their stakeholders. Budgeted revenues declined; however, expenses and operating costs did not.
Fundraising and program cancellations as a result of COVID-19 have been costly to these organizations. With the overwhelming challenges created by the pandemic, failing for these organizations was not an option.
While financial resources diminish, the demand for community and nonprofit organization services historically rise during and after crisis. Issues that plagued our community (poverty, blight, education, transportation, the wealth gap), were exacerbated by COVID-19.
In July, the Chatham County Sheriff’s office served over 400 eviction warrants. According to the Georgia Department of Labor, from March to April the Savannah Metro area lost approximately 25,000 jobs. School closures and online platforms highlighted educational problems within the underserved community. People are pleading and searching for relief.
Nonprofits and community organizations continued to rise to the challenge, meeting these new set of conditions with a new approach. For organizations like Save Our Youth, Through It All, S2S Facts, Male Dreamers, Savannah Youth City, Shelter From the Rain and so many more, this has become a time of opportunity -— a time to reimagine, regroup, reinvent the mission and vision of these organizations, their processes, their impact and their partners; a time of transformation, from worry and dismay into innovative creativity.
Face-to-face interactions were replaced with online platforms like Zoom. A team of volunteers and their duties were condensed. Large-scale fundraising events have been reduced to a heavy reliance on community donors. These organizations have created ways to keep up the pace and address community needs.
However, it does not come without a cost. There have been challenges with adapting to online platforms; a loss of connection with individuals who have not become tech savvy, in particular the older generation. The ability to raise funds through personal story telling can been seen through the lack of donations. Delivery of services have adapted to social distancing guidelines, reducing participation.
Huge uncertainties and financial stress have had a major impact on community organizations and nonprofits during this pandemic. Despite these unsettling times, many of these organizations remained focused on their mission … serving their community.
For that we owe an enormous gratitude to them and the work that they have continued to do. They are our heroes also.