National statistics show that non-profit revenues have dropped 30% to 70% because of COVID-19 and local charities are certainly no exception. Needs for services have increased exponentially while contributions have decreased significantly, and volunteer hours have diminished markedly for area non-profits.
Individuals who once donated are now requesting services – many for the first time in their lives. Some non-profits will not survive, and others will not fully recover to previous levels of service for years – if ever. Many are doing everything they know how with the disappearing resources and workforce available, but their efforts are still falling short. If businesses, families, and individuals don’t find ways to increase support, the lasting damage to Northwest Florida will be crippling.
Kathleen Logan, outgoing Board Chair of the Council on Aging (COA), tells me that the demand for food for seniors had increased dramatically since COVID hit – almost a year ago. The number of Meals on Wheels delivered from COA to Santa Rosa residents in October 2019 was 2,194. That number more than tripled to 6,486 in October 2020. Escambia residents requested 6,548 meals in October 2019; that number more than doubled to 14,618 in October 2020. These numbers are for only one organization and one program; IRS records report 1,942 non-profits registered in Pensacola alone. The demands are overwhelming to those trying to serve the neediest citizens.
How can you and your family help? Of course, continue cash contributions whenever possible. Visit websites for a charity that aligns with your values and review their wish list or programs of work to find a fit. You may be surprised at the ordinary items necessary to run a successful non-profit. Make it a family project – involve the kids so they can learn the valuable lessons of giving back. Charities are taking extra precautions for safety and health, so be sure to read guidelines and complete volunteer applications unique to each organization.
How can your business help? Dollars from business-sponsored events are critical to philanthropic organizations. With the cancellation of many large events, business leaders might rethink their sponsorship programs. If events are cancelled, consider donating anyway, even if the amount of the donation must be reduced. Volunteer as a team to do repairs or to fill a program need. Maybe your office has excess paper towels, copy paper or coffee unused since staff is working from home. Choose an item or two that you can donate.
Make fundraising a contest for your staff. Winners get food delivered to their homes and share bragging rights while everyone catches up over pizza and a zoom meeting. Encourage participants to share their experiences on social media, earning positive public attention for your company, building your team, and supporting a good cause simultaneously.
Sectors of business and industry are prospering because of COVID influenced lifestyle changes. If your organization is doing well, now is the time to invest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts. Prepare a plan to invest effectively in philanthropic work that will continue to support your community well beyond COVID recovery. As a good corporate citizen, CSR is a privilege with benefits to both donor and recipient.
I encourage you to take a few minutes and a few dollars – more if you have the resources, and invest in changing a life, your neighborhood, and Northwest Florida. If you do not, who will?
Printed in the Pensacola News Journal – Magi Thomley Williams is a Public Relations Consultant at Thomley Consulting. She supports several local charities including Institute for Women in Politics, Pensacola Bay Area Impact 100 and Pensacola Dragon Boat Festival. She can be reached at Magi@ThomleyConsulting.com