Reopening: What’s Top of Mind for Nonprofits

July 15, 2020

The first 3 conversations in our Considerations for Reopening series each saw over one hundred participants from nonprofits across the state. If you were able to join us, your questions and suggestions strengthened our nonprofit network. There’s still time to register for Imagining the Workplace of the Future on Thursday, July 16.

Register for "Imagining the Workplace of the Future: part four of Considerations for Reopening" on Thursday, July 16
Register here.

We heard you. Covid-19 has impacted every level of your life and work. You are concerned about:

  • Mask requirements,
  • Clean and safe facilities,
  • Ongoing uncertainty, and
  • Emotional wellbeing of clients, coworkers, and yourself.

Mask Requirements

Wearing face coverings in public is now required in the state of Washington. Senior Policy Advisor John Snyder reminded us that not complying with the order is a misdemeanor. Law enforcement’s approach is to issue warnings first because the governor’s office wants to make sure enforcement is done in an equitable way. The sentiment, “I need the public to follow guidelines so we can open up!” was shared by many.

Many people have questions about how to set firm expectations for staff and volunteers and send a clear message to clients. These can be delicate conversations. Jonathan Mallahan reframed conversations with his resistant staff members:

“For Catholic Charities, this isn’t about politics, this is about our responsibility as an organization to the safety of our staff and clients.”

Jonathan Mallahan, Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington

Many of you agreed: “I feel like as an organization, you wearing a mask should show your clients that you care and want them to remain healthy.”

Masks can add a barrier between staff and clients. One person suggested “having staff wear shields so that facial expressions can be visualized,” adding, “face shields are the recommendation for counselors.” Refugee Artisan Initiative and others sell window masks that allow people who lip read to understand you.

Clean and Safe Facilities

It feels like information about Covid-19 changes daily. Knowing how to keep facilities clean and safe is an ongoing struggle. Michael Tulee, Executive Director of United Indians of All Tribes, discourages more than two staff members from sharing a room.

“I said, if they’re going to meet, they should just go outside with masks six feet apart.”

Michael Tulee, United Indians of All Tribes

Others are staggering staff schedules and creating pods to reduce the risk.

Even with only a few people in the building at a time, increased cleaning regimens are a challenge. How many of you are pricing out electrostatic sprayers right now? We love one participant’s idea to “look into sharing a cleaning unit with other nonprofits in my area.” Others are collaborating with their landlord or tenants who share their building to keep bathrooms and other shared areas cleaner. Creativity and adaptability are nonprofit superpowers!

Silhouette of Wild Cat rollercoaster at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup. Photo by Will Meyers on Unsplash
Silhouette of Wild Cat rollercoaster at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup.
Photo by Will Meyers on Unsplash.

Continued Uncertainty

Many participants hoped these conversations would provide certainty in the form of timelines, templates, and action items. Unfortunately, we’re all going through this pandemic for the first time. Nonprofit people need to be honest with each other and work through change as it comes. Washington Nonprofits encourages you to build up your support network and learn together.

Closer relationships are an unexpected silver lining for Betsy Cushman. Methow Recycles has had more one-on-one conversations with their community members. They are combining their new transparency with donor stewardship:

“When there is a future ask, they will know where it’s coming from.”

Betsy Cushman, Methow Recycles

John Snyder is seeing positive change as well, from reduced wear on roads and highways, to renewed dedication to racial justice, to increased broadband access across the state.

One participant appreciated “the amazing board we have and the musicians in their willingness to be thoughtful and realistic in what we can and cannot do… And they are willing to dig in and work!” Knowing your strengths and limits as an organization is another superpower.

Emotional Wellbeing

All this flexibility comes at a cost. Continually reassessing programs, adopting new procedures, and integrating new information is stressful. When one person said their biggest struggle was “trying to hang in there,” we heard that.

Isolation takes a huge toll on emotional wellbeing. Remember, physical distancing does not have to mean social distancing. During the summer months, it’s easier to follow the Governor’s guidelines to move activities outdoors. See if you can turn a one-on-one into a walking meeting over the phone–not all meetings need to be on camera! One person is implimenting “team fitness challenges that are adaptable to all levels” such as walks, hikes, or bike rides. Others are planning physically distant, outdoor picnics. Expressing gratitude by mailing cards or gifts can help you feel more connected to your colleagues.

Remember that you do not have to do it all.

“Take care of yourself. This stuff is exhausting. Take care of each other. If you’re feeling alone, you’re not.”

Betsy Cushman, Methow Recycles

The Considerations for Reopening series is presented in partnership with the State of Washington, Department of Labor & Industries, Safety and Health Investment Projects.

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