As we wake up each morning during this indescribable pandemic, we must not forget about our state’s most vulnerable citizens. We are a poor state with one out of every six South Carolinians living in poverty. Many of our neighbors need food, shelter and access to essential services during the best of times. The needs have only escalated over the past few weeks.
Our nonprofit sector provides the safety net for the those in need. More than 17,000 charities exist across South Carolina, employing 90,000 citizens. In addition, one in three people in our state volunteer in some capacity. We are generous, ranking 14th in the nation for giving. South Carolina is a caring and philanthropic place.
By its very nature the nonprofit sector is resilient. Over the few short weeks since the world has changed, organizations have mobilized to support and advocate for the growing needs of the people they serve. Nonprofits have exemplified adaptive leadership, while at the same time struggling to survive. Operating funds are depleting and their “human-touch” work has been reframed in order to social distance and self-quarantine.
Media accounts of everything Covid-19 are overwhelming with epidemiological projections, government support efforts, escalating unemployment and sobering obituaries. However; in the midst of all of the rhetoric, we are hearing very little about the critical needs of our nonprofit sector.
As a best practice, nonprofits try to maintain three months of operating reserves: however this is often impossible. While funding may come from multiple sources, they rely heavily on the generosity of individuals, foundations and corporations, who are also at risk during these uncertain times. Organizations also host a multitude of fundraising events to infuse cash. Starting in early March these much-needed events were cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future. The financial outlook for the nonprofit sector is grim and many have an uncertain future.
Fortunately, at the state level already existing alliances have strengthened. On a weekly basis, Together SC, the United Way Association of South Carolina and the South Carolina Grantmakers Network are convening. They share up-to-date information, available resources and develop position statements. Key leaders have been in touch with Governor McMaster to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on our state’s nonprofits.
At a recent virtual gathering of the group more than 60 leaders discussed the relief efforts listed below:
United Way of the Piedmont – United For All Relief Fund
Communities across South Carolina are rallying to develop response plans. In Greenville, United Way of Greenville County is coordinating services with local nonprofits and community leaders to provide support for the County’s most vulnerable neighbors. The Covid-19 Community Relief Fund has been established and has already raised over $600,000 through the generous support of Canal Insurance, the Community Foundation of Greenville, Fluor, the F.W. Symmes Foundation, the Hollingsworth Funds, John I. Smith Charities, the Jolley Foundation, Michelin, Truist and many individuals. One hundred percent of the funds go directly into the community to provide food, shelter, childcare, sanitary and hygiene supplies, and financial assistance. To date $68,000 has been deployed to the following agencies: Project Host, Mill Village Farms, Meals on Wheels, Harvest Hope, United Ministries, Safe Harbor and Miracle Hill.
For regular updates regarding the sector, Together SC, the only statewide membership organization for nonprofits, is curating a resource page with federal, state and local content. In addition, they are offering weekly webinars provided by industry experts to help nonprofit leaders navigate these complicated times. This Wednesday, April 8 from 12:00 – 1:00 Together SC is offering a training on the SBA Loan Application Process. The session is designed to help nonprofits apply for the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
While this level of support we are seeing is a start, this is just the first leg of the marathon. Nonprofits need our ongoing commitment more than ever! Here are some immediate steps you can take:
- Donate – Support one of the established Covid-19 relief funds and/or some of your favorite organizations.
- Volunteer – Find opportunities on United Way Association of South Carolina website.
Advocate – Speak out on behalf of the nonprofit sector during this time of need. Call your local, state and federal representatives.