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How to manage an NGO in the time of COVID-19

In these unprecedented times when COVID-19 continues to spread and to impact almost every individual and organization across the world directly or indirectly, non-profit organizations or non-government organizations (NGOs) are also deeply affected now and in the times to come. As it is not yet clear what the current pandemic situation holds in future, it is important to balance the scale between panic and carelessness. Preparedness is key.

Before we discuss how you may ensure the above, here are some pointers on managing your NGO in the times of COVID-19, if you run or manage an NGO:

  1. Stay Informed:

First and foremost, information is key. Regularly checking for guidelines and instructions from the Government/ local bodies and international bodies like WHO should be included in your daily to-do list. Make sure you are up-to-date with such instructions and guidelines and you (your NGO) complies to them as required.

Spread the word:

Share the universally accepted advice around COVID-19 prevention and management. E.g. WHO advice on Coronavirus disease here:

  1. Search for funding opportunities:

If you are working at the frontline on COVID-19, look for funding opportunities locally and globally. There are many such opportunities available now and the list is growing every day. For example, in India, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has announced that the funds spent by companies in the prevention and management of COVID-19 would fall within the definition of a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) obligations[1]. This would mean a surge in corporate spending in the sector and the work of many NGOs can benefit from this. Across the world, there are many funds and grants being established to tackle the impact of Covid-19. Here is an example: Link to such funds in the UK:[2]. Look for such opportunities in your country and region and see if your NGO is eligible.

Prepare for financial implications:

Prepare for the financial implications by creating a plan for managing the unavoidable fixed costs, managing cash flow, delaying the expenditures that may be delayed and basically getting into lean management mode. Check the government portals and those of local authorities around any support being offered to non-profit organizations. Some countries are offering extensions on filing annual returns. This varies from country to country and region to region and there are many platforms compiling this information on a real time basis. Make sure you are aware about them and by doing your research.

  1. Comply with agreed reporting and use time for donor stewardship:

Make sure you are on top of things around funder reporting and financial accountabilities. This will make sure you receive your upcoming donation tranches in time. Check with the funders if they are adjusting any reporting requirements or are suspending them to support the NGOs. With individual donors, keep them updated and ask how they are doing. Keep your donors updated about the steps you are taking to handle the situation, how you are managing your organization and how you are supporting staff and beneficiaries.

Share your challenges and actively seek support:

Speak to your funders about the challenges your NGO is facing due to the current situation or if any particular program is suffering. Bring the points to the table with honesty and figure out the solutions together. Many funding agencies have come forward to offer support to the NGOs in these difficult times and a discussion around solutions will help you now and in the long run too.

  1. Figure out finances and budget:

To ensure your projects and programs stay on track, you might need to up your fundraising efforts and to dig into your reserves. This is the ‘rainy day’ all of us prepare for. It may not be ideal but might be needed in these times. Depending on the community you serve, it might happen that the beneficiaries may need increased support now and for some more months. This would also mean more resource requirement. Once you have a handle on the current situation, prepare for the next year. Involving your board and key staff members, budget for increased contingency costs over the next year too.

Co-learn with peers globally:

This challenging time presents a great opportunity to learn and grow together as non-profit professionals. All across the world, people are exchanging ideas, learning to come together and try new things, sharing experiences and lessons. There is so much learn- from guidance for NGO leaders, for fundraisers, community workers and so on. One example of very useful guidance for fundraisers by the Institute of Fundraising (UK):



Key Considerations for various stakeholder groups:

 Staff/ Volunteers:

Community and Beneficiaries:

Donors and Stakeholders:

Regular communication (emails) from NGO leader (e.g. CEO) around the steps you are taking to deal with the situation

There will be unavoidable and unprecedented impact of this pandemic worldwide. But the solution is to ‘flatten the curve’ of the negative impact for your NGO by being proactive in your overall approach, by managing the situation at hand and in the end, trusting that the whole world is in this together. The situation is full of chaos, but at the same time it is a great opportunity for the development sector- to show that we are there for what we stand for- social care, support and development.

In the times of Covid-19, here are some do’s and don’ts for your NGO:

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