by Shari Finnell, editor/writer, Not-for-profit News
“Unprecedented.” That’s the word that immediately comes to mind for many Central Indiana nonprofit leaders in addressing the new challenges in carrying out their mission in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And many of those experiences are now critical in shaping how nonprofits are shaping plans to operate in 2022, including new ways to approach donors, addressing employee burnout and collaborating with other nonprofits, according to two local nonprofit CEOs.
The Urban League of Indianapolis, which promotes economic empowerment among underserved communities through education, job training and workforce development, unexpectedly entered into new terrain during the pandemic, according to Tony Mason, CEO and president.
“At the onset of the pandemic, we started receiving calls from the senior living communities who were concerned about how their residents were going to get food,” Mason recalled.
After connecting some of the senior living communities to Gleaners, Second Helpings and other food banks, Mason assumed that request had been fulfilled. The team continued to focus on how to shift its operations to a virtual format.
“But the calls kept coming in,” Mason said. “And they were coming from citizens. We had to do something.”
As a result, the Mason conferred with the rest of the Urban League team about launching a plan to operate as a drive-through food and resource distribution center. Assuming that the drive-through operations would only last a couple of months, the team decided it would serve as a good opportunity to engage and connect with the community while meeting an urgent need, Mason recalled.
However, by the end of 2021, the Urban League had continued to provide the service for more than 80 consecutive weeks, at times distributing food to up to 900 households each week, Mason said.
For Rachel Scott, president and CEO of Coburn Place, those challenges included serving an increasing number of victims of domestic violence, a trend that was reflected nationally and globally in response to lockdowns.
“We were inundated with new clients due to an unprecedented increase in domestic violence,” Scott said. “This meant not only hiring and training new staff, but redefining how we serve survivors. We were already set up for mobile advocacy, but suddenly that was all we had. Our staff had to be creative. They did intakes by phone with abusers in the next room because meeting at a coffee shop wasn’t an option.”