The Pittsburgh Foundation

Themes Heard from All Nonprofit Partners

Below are the major themes heard by the Foundation's Program and Policy department staff from all our nonprofit partner interviewees so we may better understand their concerns, challenges and needs to inform our most immediate grantmaking, convening and public policy activities. Back to Conversations with Nonprofit Leaders.

Organizations are concerned about staffing shortages due to illness and child care needs of staff. 

“Will we have enough people to serve them? We're taking a wait and see. You can't throw money at this issue. This is a human capital issue. If we don't have people, we can't provide the service.” 

Organizations are concerned about having to close their doors and stop providing services if the situation gets worse or is prolonged.

“Are we going to be able to operate after this? We live month to month at the center, depending on tuition and what is coming in through parents and contracts. It is up in the air and, hopefully, it will not continue longer than a month.” 

It will take a long time to fully realize the impact of this crisis.

“The decision to quickly implement an emergency fund is how a community foundation should respond. However, I would suggest that part of the strategy is not to blow our whole wad right away. Some of the future impacts are short-term but not immediate. The moratorium on utility shut offs and evictions will only hold for a short time. People will still have to pay those bills and we may see that impact three months from now.”   

Organizations need operating support to maintain operations, as typical sources of support--such as fund-raising events, fee-for-service activities and individual donor capacity--are all impacted.   

“For nonprofits, we need some operational support... Unrestricted dollars that allow us to keep us afloat. We're not even realizing the impact of this because we don't know how long this is going to last. This is just the beginning.” 

Organizations are unsure what support is and will be available to nonprofits to deal with the impact of this crisis, especially as they are not eligible for Small Business Administration loans. 

Staff is overwhelmed by the uncertainty and stress created by the crisis and need support in making operational decisions.

“I lie awake at night wondering how and if we'll get through this and who won't. It was really hard for me to not go to the office when I'm sending other people there. It's painful. I'm in multiple risk categories and I'm also in the way, I guess. I don't provide essential care. I'm working 15-hour days and I don't know if we're doing the right thing or if we're doing the only thing.” 

Despite the stress of the situation, staff and volunteers have stepped up in incredible ways.

“Our staff have truly been amazing. They have stepped up in unbelievable ways. I've been brought to tears by seeing what our staff is doing. If there's a way to reward the people on the front lines… to recognize the efforts that have been undertaken, that would be awesome.” 

Recommendations for Providing Support to All Sectors

  • Provide unrestricted funding to nonprofits to give them the flexibility to respond to emergent needs within their organization and adapt their services to the needs of the people that they serve.
  • Advocate for systems change. Many of the issues impacting nonprofits and the people they serve can be addressed through government action. Opportunities highlighted by interviewees include: 
    • Health: Support advocacy for getting personal protective equipment (PPE) to providers and advocate for free clinics and look-alike Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) to also receive government support.
    • Food: Advocate for a more streamlined process, including no waiting period, when acquiring Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, in anticipation of increased need for food assistance.
    • Housing: Advocacy campaign with the federal government to release restrictions on use of funds that are outside the contracts in order to creatively address this evolving situation. Waivers of some sort. 
    • Child care: Advocate for gap funding to allow centers to pay staff in full while closed. Current Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) guidance provides subsidy through April 30, but this is only a portion of the cost to centers to employ staff. 
    • Arts and Culture: Support more equitable disbursement of flexible funds to serve the entire field. Advocate for funding to help arts organizations stay afloat and shift programming in this time.

“The crisis is making even more visible bad policies… Foundations should have an eye toward the future, not just emergency responses with increased services, but using our collective voices to call on policy makers to fix bad policy and do the right thing.”

  • Be a trusted conveyor of information and convener for nonprofit organizations. Conditions on the ground are changing quickly and there are so many sources of information for organizations to sift through that there is a need for a more coordinated system both for sharing information and bringing nonprofit leaders together for mutual support, to discuss challenges, collaborate and share solutions.  
  • Learn about and respond to the needs of those who may experience greater barriers accessing supports and services. This includes immigrants and refugees, individuals with mental illness, individuals with disabilities and those at risk of experiencing domestic violence. 

“I'm really concerned about the Latino community. They are not centralized… You should talk to these organizations. There are not a lot of external resources. We’re trying to educate people but it’s hard. We aren't unique in our situation, but we are unique in who we serve.”   

  • Proactively consider how the Foundation’s resources will be used to address immediate needs, as well as yet-unknown social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis for vulnerable individuals and families.