March 6, 2020

In times of crisis, donate to the nonprofits that serve the most vulnerable

As the coronavirus outbreak disrupts daily life, especially for the most at-risk, experts encourage residents to support local nonprofits and small businesses.

At the Salvation Army Crossroads Shelter in Denver, Jim Spencer picks up bed mats so crews can clean and disinfect. The shelter does this daily but they've stepped up their efforts to help stave off coronavirus. Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

What are the nonprofits in your community doing to respond to the coronavirus outbreak? Tell us at

As the number of known cases of coronavirus disease, COVID-19, grows in the United States (we’re following this interactive map), local communities are taking steps to educate and inform the public on the most effective measures it can take to avoid illness.

In addition to washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, you can also support the organizations that help the most vulnerable people.

Adrienne Marchetti, Executive Director of the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen, wipes down the tables inside the dining room where meals are served to those in need in the Rhode Island community. Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) believes that nonprofits and philanthropic organizations can play an important role in supporting communities during crisis and should act now as the coronavirus spreads. Regular folks can help, too—by helping those nonprofits prepare.

During a March 5 webinar hosted by the CDP, experts advised that in addition to the risk posed by the virus itself, social distancing policies can affect how communities maintain outreach to the most vulnerable members. In order to help keep this population protected, offer your support to community safety net organizations such as food pantries and housing assistance nonprofits.

Support the organizations that are already on the ground and helping. Donate so that they’re stocked up and ready. — Jeff Schlegelmilch, National Center for Disaster Preparedness

“Support the organizations that are already on the ground and helping. Donate so that they’re stocked up and ready,” said Jeff Schlegelmilch, the Deputy Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

Schlegelmilch also advised organizations to spread the message to support local small businesses that often serve as the economic backbone of the community. If these businesses have to close temporarily, supporting them in advance will help them if they have to take that financial hit. “A lot of organizations don’t see themselves as responders, but the more that they help people in the community, the more they absolutely provide tremendous value that helps with recovery in the community,” he said.

[Read more: The Ebola outbreak inspired this pharmacist to serve marginalized women in her community]

Panelists predicted that those who could be hit hardest are hourly employees who will struggle if the restaurants and shops where they work are closed, even if just as a precautionary measure. People who are living paycheck-to-paycheck, who can’t afford to buy a week’s worth of food at once, are at risk during a health crisis like the coronavirus outbreak.

Consider donating to key organizations in advance. “Don’t wait, or sit on the sidelines. We need the funding capacity to get on the ground wherever it’s needed.” said Judy Monroe, the CEO of the CDC foundation, which is an independent nonprofit that supports the work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The most vulnerable are definitely going to be hit hard. Just don’t hesitate,” Monroe said.

Caitlin Fairchild

Caitlin Fairchild is the Deputy Editor of The Renewal Project
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