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Communication During COVID and Crisis [Part 1/6]: Impact on Nonprofits

Communication During COVID and Crisis: Impact on Nonprofits

Michael G. Strawser

Assistant Professor of Communication, University of Central Florida

Principal, Legacy Communication Training and Consulting, L.L.C.

What an interesting time. Interesting probably is an understatement. I was recently asked by the Central Florida Christian Chamber of Commerce to do a quick podcast series about Communication during COVID and Crisis specifically for non-profit executive directors. I’m calling my series “Legacy Minute” The COVID-19 situation, ever fluid and volatile, has a unique impact on non-profits and Orlando. While the numbers flex quite often, Florida is home to roughly 70,000 active non-profits accounting for over $85 billion in annual revenue. All told, nonprofits are a crucial cog in Florida’s economic machine.

As a professor of communication at the University of Central Florida, and a communication consultant and trainer, I want to find ways to serve our nonprofit community. My family and I recently moved to Orlando after almost a decade spent in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and we moved, in part, because of the active nonprofit community in Central Florida and the state as a whole. During my time in Louisville, KY I would often consult with nonprofits and would serve as a trainer for varying nonprofit entities. My primary consulting occurs in the realm of generational differences and I have included a few links below that give a little context for my generational consultant expertise. But, I have also helped nonprofits in their overall communication efforts, strategic planning, donor relations (especially next generation giving), professional development/training, and leadership and coaching efforts. If you are interested in learning more about me, feel free to send me an email at or visit my website

But, enough about me, let’s talk about COVID-19 and the impact on the non-profit community. After the request from the Central Florida Christina Chamber, I decided to develop a quick 6-part podcast series and subsequent blogs/infographics for each podcast. The podcasts will be 10-15 minutes or less. Your time, especially right now, is valuable. I will also try to be as practical as possible and provide additional resources. As such, each podcast/blog will have corresponding links and practical tips. The series will be structured this way:

Part 1- Communication During COVID and Crisis: Impact on Nonprofits

Part 2- Communication During COVID and Crisis: Operations

Part 3- Communication During COVID and Crisis: Communicating Externally

Part 4- Communication During COVID and Crisis: Communicating Internally

Part 5- Communication During COVID and Crisis: Developing Leaders

Part 6- Communication During COVID and Crisis: Moving Forward and What’s Next

It is my hope that this content will not be burdensome for you but instead will be a quick and easy resource. Let’s get started talking a little about the general impact.

COVID-19: Impact on Nonprofits

The Association of Fundraising Professionals recently encouraged nonprofits to not-panic (easy for them to say). But, they have a reason. Taking from Great Recession Data, AFP believes most nonprofits can survive. In 2008-2009, giving to non-profits experienced only a slight decrease in overall giving, approximately 8% during the entirety of the recession. This is good news. The AFP article can be accessed here. Special thanks to Carol Wick of Sharity for posting the article to her LinkedIn profile. I do believe the AFP information is encouraging and this leads to my first tip.

Tip 1- Do not panic. Volatility reigns right now. Be prepared, but don’t panic.

The specific challenges faced by nonprofits are not created equal. In fact, the National Council of Nonprofits is quick to remind us that every nonprofit is probably experiencing a unique challenge. But, for the most part, large conferences, in-person fundraising, and training/professional development sessions will be most impacted during COVID-19. You can read more about the National Council of Nonprofits and their recommendations during COVID-19 by visiting their site.

Ultimately, the recommendation is to go virtual when and where you can. Virtual and digital interactions can be multifaceted:

  • Virtual board meetings

  • Virtual individual meetings with individual donors

  • Virtual content (i.e. social media)

  • Email blast and other marketing campaigns, increase social presence (as we practice social [physical] distancing)

But, here’s the deal. Don’t try to replicate everything you do in the virtual context. Be purposeful-think about return on investment. In case you are interested, Washington Nonprofits (an area hardest hit by COVID-19) has developed resources for crowd-sourcing, managing volunteers, adapting outreach strategies, creating virtual events. Their resources are really helpful. There are also Orlando or Central Florida specific resources for you including, but not limited to: Edyth Bush Institute; Sharity; and the Central Florida Foundation.

Tip 2- Go virtual when (and where) you can.

Finally, make sure you are not overwhelming yourself with information right now. Instead, take an audit of your current practices and how those practices are impacted. Then, practice information literacy and decipher where you need to go. Central Florida (and our state as a whole) has many great resources that can help local nonprofits. Start local and move outward. But, know that webinars, white papers, etc. are released almost daily.

Tip 3- Don’t overwhelm yourself with information. Instead, find credible voices and practice information literacy.

Contact Information and Additional Resources

Questions? Comments? Challenges? Send me an email or visit my website

Also, feel free to check out these other resources:

TEDx on Generational Differences in the Workplace

WHAS 840 Interview on Generational Differences

Next Gen Philanthropy and Generational Differences/Giving

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