eLearning to the Rescue: Nonprofits Overcome Pandemic Stresses by Leveraging the LMS

remote learning nonprofitsNonprofits are often the safety net for those who don’t have one. They help feed the hungry, find housing for those who need a roof over their head, clean up neighborhoods, improve access to education: the list of services provided by nonprofits is endless.

Right now, those services are in high demand. This year’s pandemic and other tragedies — like the fires in California or the hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico — have drastically increased the number of people who need help. People have lost their jobs, hospitals are in need of supplies, and communities need increased disaster support.

Nonprofits are needed more than ever in 2020, but unfortunately, the pandemic and shutdown have affected nonprofits and charities as well.

How has 2020 affected nonprofits

According to a report from the Independent Sector, nonprofits saw a significant drop in funding this year; 83% of organizations experienced a reduction in revenue and contributions — cancelled events and closed operations contributed heavily to the loss, but so did individual giving, which dropped by about half.

This year has been complicated for nonprofits; individuals tend to give generously in times of crisis, but personal giving falls off during a recession, according to Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. Pasic, interviewed by the Stanford Social Innovation Review earlier this year, pointed out that after the recession in 2009, it took many years for individual giving to recover. This year, which has featured several crises and a recession, has been more complex.

The reduction in funds means a reduction in staff, operations, and the ability to raise the funds they need to continue their missions. Nonprofit staffing is down by 7.6% since March, according to one report, and according to the Independent Sector data, nonprofits have collectively reported the loss of 47% of their staff. According to the report, 71% of nonprofits reduced their services or operations, 55% have closed their offices, and 30% reduced employee pay and benefits.

How nonprofits are helping, in spite of the challenges

Despite the hardships, nonprofits have stepped up this year.

They helped establish Covid-19 response funds to stock food banks during the shutdown. They packaged food to deliver to areas hard hit by the pandemic. They supported social justice protesters and created wildfire relief funds. Most recently, nonprofits were a driving force in getting out people to vote, according to the Nonprofit Leadership Center. They did all of that while private donations were on the decline.

This important work was possible because private giving foundations stepped in to fill the funding void left by the decline in personal donations. According to a report released in October (PDF), a large percentage of giving foundations changed their missions in 2020 to be more focused on the Covid-19 crisis.

Mary Jovanovich, senior manager for Relationship Management at Schwab Charitable, told the Stanford Social Innovation Review that she saw a 50% increase in grants recommended by donors in the early months of the pandemic, many of which were earmarked for Covid relief. Those grants resulted in more than $138 million donated to more than 7,000 charities, specifically supporting Covid-19 relief and recovery efforts between February and March.

Not all nonprofits are doing well, however. Nonprofits with missions not directed related to the pandemic or this year’s other crises — arts nonprofits, for example — have been suffering.

The arts and entertainment sector of the nonprofit industry has lost 35% of its workforce since March while education nonprofits have lost 13% percent of their workers. Those workers that are still employed are learning to work in different ways. Many nonprofit workers have been working from home since the start of the pandemic — which can be grueling for staffers who aren’t used to remote work.

Nonprofits Overcoming Pandemic Stresses by Leveraging Training

Many nonprofits have found themselves inundated with volunteers. With millions of people out of work and looking for things to do and ways to help, many are turning to volunteer work. This is great, but creates a challenge when fewer staff members are tasked with managing large numbers of volunteers. How do you engage and train volunteers safely when everyone is remote?

Fortunately there is a template for training and working with large numbers of volunteers. Take Girl Scouts San Diego, an organization with a small paid staff that’s used to working with thousands of volunteers. Last year, the organization used remote learning to double the amount of volunteers who took training. With 14,000 volunteers, it was impossible to get everyone in the same place at the same time, even pre-pandemic, but online training brought training to the volunteers, and helped GSSD disseminate important information — from a distance.

GSSD isn’t the only non-profit to use remote training to help organize and inform volunteers. Learn more about how other nonprofits use online learning to engage their volunteers remotely by reading the latest Litmos paper on nonprofits and how they meet their volunteer challenges.