The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting many nonprofits and the communities they serve hard. For some nonprofits, financial support is difficult to come by, volunteers are sparse and the cost and complexity of transforming their programming to a virtual model is a major challenge. At the same time, the communities and people that benefit the most from their services are also suffering financially, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
According to a recent Federal Reserve System survey, the majority of respondents from organizations serving low- to moderate-income communities said the demand for their services is increasing, while expenses are rising with little sign of increased funding. Many noted a corresponding decrease in their abilities to provide services.
There's never been a more important time for all of us to help and invest in our communities. Companies can play a major role by galvanizing their people and resources to make an impact while providing development and growth opportunities along the way. Here are four ways to put these practices into play:
1. Prioritize it.
Policies and programs that promote and prioritize volunteering with visible leader support demonstrate that the organization values and encourages it. For example, companies can encourage community involvement by providing employees with a prescribed amount of time dedicated exclusively for community service during normal business hours. The personal growth and fulfillment derived from making a difference cannot be overstated. Empowering and supporting employees to do so helps create a best-in-class culture that attracts and retains talent, promotes understanding, empathy and compassion and fosters purpose, connectedness and belonging.
2. Use skills-based volunteering.
Nonprofits can benefit from volunteers who utilize their knowledge and skills to tackle specific challenges and opportunities. Volunteers with experience in IT and consulting can help organizations think through how they can deliver their programming digitally in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Helping organizations then execute these plans will save them time and money. Working with different organizations, leaders and people nurture growth.
3. Pursue nonprofit board service.
While a longer-term solution, many nonprofits need people with myriad skill sets, knowledge and experiences to actively serve on their boards to help provide oversight and funding needed to progress their important work. IT, finance, development, marketing and public relations, human resources, legal counsel — and more — are valuable and needed disciplines. Nonprofit board service is an excellent opportunity for people to develop leadership skills, build collaborative relationships and support communities at large. Companies can equip their people for these opportunities by offering board-readiness training workshops and mentorship programs.
4. Launch employee-giving campaigns.
Businesses can make an outsized impact when it comes to providing financial support to the nonprofit organizations employees are passionate about. We can give as individuals, but when that giving power is multiplied exponentially by bringing to bear the entire organization, the impact that can be made is tremendous. In addition, dollars also can be given to "doers." For example, KPMG's Community Impact Grants program, and others like it, provide financial support to the nonprofit organizations where employees are actively involved and demonstrate that community commitment is valued by their employer.
My own experience as a volunteer and board member for nonprofits like Junior Achievement USA and Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, as well as those shared by KPMG's volunteers, have reinforced for me that community involvement can cultivate important skills and experiences among our diverse and talented professionals. At this moment, bringing forward the mosaic of resources present in our companies can make a meaningful difference for the nonprofits in our communities, while enabling our people — and companies — to grow in important ways.
Laura Newinski is deputy chair and COO of KPMG LLP and based in Minneapolis.