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Responses to COVID-19: Challenges, Adaptations & Lessons Learned Among Nonprofits


Meagan Benetti MS MBA, Root Cause Intern




Responses to COVID-19: Challenges, Adaptations & Lessons Learned Among Nonprofits


Root Cause interviewed social service organizations across the United States to understand how they have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and how they have coped with the unexpected challenges. This report includes insights, recommendations, and action steps organizations can take to help their staff and programs adapt successfully.

The onset and persistence of the coronavirus pandemic brought about significant hardship for communities and the organizations that serve them. The lack of consistency in our nation’s response, the implementation of unprecedented safety measures, a fluctuating economy, and the uncertainty for just how long we would have to live with these challenges, forced organizations to deal with circumstances that have been constantly changing. Communities across the U.S. are experiencing trauma and grief with tragic loss of loved ones, the undo strain on our healthcare systems, and other hardships faced by so many. The pandemic magnified the persistent racial and economic disparities that exist in the U.S., particularly among Black and Indigenous people of color, as positive tests and fatalities have been disproportionately higher in these communities (Brookings, 2020). This year also brought about a reckoning with the racial injustices that are endemic in our systems and institutions. Organizations have undergone significant change with many businesses and social service agencies being forced to downsize or close their doors. A recent survey found that a third of non-profit organizations in Massachusetts have had to reduce staff hours and pay, with almost eighty percent experiencing a decrease in revenue and almost ninety percent with disruptions in their service provision (Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, 2020).

Given these circumstances, Root Cause wanted to better understand how organizations have been dealing with the challenges that have come about as a result of this pandemic. The goal was to learn more about how organizations adapted to support their staff and better serve their communities. We were also curious about how organizations were making their decisions, the impact those decisions are having on organizations and communities, and what support organizations need as they think about how to move forward. This report summarizes what we learned from various organizations throughout the year.

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