non-profitThis playbook provides guidelines for Greater Ottumwa Partners in Progress nonprofit organizations serving regional communities. Leaders are also encouraged to look at other playbooks for applicable advice from related industries and consult the professional playbooks for additional guidance and templates. Organizations may need to adapt specific steps outlined below according to their size and mission.

Current Impacts

A recent assessment conducted by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the University on Northern Iowa found 91.3 % of nonprofits reported a negative impact from the outbreak of COVID-19. Moreover, 83.5% of DSM nonprofits said the largest impact has been on their business operating models. The top three concerns of Iowa nonprofits include financial impact on operations and/or liquidity, decreasing consumer confidence/spending and workforce reductions. Respondents also see a long-term negative impact on revenue and employee count when looking out 60-90 days. Half of all nonprofits nationwide have operating reserves of fewer than three months which means furloughed employees, layoffs and closures for nonprofit organizations may be on the horizon.

Future Trends

Continuity Plans

Organizational continuity planning is a crucial component of a risk management strategy and is helpful in preparing for effective operations with reduced staff. Ensure your business continuity plans are up-to-date and block time to craft plans if they don’t yet exist. Helpful places to start include identifying your most essential activities, identifying which programs and resources could be discontinued or suspended, and mapping out how to communicate plans to external stakeholders. Continuity plans should also consider board management. Provisions during the crisis could allow for virtual meetings, smaller quorums, shorter meeting notices, etc. all elements of agility that might be needed if board members become incapacitated.

Recalibrate Programming

Understand how your programming and resources will need to be changed after COVID-19. Organizations that have the opportunity and means to serve clients through telework or virtual channels should develop these capabilities. Those who require a physical presence to deliver their services should identify what safety equipment or policies may now be required.

Remote Work Changes

Organizations may maintain a partially digital and remote workforce allowing them to repurpose physical space for new, value-added activities.

Digital Channels

Donors, clients, staff and community members may be used to experiencing your organization and its services in a physical setting. Ensure digital technology captures the “magic” you deliver to these constituencies via platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or WebEx which support effective communication to staff, clients and communities. Increasing investments in social media, website design and other media channels can help broaden your message to your audience.

Leverage Board Members, Leaders and Top Donors

Enlisting stakeholders closest to the mission could be helpful in mitigating funding loss due to COVID-19 and continue programming and resource delivery to clients. Enlisting executives, board members, and others greatly invested in the mission to support fundraising, communication, and even program delivery will help weather the storm created by COVID-19. 

Personalized Digital Donor Communication

Individuals overwhelmed with information are seeking authenticity and personal communication in a growing “attention economy.” Deepen engagement with donors and potential supporters through personalized communication and effective storytelling via digital channels. This effort can be accelerated through donor data analytics to determine which elements e.g., videos, testimonials, etc.  are most effective.

Volunteer Management

Volunteer workforce shortage is impacting nonprofits that rely heavily on volunteers, particularly retirees who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 and are not volunteering as a result. Such nonprofits may leverage partnerships to share volunteer workforce or develop new or additional virtual mechanisms by which volunteers serve remotely, or increase outreach to new potential pools of volunteers. The United Way of Wapello County and Volunteer Iowa (see links below) can assist organizations who need assistance in this area.

Recommended Practices

Health & Sanitation

  • Conduct a health screening with all employees before their shifts in accordance with the most up to date recommendations from your local public health department.
  • Identify, isolate and send home workers with COVID-19 symptoms and those who have been exposed.
  • Provide accommodations like specific schedules for vulnerable populations if possible.
  • Follow CDC guidance related to Cleaning and Disinfection for Community Facilities, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of all high touch surfaces, desks, workstations, doorknobs, light switches, etc.
  • Ensure workers regularly wash their hands and handwashing and/or hand-sanitizer facilities are readily available and stocked.
  • Members of the public and employees should continue social distancing and consider the use of face masks when this is not possible.
  • Ensure your employees, volunteers and ambassadors know what they can do to protect themselves when serving clients and the community.

Process & Space Modifications

  • Encourage employees to work from home if possible.
  • Consider staggering shifts and breaks to reduce worker population at any given time and reduce staff interactions.
  • Limit congregation in office spaces and non-essential worker interaction across floors, buildings, campuses, worksites, etc.
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment.
  • Review or create a remote worker’s policy to help keep your staff safe and ensure your business operations and services continue.
  • Boards should ensure their bylaws include options to conduct virtual board meetings and ensure virtual voting so important discussions can occur in a timely fashion.
  • Consider the nature in which new board members are onboarded and whether it is beneficial to extend board terms to ensure adequate support and governance.
  • Identify if there are appropriate ways to serve clients and community members through telework and virtual channels and volunteers.
  • Evaluate and adjust sick leave policies to reflect the need for isolation and incentivize workers who are sick to stay home. Clearly communicate sick leave policies to all workers.


  • Provide reminders to employees and members of the public to stay at least six feet away from others when in the facility and mark six-foot intervals when possible.
  • Post signage at the door indicating no one should enter the establishment if they currently have symptoms or have been around anyone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the last 14 days.
  • Remind employees of steps they should take to protect their own health while at work.
  • Give accurate, timely, relevant and credible information to your clients, communities, and stakeholders.

Additional Resources