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Preparing your organization for COVID-19

With COVID-19 details changing daily, if not hourly, the information contained in these posts may not reflect the most recent developments.

I know the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing many of us to feel stressed, anxious, and confused. This is an important time for leaders to check in with staff, to hear their concerns, and to encourage their self-care.

You are likely facing some difficult decisions right now about how to handle the worsening situation. Should you cancel work trips and organizational events? Should you ask staff to work at home? I’m looking at TREC staff travel and our planned trainings very carefully, so I know these decisions aren’t easy.

First of all, the situation is evolving quickly, which makes decision-making tough. Keep yourself informed by checking out the CDC website, or the Public Health Agency of Canada. Also, conditions vary by location so look to local public health officials for information in your area. It increases everyone’s comfort level to know that the organization’s leaders are tracking the situation, staying informed, and sharing resources for reliable facts and tips about staying healthy.

You may make some decisions now, and then need to change those if the situation changes or worsens. Let your staff, volunteers, and partners know that your thinking and plans may evolve as the facts change. Let them know that you will stay in touch, and let them know who to go to with questions.

Consider what you can do to limit you and your staff’s risk. Look at the travel that you have planned over the next month or two, especially travel out of the country which may pose an additional risk. You can track locations with travel restrictions here. Consider not only the exposure and risk to your health, but the possibility of being delayed, potentially for weeks, and what that might mean for the organization in terms of costs and lost productivity. Given all this, it may make sense for your organization to set a temporary policy in place to restrict work travel to certain locations, or for certain purposes, or only when approved by the Executive Director.

It is especially important to limit exposure to large crowds, which is why many larger conferences are being canceled. For your organization, consider if any meetings can be shifted to virtual meetings using a platform like Zoom.

Many of you have fundraising events planned. You don’t want to expose people to health risks, and you are concerned about the impact of canceling the event on your budget. Create a chart that lists dollars committed and the dates for additional financial commitments so you can see clearly how the timing of your decision will the impact your expenses. Use the information in your chart to set a deadline for making a decision. In the meantime, let everyone know that you are monitoring the situation carefully and more communication will be forthcoming. Because the situation is evolving quickly it is difficult to assess the risk too far in advance so you may want to focus on events scheduled for March and April.

You may also want to consider temporary work-at-home arrangements. For staff who are working in the office, provide plenty of soap, antibacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer.

Let staff know that they should not come into the office if they are sick. Consider an organizational policy which allows staff to donate their accumulated sick time to other staff who need to be out for an extended period of time.

Remember that issues related to our health and wellness do not affect everyone the same. Some in our organizations and communities are more at risk from COVID-19, such as those with chronic illness. Whatever policies and procedures you put into place, make sure that they consider the impact on everyone and do not put additional burden on those folks already facing the most threat. This crisis is an opportunity for your organization to practice inclusion.

In case you missed it, here is the post I did back on February 28 about keeping your organization’s fundraising healthy in these difficult times.

Keep up the good work, and keep washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces!

Background Image: American Rivers | Scott Bosse
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