91 posts categorized "Covid-19"

'Building political power at a grassroots level': A Q&A with Romilda Avila, CEO, Tides Advocacy

September 22, 2021

Headshot_Romilda_Avila_Tides_croppedRomilda Avila is CEO of Tides Advocacy (formerly the Advocacy Fund), a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization working with a network of fiscally sponsored 501(c)(4) projects and funds to strengthen political infrastructure and support power building and policy reform led by those most impacted by injustice. To that end, the organization provides capacity-building support, grantmaking support, and advising services to incubate advocacy initiatives. Avila served as Tides Advocacy's deputy director from 2017 to 2019 and as interim CEO before being appointed CEO in April 2020; she previously worked as a social impact consultant advising national foundations on grantmaking strategies for advancing social justice and equity.

PND asked Avila about Tides Advocacy's commitment to and process of becoming a pro-Black organization, the Political Movement Infrastructure Project, and the role of grassroots organizations in power building. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: You were officially appointed CEO not long after the COVID-19 crisis began in the United States. How did your priorities for the organization shift as a result of the pandemic and its economic fallout?

Romilda Avila: Last year, when the pandemic hit, movement folks had to restructure in the moment; in the middle of organizing in the field, they had to transition to lockdown and figure out technology and community engagement. We rallied and were able to give $150,000 through our internal Resilience Fund to highly impacted partners to make sure that they were able to sustain themselves and their salaries and support healing justice and programming while facing an uncertain future. It was the first time that Tides Advocacy has done this type of grantmaking.

We're also supporting more organizations in terms of (c)(4) funding and inspiring folks to do more political work in the off-season. Through our Healthy Democracy Action Fund, during an important election year, we had an opportunity to work with a great donor who allowed us to support almost fifty organizations through nearly $6 million in grants. Almost $2.1 million went to Black-led organizations organizing in the South and the Midwest, and the rest went to Native, Latinx, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander communities. We're also looking to go deeper with leaders and organizations working on LGBTQ rights — particularly trans issues — and immigrant rights, disability rights, and more, so we can support all people directly impacted by injustice in organizing and building political power at a grassroots level....

Read the full Q&A with Romilda Avila.

[Review] The Post-Pandemic Nonprofit: 12 Disruptive Trends Your Nonprofit Must Master

September 10, 2021

Book_cover_the_post_pandemic_nonprofitThe last eighteen months have seen dramatic and — not to wear out a word we've all seen too much of as of late — "unprecedented" change across all industries of the global economy. The United States is no exception, nor is the nonprofit sector. As charitable organizations contend with figuring out what the "new normal"  looks like, Jeremy Reis, an experienced fundraising professional with a particular expertise in international development, offers to guide nonprofits on a path to post-pandemic success. While there is no denying that Reis has solid advice to give in The Post-Pandemic Nonprofit: 12 Disruptive Trends Your Nonprofit Must Master, given how quickly change can happen, the biggest question may be how long that advice will remain relevant and useful.

The Post-Pandemic Nonprofit contains exactly what it says on the tin. Reis has identified twelve strategies across three categories that he sees as key areas of investment for nonprofits to focus on as a way to survive and thrive in a post-pandemic philanthropic landscape: Who We Are (organizational identity), How We Operate (programming and functionality), and How We Grow (innovation and organizational development). While not all of these strategies are applicable to every nonprofit — and identifying his audience is something Reis struggles with throughout the book — the breadth of the suggestions means that most nonprofit professionals will be able to find something relevant and helpful to their organization's needs....

Read the full review by Audrey Silveman.

'A roadmap for how to respond to and provide funding for addressing collective traumas': A commentary by Stephanie Berkowitz

September 09, 2021

Headshot_Stephanie_Berkowitz_2_NVFSTwenty years after 9/11: Prioritizing trauma-informed mental health care

Twenty years after the September 11 attacks, lessons from that experience continue to inform the most effective ways to provide mental health support to individuals, families, and communities in crisis. At the same time, new lessons have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing demand for racial justice. Together, these insights provide a roadmap for how to respond to and provide funding for addressing collective traumas for families as diverse as refugees arriving in this country from Afghanistan to those displaced by hurricanes. 

In 2001, the Greater Washington Community Foundation tapped Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) to provide trauma recovery services to survivors of the attack on the Pentagon. The September 11 Survivors' Fund was intentionally set up to be flexible and broadly focused. While we provided services to survivors most obviously impacted — those who were physically injured in the attack — we also supported a flight attendant who lost colleagues on the plane that flew into the Pentagon, a firefighter who saw the unimaginable and chose to change professions, and anguished family members who lost loved ones, among others. In all, the $25 million fund helped 1,051 people.

Years later, we learned of a group of construction workers from El Salvador who participated in clean-up efforts at the Pentagon but did not receive Survivors' Fund services. Only then did we recognize a significant shortcoming on our part. Since then, we have come to understand that targeted outreach to underserved populations in multiple languages by professionals with fluency in a variety of cultural traditions is the most effective way to reach neighbors who are frequently overlooked and disproportionately impacted by communitywide crises....

Read the full commentary by Stephanie Berkowitz, president and CEO of Northern Virginia Family Service.

'What happens when funders don't center community voice in decision making': A commentary by Hannah Lee

September 07, 2021

Headshot_Hannah Lee_Cognizant_FoundationIt's time for philanthropy to trust and listen better to grantee partners

When Ralph Hoagland, the founder of CVS, recruited three hundred of his neighbors from the wealthy, liberal, and largely white Boston suburbs to donate to the Fund for Urban Negro Development (FUND) to support Black entrepreneurs, he promised a “no strings attached” approach to philanthropy. The group's aim was to support Black businesses and community organizations, build Black wealth, and foster community development across the city. FUND emphasized that Boston's Black leaders already had "the ability to solve the problems” facing their communities but just lacked the necessary resources to do so.

Importantly, the group promised not to interfere through "white controls, advice, or helpful hints." At the same time, FUND's white members did expect to serve as coaches and mentors. When Black leaders rejected some of the mentors' advice, members began pulling their support to FUND — and just four years after its launch, the group disbanded.

The story of FUND, more fully detailed in a research paper, took place more than half a century ago. But the rhetoric and eventual outcomes feel all too familiar. It serves as a powerful reminder about what happens when funders don't center community voice in decision making. And it remains a cautionary tale for those working in philanthropy today — especially in the wake of COVID-19 and our nationwide reckoning around racial justice....

Read the full commentary by Hannah Lee, a director at the Cognizant Foundation.

 

 

'We have to infuse equity into every part of the system': A Q&A with Priti Krishtel

September 02, 2021

Headshot_Priti Krishtel_I-MAKlPriti Krishtel is a health justice lawyer who has spent nearly two decades exposing structural inequities that limit access to medicines and vaccines across the Global South and the United States. She is the co-founder and co-executive director of I-MAK (Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge), a nonprofit organization building a more just and equitable medicines system. An Echoing Green Global Fellow, TED speaker, Presidential Leadership Scholar, and Ashoka Fellow, she is a frequent contributor to leading international and national news outlets on issues of domestic and global health equity.

PND asked Krishtel about inequity across the globe as it relates to COVID-19 vaccines, challenges in the United States of ensuring an equitable medicines system, the drug pricing crisis, and what funders can do to bring about change. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: I-MAK states that a global pandemic, economic and racial awakening, and skyrocketing costs of medicine have created a crucial mandate for equity in the drug development system, especially with growing inequity across the globe as it relates to COVID-19 vaccines. What action do you believe leaders of national governments should be engaged in to mitigate those disparities? And what are the most significant barriers to improving vaccine access worldwide?                       

Priti Krishtel: I cannot stress this point enough: In a pandemic, no country is safe until every country is safe. Today, vaccinations are readily available in wealthy countries like the U.S. However, it's a completely different situation for most of the world's population: so far, less than 2 percent of residents in low-income countries have been vaccinated. Until we employ an equitable system to make sure that vaccines are available everywhere, that all countries have access to the vaccine, and that everyone who is willing and able is vaccinated, variants will not stop. Governments — and wealthy nations in particular — have to stop taking a country-by-country, nationalistic approach to pandemic responses and instead start looking at the system holistically. With every passing day, the risk of a mutated COVID-19 variant that is resistant to vaccines grows.

The Delta variant teaches us that we have to radically and rapidly rethink our approach to recover from this pandemic and adequately prepare for the next. We can't do this by relying on market incentives alone. Right now, pharmaceutical companies are incentivized to lock up knowledge to maximize profits to serve shareholder interests rather than share that knowledge and bring this pandemic to an end.

Philanthropy can play a catalytic role in this moment. Philanthropy is the only sector with the resources, capacity, and global connections to resource organizations and individuals leading the fight for a globally more just and equitable medicines system. It can and must play a connective and transformative role in stemming the gap in places where countries, communities, and individuals are being left behind....

Read the full Q&A with Priti Krishtel.

Hiring a nonprofit CEO in a mid-COVID environment

August 13, 2021

Man_and_woman_masks_handshake_GettyImages_VioletaStoimenovaThe COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have proven to be incredibly challenging for businesses and nonprofits alike. Many have had to adapt and change their processes and procedures to accommodate social-distancing and other public health measures, and others have had to close their doors for good. Now, as restrictions are being lifted and doors can be opened again — let's call it a "mid-COVID" environment — organizations are faced with another challenge: hiring.

Since the world shut down around us and many of us transitioned to working from home on a long-term basis, perspectives and expectations around where and how we work have shifted. If your nonprofit was in the process of hiring a CEO before the pandemic and had challenges finding qualified candidates, hiring now, mid-COVID, is going to be even more difficult, as candidates will be seeking unique and alternative options for employment.

Here are some considerations for nonprofit board members to keep in mind when hiring in the "new normal" market:

Use your existing market: Sometimes the best candidates are right under your nose. Tap into the board members' networks and let them know that the organization is hiring. If the board is actively engaged in the community, they will already know the caliber of people to refer. Members of those networks and communities will not recommend just anyone, so you can rest assured that the candidates presented will have at least the minimum qualifications.

Commit to diversity and inclusion: Many of the people who lost their jobs to COVID are now looking for employment. This could be a great thing for your organization in that there is a larger pool to select from; however, this could also mean that some candidates may be overlooked. Ensure that the board makes diversity a top priority when selecting potential candidates.

Make a standout offer: Just as your board members are out scouting for talent, so are more than a thousand other organizations. Make sure that potential candidates can hear the "heart" of your organization; making a "heart" connection is going to be key to the recruiting process, as candidates are no longer motivated only by salary and benefits. Many candidates who are back out on the job market are people who had decent salaries and benefits that were lost when their nonprofit had to close their doors or downsize as a result of the pandemic. Make sure that your organization presents other ways in which it plans to retain the candidate, even if another pandemic or other crisis were to arise.

Be clear about workplace expectations: Be prepared for many of the candidates to ask about hybrid or remote work options and let them know what your organization's stance is. Take into consideration that many people are fearful of becoming sick or being in a large crowd, so be prepared to address this new question that was not a question candidates would ask pre-COVID. Board members should be prepared for some candidates to walk away from the opportunity if remote or hybrid options are not available.

Hiring will be a unique experience mid-COVID, and your organization must be prepared to adapt in order to attract qualified and dedicated candidates to the team.  

(Photo credit: GettyImages/VioletaStoimenova)

Headshot_Tiffany Rucker_JSGassociates_PhilanTopicTiffany Rucker is a small business and financial literacy coach at JSG & Associates as well as wife, mom, and special needs advocate.

MyCareer@PND: Four trends shaping the post-COVID recruiting and hiring experience

August 11, 2021

African_American_woman_laptop_GettyImages_PoikePost-COVID-19 trends shaping the recruiting and hiring experience

As with just about every aspect of life, the world of executive recruiting has evolved at rapid pace over the last year and a half. Now that we're moving into what may be the beginnings of a period of stability, it's become clear that some of the recruiting and hiring trends that have recently evolved are here to stay, at least in some form.

Here are four strong trends that are shaping the hiring experience for both candidates and hiring teams:

1. A focus on recruiting leaders of color. The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing civil unrest have had an extraordinarily strong impact on hiring. Hiring managers, teams, and organizations reacted to these events by looking inward and, in most cases, realizing that their teams are not diverse. This led to a sudden, intense demand for leaders of color, which has not abated. Leaders of color are reporting being recruited at higher rates than they've ever experienced, and hiring managers are prioritizing diversity in their pools and processes more than ever....

Read the full column article by Molly Brennan, founding partner and executive vice president of Koya Partners.

(Photo credit: GettyImages/Poike)

'Systems change work is intrinsic to creative youth development': A commentary by Daniel R. Lewis

August 09, 2021

Lewis_Prize_for_Music_awardeeSupporting creative youth development as systems change work

In her recent blog post announcing $2.7 billion in commitments to equity-oriented nonprofits across the country, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott writes: "Arts and cultural institutions can strengthen communities by transforming spaces, fostering empathy, reflecting community identity, advancing economic mobility, improving academic outcomes, lowering crime rates, and improving mental health."

[...] As a longtime arts philanthropist, reading Ms. Scott's post, I couldn't help but recognize the work she was describing as systems change — a vision my organization, the Lewis Prize for Music, has set for itself [...] While the pandemic magnified the already apparent need for young people to develop artistic and employable media arts skills, calls for racial justice showed the imperative for adults to provide movement-building support and guidance to young people. The CYD field has simultaneously addressed both of these needs.

Systems change work is intrinsic to CYD, and the holistic approach of CYD is itself systems change....

Read the full commentary by Daniel R. Lewis, founder and chair of the Lewis Prize for Music.

How nonprofits are navigating the real estate market in an almost-post-COVID-19 New York City

August 06, 2021

New_york_city_Katie Haugland BowenBefore the COVID-19 pandemic, the real estate landscape had always been a challenge for New York City nonprofits, with rent-related cost often being the second-largest expense of a nonprofit's budget and venue-dependent organizations allocating an even greater portion of their budgets to real estate. The pandemic's unprecedented impact on companies and organizations across the world varied by sector; for nonprofits, the effects were compounded by increased uncertainty around funding, physical closures, and, for many, the inability to fully transition to remote work while continuing to serve their missions.

Some organizations could not transition to remote work because in-person services were essential to their programmatic offerings, while others continued to work in physical offices because they faced low funding or technology barriers that prevented them from switching to remote work or elected not to do so because of the impact on work culture and productivity. For example, nonprofits committed to advocacy work, many of which rely on dynamic brainstorming sessions to analyze issues and advance strategies, found Zoom meetings a poor substitute. Those organizations eagerly returned to their offices as soon as they could, implementing safety protocols while getting "back to business." Nonprofits that work to address food insecurity also had personnel who were considered essential employees and were expected to come to work each day to package meals and deliver them to those in need.

Now, organizations that were able to transition to virtual operations are returning to varied levels of in-person work and navigating a hybrid work balance. Employees are increasingly expecting more flexibility from their employers about where — and sometimes when — they work, and employers are eager to capitalize on any benefits from this shift. Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations with fewer employees in the office on any given day are asking whether there might be a way to reduce real estate expenses. Without the obligation of coming into the office, can staff be hired in locations where the cost of living is lower and, therefore, at lower salaries?  

At the same time, some organizations appear to be emerging from pandemic restrictions in better financial shape than before. Early on in the pandemic, it was predicted that many venue-dependent organizations like theaters and healthcare providers that require physical space to deliver on their missions would have to close their doors permanently. However, for many in the performing arts sector, this has not turned out to be the case. As a general rule, nonprofit performing arts groups require subsidies to support their programming in normal times; therefore, less programming requires fewer subsidies. If an organization could maintain its donor base (i.e., the source of the subsidies) while reducing expenses, there was the opportunity to build a one-time surplus. 

One nonprofit client of my company, Denham Wolf Real Estate Services, that has provided social services to the community for decades, saw its revenue increase more than 10 percent over the past year, thanks to donors recognizing the increased need for the organization's services during the pandemic. With the advent of work-from-home, this nonprofit was able to convert unused office space to program space, thereby improving efficiency and saving on expenses. Other nonprofits, however, were not so fortunate.

The pandemic compelled organizations across the sector to reevaluate their real estate and, in many cases, adapt to new modes of service delivery. Healthcare facilities, for example, have had tremendous success transitioning to using telehealth to provide necessary services to individuals and communities. To accommodate populations that lack access to technology and Internet services, some nonprofits have redesigned their sites or, in some cases, taken on additional space to provide computers and make telehealth services readily available to all.

In commercial buildings, landlords have been struggling to retain existing tenants and write leases for new ones, which has resulted in more robust incentive packages. In addition to lowering rents, landlords are offering longer free-rent periods and increasing tenant improvement allowances. Tenants looking to sublet space may also add incentives, including access to shared conference rooms, phone systems, and receptionists. For tenants looking to sign new leases, particularly for office space, there are very good opportunities in the marketplace.

Each nonprofit faces a unique situation that requires careful planning to ensure good decision making. As nonprofits reevaluate the role of real estate in support of their missions, there is also an opportunity to re-engage with the community to help determine the optimal way to connect in this altered landscape. Service organizations are using this opportunity to communicate with their clients and better understand how they can best serve them, whether that means keeping the same services or offering new ones. Needless to say, the goal is always to do what is right for the people they serve, and if budgets are constrained, taking into account community input and evaluating programs is critical. Many organizations are receiving positive feedback from those exchanges and even increased community support through fundraisers or volunteers, which fosters a deeper connection with the community. While this process can be both exciting and daunting, aligning operations and budgets with the current needs and desires of those being served can inform a more sustainable future.

Looking to recovery, nonprofits are presented with a real estate landscape that is gradually stabilizing. Indoor spaces for work and events are cautiously reopening, and some remote work adjustments remain permanent. Organizational attitudes are shifting from preemptive planning to actual decision making — a shift reflected most clearly in the rising rates of lease signings and extended lease terms, which are once again reaching five to ten years. However, as organizations plan their return to the office, they're taking the time to fundamentally reevaluate space requirements, usage, and purpose of having a physical location. Across the board, nonprofits are reconsidering how square footage requirements and location, among other factors, will be most efficient for serving their communities. 

Throughout the pandemic, it has been encouraging to see the tenacity and creativity of the nonprofit sector's efforts to adapt and persist. The continued dedication to a mission-first approach in the sector through these incredibly challenging times reaffirms our confidence in the nonprofit community. The commitment and ingenuity of the staff and volunteers providing services to their communities, whether in a physical space or through a screen, are both inspiring and impressive.

(Photo credit: Katie Haugland Bowen)

Headshot_Paul_Wolf_DenhamWolfRealEstate_PhilanTopicPaul Wolf is co-founder and president of Denham Wolf Real Estate Services and has more than thirty years of development, brokerage, and nonprofit consulting experience.

The Sustainable Nonprofit: 'A fundamental shift in the mindset of young Americans'

August 04, 2021

Diversity_GettyImages_gmast3rA mindset shift among young American nonprofit employees

We've all seen people across the country and around the world struggling financially from the fallout of COVID-19. As our Cause and Social Influence researchers have continued to track young Americans' (ages 18-30) behavior related to causes during this time, we sought to understand the ramifications of these financial struggles from two perspectives: that of a young employee and that of a nonprofit. What we found is a fundamental shift in the mindset of young Americans that could hinder nonprofits' ability to recruit and retain talented staff.

Each quarter, our researchers track this age group's behaviors and motivations related to social issues and major moments and movements. In the first report of 2021, we found that their interest in social issues had become much more personal, thanks largely to their experiences during the pandemic. Now, findings from our research conducted in June underscore just how personal those issues have become....

Read the full column article by Derrick Feldmann, lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

'We have to rise up and do better': A commentary by Donita Volkwijn

August 02, 2021

Black_lives_matter_james-eades_unsplashContinuing the conversation: How philanthropy is changing how it talks about race

In June 2020, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors responded to questions in the sector about how to begin difficult conversations in the workplace. Our response was meant to provide guidance on how to talk about a reality that had left many of us in the philanthropic sector and beyond speechless. One in which the dual crises of the pandemic and racial injustice were shifting how we lived, thought, and yes, even breathed.

A little more than a year later, we are exploring how, if at all, these workplace conversations have evolved. As we enter yet another new reality, the most obvious shift in direction is to the talk of reopening (if we were privileged enough to work remotely). A friend recently shared a statement that captures what many of us are feeling: "Nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn't working. If we go back to the way things were, we will have lost the lesson. May we rise up and do better."...

Read the full commentary by Donita Volkwijn, outgoing manager of knowledge management at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

The Sustainable Nonprofit: 'Transforming philanthropic events with digital platforms'

Keyboard_red_donate_button_GettyImagesWhile many of us were hunkered down at home during the last eighteen months, the pandemic did not put an end to philanthropic activity. When organizations could not fundraise through their traditional channels like charitable walks and runs, dance competitions, casino nights, and other in-person events, they pivoted to digital platforms, where they were not only able to carry on their work but also learned first-hand about the opportunities and efficiencies that a digital component can offer.

Just as people have become more comfortable with video conferencing and conducting financial transactions via mobile apps, they are now more willing to participate in fundraising events through a digital platform. Recognizing that this is not a short-lived trend, smart institutions are layering a digital piece into their fundraising and event planning, embracing a hybrid approach that combines digital with traditional efforts....

Read the full column article by Cliff Feldstein, CEO of CrowdChange.

'We understood what it meant to be silenced, afraid, and vulnerable': A Q&A with Mónica Ramírez

July 26, 2021

Headshot_Monica Ramirez_Justice_for_Migrant_WomenMónica Ramírez is an organizer, attorney, social entrepreneur, and founder and president of Justice for Migrant Women, whose work includes policy advocacy, civic and political engagement, public awareness and education campaigns, narrative shift initiatives, and multi-sector and multi-ethnic power-building collaborations. For two decades she has worked to protect the civil and human rights of women, children, workers, Latinos/as, and immigrants and to eliminate gender-based violence and secure gender equity, launching Esperanza: The Immigrant Women's Legal Initiative at the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2003. Ramírez also is co-founder of the Latinx House and Alianza Nacional de Campesinos, where she served as board president until 2018.

In our latest '5 Questions for...' feature, PND spoke with Ramírez about the intersectionality of women's, farmworkers', and immigrants' rights; the impact of COVID-19 on farmworkers; and the Healing Voices program. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: You're credited with helping to galvanize the TIME'S UP movement against sexual harassment by publishing the "Dear Sisters" letter on behalf of farmworker women, addressed to women in the entertainment industry. What factors put migrant farmworkers at particularly high risk of sexual harassment, in both similar and disparate ways from women in Hollywood?

Mónica Ramírez: Women of color have historically been left out of the narratives featured in TV shows or movies, much less given the opportunities to feel safe and comfortable enough to bring to light their traumas and seek justice — and the same can be said for farmworker and migrant women. Most people don't realize that migrant women suffer from sexual harassment in the workplace at the hands of supervisors, recruiters, co-workers, and others. They are more vulnerable, as they're employed in small workplaces like private homes and small farms, sometimes with fewer than fifteen workers. And as these women are not covered by existing federal anti-sexual harassment law, they're particularly vulnerable to harm without any recourse to seek justice. To make matters worse, many are afraid to speak out about any incidents of sexual harassment that take place due to fear of deportation, being fired, or having their hard-earned wages taken away....We understood what it meant to be silenced, afraid, and vulnerable....

Read the full Q&A with Mónica Ramírez.

5 Questions For…Linda Goler Blount, President and CEO, Black Women's Health Imperative

July 08, 2021

Linda Goler Blount joined the Black Women's Health Imperative, the first nonprofit organization created by Black women to help protect and advance the health and wellness of Black women and girls, as president and CEO in February 2014.

Since then, Goler Blount has overseen investments totaling more than $20 million in Black women's health and research. She is responsible for moving the organization forward in its mission to achieve health equity and reproductive justice for Black women. BWHI recently announced that it received a $400,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to improve vaccination rates among Black women and communities of color. The grant, part of the foundation's $20 million Equity-First Vaccination Initiative, supports hyper-local, community-led programs working to improve vaccine access and support educational outreach in five cities. BWHI will convene a Covid-19 Vaccine Awareness & Equity Task Force to provide high-impact advocacy recommendations to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake. The task force will include the leaders of National Caucus & Center on Black Aging and National Coalition of 100 Black Women, policymakers, disparities experts, and community organizations.

Before joining the Black Women's Health Imperative, Goler Blount served as the vice president of programmatic impact for the United Way of Greater Atlanta, where she led the effort to eliminate inequalities in health, income, education, and housing through place- and population-based work. She was also the first national vice president of health disparities at the American Cancer Society, in which role she provided strategic vision and leadership for reducing cancer incidence and mortality among underserved populations and developed a nationwide health equity policy.

PND asked Goler Blount about the ways in which Black women have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, the Covid-19 Vaccine Awareness & Equity Task Force, and how to address the racial disparity in maternal mortality rates.

Headshot_Linda Goler Blount_Black Womens Health ImperativePhilanthropy News Digest: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Black Americans are 2.9 times as likely as white Americans to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and 1.9 times as likely to die. In what ways have Black women in particular been disproportionately impacted since the pandemic began and what needs to be done to address this disparity?

Linda Goler Blount: The heavy toll of COVID-19 on Black America is sharpened for Black women, who live at the intersection of gendered and racialized oppression and are experiencing disastrous impacts on their health, economic stability, and social well-being. Black women are impacted disproportionately by underlying health conditions linked to severe COVID-19 cases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, the high incidence of which serves as a consequence of America's long history of structural racism and gender oppression. The confluence of the gender pay gap and the racial wealth gap have made economic instability a harsh reality for Black women.

In addition, the physical health impacts of COVID-19 are clear, and the psychological stress of the pandemic is certain to have long-term effects on Black women's mental health as well. Perhaps most frustrating, though, is that the same structural racism that produces disease in Black communities is also creating barriers to treatment, care, and comfort — and worsening existing health crises. To address the physical health impacts on Black women, we need policy makers to ensure access to adequate and affordable health insurance, invest in initiatives that address systemic racism within health care; and expand Medicaid coverage in all states.

The economic fallout of COVID-19 extends beyond what many of us could have ever imagined, with 60 percent of Black households reporting severe financial problems and Black women maintaining the second-highest rate of unemployment during the pandemic. Policy makers should implement universal paid sick leave and expand eligibility for family and medical leave, raise the federal minimum wage, establish an independent equity committee to review and revise the eligibility criteria for economic relief programs, and develop a long-term funding strategy to support and increase businesses owned and operated by Black women. It is apparent that the social impacts of COVID-19 and racial injustice are wide-reaching and closely intertwined with the health and economic impacts of the pandemic and racial crisis — all of which affect Black women's quality of life. We believe lawmakers should address those impacts by extending the federal eviction moratorium and canceling debts, increasing the availability of affordable housing, and expanding quality broadband access across the country, with investments in low-income and rural communities to provide resources for quality distance learning and training.

PND: Black Americans report lower levels of trust in the healthcare system as a result of outright abuses like the Tuskegee study and day-to-day discrimination experienced when visiting healthcare facilities. What are some approaches you believe can work to restore trust in the healthcare system?

LGB: Vaccines save lives, but too many Black Americans have vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy is well placed and often rooted in mistrust of the medical establishment and doubts about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. But I would tell those reluctant to be vaccinated that millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in history. COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and effective. If too many Black Americans put off vaccinations, achieving widespread immunity in this country will be increasingly challenging.

A reassuring aspect the public should be educated about is the vaccine was developed by a Black doctor, vetted by Black physicians, and clinically tested on Black trial participants during the research and development phase. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett stands at the heart of Moderna's vaccine development, and her research was applied to the development of a coronavirus vaccine now distributed around the world.

One thing needed to make this happen is trust — for predominantly white institutions to trust Black physicians and Black researchers to implement the cultural approaches they know will work with Black communities. That is going to mean giving time and resources to those Black institutions and doctors and healthcare providers, so they can go into Black communities and engage in strategies that are going to be really effective. There is also a need for strategic messaging tailored to Black Americans. Because Black communities must seek COVID-19 vaccinations, there is a need to double down on healthcare providers' critical role as trusted messengers in overcoming vaccine hesitancy.

PND: The goal of the Rockefeller Foundation's $20 million Equity-First Vaccination Initiative is to ensure that at least seventy million people of color are vaccinated by July. How will BWHI's Covid-19 Vaccine Awareness & Equity Task Force's work assist in reaching that goal?

LGB: Raising awareness about the COVID-19 vaccine in communities of color and advocating for its equitable distribution is a key 2021 priority for BWHI. Accurate, culturally sensitive information provides Black women with the background and knowledge to advocate for equitable and affordable access to this critical lifesaving vaccine during these uniquely challenging times. To that end, the BWHI Covid-19 Vaccine Awareness & Equity Task Force will provide high-impact advocacy recommendations for community-based tools, resources, and grassroots implementation activities for COVID-19 vaccine education and uptake. This will include CEO leadership of its strategic project partners, as well as a diverse group of leaders, policy makers, disparities experts, and community advocates who will coordinate and consult on COVID-19 community engagements, strategic initiatives, and resources. To close gaps, BWHI will form strategic partnerships with National Caucus & Center on Black Aging, Inc. (NCBA) and National Coalition of 100 Black Women (NCBW) to deploy COVID-19 vaccine and equity initiatives among Black women in five U.S. cities: Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Oakland, CA; and Newark, NJ.  BWHI will also collaborate with several community organizations to encourage vaccinations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Global Policy Initiative (SCL GPI), R.E.A.C.H. Beyond Solutions, New Jersey Department of Health, and the Women's National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA). Now more than ever, it is critical to arm Black women, who are the vital arbiters of healthcare decisions for their families and communities, with culturally relevant and accurate information that they can act upon to reduce the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color.

PND: BWHI is the first nonprofit organization created by Black women to help protect and advance the health and wellness of Black women and girls. After thirty-eight years, are the challenges today the same as when the organization began? What's changed?

LGB: Ironically, the biggest challenge today is the same as when the organization began thirty-eight years ago. Black women's most significant health issue is the system, as it was four decades ago. Deep-seated structural and systematic racism are not just obstacles to addressing Black women's health issues — they are the health issue. What underlies Black women's disproportionate myriad health issues and disparities is the country's long history of structural and systemic racism within social, commercial, and government systems that disadvantage Black Americans. They can be seen through inequities in socioeconomic status, segregated communities, and even how Black women's pain and conditions are disbelieved and dismissed by the medical community. Standard medical practice continues to fail to consider the unique challenges Black women face.

Today, however, there is greater recognition. The CDC declared racism a public health emergency by observing structural inequities that have resulted in stark racial and ethnic health disparities that are severe, far-reaching, and unacceptable. More than twenty cities and counties and at least three states — Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin — have also declared racism a public health crisis. There is a greater understanding among the medical establishment that Black women are made less healthy by medical racism and biases held by healthcare workers against people of color in their care. Even though the principal challenge remains the same, with the right tools, resilience is possible. BWHI will continue to advocate for advances in health equity and social justice for Black women, across their lifespan, through policy, advocacy, education, research, and leadership development. Since our founding, we have strived to identify the most pressing health issues that affect the nation's twenty-two million Black women and girls and invested in the best strategies and organizations that accomplish these goals and will continue to do so in the future.

PND: Since a maternal mortality checkbox was added to death certificates in all fifty states, the U.S. has better maternal mortality data and we now know that Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications and to suffer from severe disability resulting from childbirth than white women. What are some of the policies lawmakers should enact that would improve maternal health outcomes for Black women?

LGB: To address maternal health outcomes in Black women, BWHI calls for policy solutions to help us understand why this occurs, through the data and further conversation with Black women, and then fight for change. Our goal is to understand more clearly how racism, bias, and disrespectful care contribute to this tragedy and create a call to action to transform clinical practice and improve healthcare outcomes.

The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 is legislation pending in Congress designed to improve maternal health, especially for Black women most impacted by pregnancy complications. It comprises twelve individual bills that will address issues such as maternal mental health, social determinants of health, and COVID-19 risks for pregnant and postpartum women. It is an important first step toward addressing disparities in maternal mental health care and ensuring that all pregnant, birthing, and postpartum Black women have access to the health care they need. BWHI is also calling for policies that emphasize data collection, including a deeper analysis of data on the lived experiences of pregnant Black women. That data would inform a strategy to examine the underlying causes of poor maternal outcomes among Black women and to develop and implement strategies for policy, practice, and delivery systems to move the needle.

— Lauren Brathwaite

How nonprofits can evolve following a time of uncertainty

July 01, 2021

News_sheet_musicAs the country begins to reopen after more than a year of uncertainty and isolation, the need for a sense of community and belonging is greater than ever. There couldn't be a better time for nonprofit organizations to double down on their commitment to the communities they serve.

According to a recent study commissioned by Fidelity Charitable, 25 percent of current donors plan to increase their donations in the coming year and 54 percent intend to maintain their donation levels. What's more, most donors plan to support local charities. This trend presents a unique opportunity for local organizations committed to purpose-driven work to step up and lead.

For the Brooklyn Youth Music Project (BYMP), a small nonprofit dedicated to teaching and inspiring young musicians from diverse backgrounds, the inability to hold in-person rehearsals and performances caused us to think differently about our fundraising tactics — just as we were coming up on our tenth anniversary. We are certainly not alone in this situation; studies have shown that the pandemic has negatively impacted activities such as volunteering across all sectors around the world.

By changing our perspective on what's possible and staying focused on how to continue serving our community, BYMP was able to evolve and make this a record-breaking year right out of the gate. We did so by employing five principles that can help nonprofits ensure success and sustainability in even the most challenging times:

1. Re-commit. The three part-time employees who make up BYMP — with the support of a committed board of directors — stayed true to our mission despite the challenges we faced.

As an organization that is based on in-person rehearsals and performances, having to shift to a world gone virtual was a daunting task. By keeping our mission of serving the children and families in our community (many of whom had been with BYMP for years) in focus, we were able to find new ways of working and connecting with them. Re-committing to our mission meant doing whatever we could, and had to, to keep the kids connected through music. This also included being fully transparent with our community as to what was, and was not, possible.

2. Shake up the status quo. When faced with unprecedented circumstances, the sooner you acknowledge that old ways of operating need to be upended, the better. We did so by embracing technology that enabled us to leverage virtual events and showcase our students as well as broaden our reach beyond our local community. More on this in Principle 5.

3. Take chances. Unforeseen obstacles presented an opportunity for us to step out of our comfort zones and expand our horizons. We seized the opportunity to dial up our presence by scheduling five concerts over the course of the year — doing virtually something we never could have done in person, even in a milestone anniversary year, due to the resource and logistical needs of staging live events. Taking risks and stepping outside the collective comfort zone is the essential path to organizational growth.

4. Assess your results. Take a thorough inventory of your fundraising tactics and determine what worked and what could have had more impact. Our efforts resulted in record event attendance at virtual fundraisers and performances. Most importantly, donations from our first two fundraisers resulted in a 100 percent increase in donations over 2019. So we will look to incorporate virtual events into our program schedule moving forward, peppering them in with in-person events once pandemic protocols are lifted.

5. Learn new skills. Taking time to learn new skills and programs goes a long way in helping the professional development of your team and strengthening your organization's assets. A win-win for everyone. While it requires an initial investment in time, the long-term results can make for a strong return on investment. For example, the time our staff spent learning video and audio editing for online concerts was substantial, but the skills we gained will continue to pay off for years to come. In addition, by using existing free tools, we expanded our reach and made it easier for both new and existing supporters to donate. With YouTube Premiere, we increased views of a single video by more than 400 percent, and the text-to-mobile feature enabled by Pledge.com helped increase our donations during our concert watch parties.

The good news, as evidenced by the philanthropic community's uncharacteristically responsive, quick, and flexible support for COVID-19 relief efforts, is that individuals and corporations can approach local philanthropy with a sense of urgency. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, one of the keys to ushering in a new era of giving is for large-scale donors to invest in local charities as a way to test and learn and fine-tune their efforts, which in turn can help inform their corporate giving models in advance of supporting national or even global initiatives. So, the task at hand is to make this a long-term reality for nonprofits large and small and those charged with more evergreen, mission-driven programming. Let's keep local charities front and center by re-committing to our missions, shaking up the status quo, taking chances, assessing our results, and learning new skills. These actions will drive forward motion, keep the momentum going, and help develop new ways of connecting with potential donors. This way, smaller charities can become an integral part of ongoing high-impact giving rather than a stepping-stone to larger organizations. There is room for everyone, and the benefits of local giving can be immediately felt within one's own community, which is reason enough to step outside our comfort zones and push through with confidence and conviction.

Every challenge presents an opportunity. In the words of Thomas Edison, "When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this, you haven't."

Pat Gunther_Brooklyn_Youth_Music_Project_PhilanTopicPat Gunther is managing director of Brooklyn Youth Music Project. She has more than twenty-five years of combined experience in nonprofit arts administration and project management.

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

Subscribe to PhilanTopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Filter posts

Select
Select
Select