We're in the midst of the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, and it has indeed been a most unexpected time. TechSoup senior communications manager Shannon Cherry recently wrote: "The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the way most sectors — including civil society organizations — do their work. TechSoup was no exception, as we rapidly moved operations around the world to remote environments to ensure minimal interruption to our mission." And so it has been for so many TechSoup members. Here is a recap of where we have been so far — and, we hope, the way forward.
The first U.S. COVID-19 case was discovered by the CDC on January 20, but things didn't get really serious until March. On March 3, the U.S. had 118 COVID cases, and by March 19, we had 10,000 cases. That month, we began seeing nonprofits (including TechSoup) opting for remote work if they could. By late March, the U.S. led the world in COVID cases and continues to do so with more than 20 percent of COVID infections worldwide. Also in late March, we got a $2 trillion stimulus package, and from that time to now, we've been in various degrees of pandemic lockdown. During this winter surge, there are routinely hundreds of thousands of cases per day.
It has been a tough year for everyone, let alone the NGOs TechSoup serves.
TechSoup's Early Response
Nonprofit Transition and Planning in Response to COVID-19 was one of our early content pieces. It covers the new way of working for nonprofits from an HR point of view. It includes tips on communicating with a dispersed or virtual workforce, the practicalities of managing remote workers, and maintaining organizational culture including morale and health.
Early in the pandemic we reached out to nonprofit tech consultants to find out how COVID-19 was impacting nonprofits. What we found: The changes were breathtakingly rapid and profound.
About that time we posted TechSoup's COVID-19 resource page. It includes a listing of software and hardware tools to support remote work, including Zoom. By then, requests for the video conferencing software were off the charts. The page also lists TechSoup services and courses for the new way of working, plus content on policy resources like our Nonprofit Technology Policy Workbook.
Also at about this time, TechSoup started a dedicated online community forum to encourage nonprofits, NGOs, libraries, and other community programs to talk about how they were using technology dealing with COVID-19 and to share questions, advice, needs, challenges, and resources. A particular focus was on tools and techniques for engaging older volunteers and the needs of elderly clients.
Managing the Impact of COVID 19 on Nonprofits is an early online discussion of the tools, strategies, and resources to help nonprofits manage remote workers. It featured TechSoup's Marnie Webb and Cameron Jones.
Our two-part series How Nonprofits Have Pivoted to Online Work came out in midsummer when it was clear that remote working would be with us for the foreseeable future. Part One covered organizations with large staffs, including public-facing essential workers, and also technology-oriented nonprofits. Part Two covered church and faith-based organizations.
Reality Sets In
In late summer, we published Nonprofit Strategies for Managing Different Generations in Remote Work. This piece describes some findings as the reality of working remotely really hit home. Baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Z, and millennials all have different characteristics in adapting to remote work.
The TechSoup online community forums stayed busy with information about how various programs were using technology to address the needs of their clients and audiences and to deliver their services. Organizations shared how they were quickly introducing or expanding virtual volunteering, as well as how to better support seniors and the elderly.
Another practicality of life in the time of COVID has been the need to engage supporters virtually. Shannon Cherry's The Show Must Go On: Producing a Virtual Nonprofit Event is a roundup of useful tools and techniques that we discovered over the months. Our great webinar recording, How to Bring Your Live or In-Person Events Online has timely answers to frequently asked questions about doing events online with the experts from TAPP Network.
We also created a free COVID-19 Response course track for TechSoup Courses members. It features Matthew Eshleman, chief technology officer at Community IT. It is called Pivoting to Remote Work and is still a superb comprehensive nine-course package for organizations still working on transitioning to remote work.
The Pandemic Drags On
As the situation matured, we were able to take stock of the magnificent work being done by charities to address critical needs out there. In Civil Society Is Critical in the Fight Against the COVID-19 Pandemic, Nana Afadzinu describes just some of the essential work that nonprofits are doing to address the struggles of people during the pandemic. Brooke Hanshaw's piece, How Range Is Addressing Food Insecurity During COVID-19, describes some work that TechSoup itself is doing.
Questions, advice, and comments about tech to address needs that arose from COVID showed up throughout the TechSoup community forums, even beyond the forum originally set up for them. This included several posts related to online volunteers helping with small nonprofit arts groups' annual productions and how libraries were engaging volunteers and delivering services to keep everyone safe and engaged in reading and learning.
Nonprofit Remote Security During COVID-19 by Roger Rustad features U.S. Department of Defense Cyber Exchange resources to help protect remote workers from the increased attacks on people working at home. We also published Keeping Your Nonprofit's Systems Secure During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This is a comprehensive article on the different types of cyberattacks that emerged during the pandemic, with low-cost IT solutions to address them. It is still some of the best coverage of this topic from a nonprofit point of view out there.
Now that the pandemic drags on, let's face it: Contingency planning is one of the last things we get to on our big to-do lists. This year and next will be one long time of disaster. TechSoup's Michael Enos in his Creating an IT Contingency Plan at Your Nonprofit describes how to do your nuts-and-bolts IT planning for the long term with a distributed, remote workforce in mind.
Your Nonprofit's Website and Communications Playbook for the Road Ahead describes the ongoing need for charities to maintain relationships with supporters, volunteers, funders, and community members while pivoting to leaner, virtual operations. All this is possible with new tools that have become available.
TechSoup's Fundraising Forecast and Recommendations for 2021 describes what TechSoup discovered this past year about what is in the pandemic fundraising playbook so that your organization can thrive and prosper in 2021.
Zoe Amara's 5 Ways Coronavirus Will Change the Charity Sector is a prescient look at how the pandemic has changed and will change our work to better a battered world.
We know that 2021 will largely be another lean pandemic year. We know that nonprofit work as we've known it has probably changed for good. We hope to continue to be a help to you in surviving and even prospering during this difficult time — and with the rollout of the vaccines, we look for better days ahead. Until then, we'll continue to try and get you great content, product donations and discounts, and anything else we can think to do. What do you need? Ask us and we'll do our best to assist. We intensely admire the critical work you do and are proud to help.