COVID – The Next Wave, be prepared

Thank you to everyone who voted or worked to get others to vote. Not everyone has the privilege of voting, so thank you too to our relations who cannot vote but put their faith into the rest of us who voted. As I write we are waiting to learn the outcome for the presidential election. The election brought a level of disruption we hadn’t seen in a long time, which produced the positive result of more people voting – please thank yourself and others for being civically engaged. Keep that disruption going in positive ways to produce the changes we need to advance justice.

Art from Amplifier Art by Dimas Sugih Cahaya

COVID19 has been a huge disruptive force this year. I think back to February when COVID19 was just starting to show up on the front pages of newspapers. Little did I realize it would force all of us to redefine our lives. While this blog post isn’t a deep racial equity post, I’m offering it because many of us work in non-profits or in ways that impact others. We also should remember the impact of COVID19 hits communities differently because of racism in our systems. The impacts of COVID19 are different for nonprofits and government. Nonprofits and government agencies are designed to serve, and because of this we need to be prepared to keep serving in ways that keep everyone safe.

The next wave or surge of COVID19 is starting to hit. I’ve heard from colleagues and friends that people in their families and circles are testing positive for COVID19. This is scary and trying for many. This is also the time when we need to not-freak out and focus on taking care of ourselves and each other.

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about emergency planning for nonprofits. Now is a good time to review it and to start asking your staff to help plan for the next wave of COVID19. In this post I’ll share more questions and thoughts to plan for the next phase of COVID19 as it impacts our nonprofits and organizations. A colleague who worked with me in event planning once told me: “Sweat more in peacetime, bleed less during wartime.” While this isn’t war and peace, the sentiment of planning more now will help when we’re in the depth of winter and fingers crossed without a spike in cases or other natural disasters.

Questions to Help Us Plan for COVID19 Surge:

  • Does your staff NEED to meet in person? Please do not have people work in an office or together if they don’t need to. Don’t take a risk you don’t need to.
  • Do your staff and colleagues know the signs of COVID19 and flu? If not send out a memo/email with information (e.g. links) from credible sources (i.e. public health organizations, credible news sources, etc.) and translated in languages people are literate in. If there is any question about literacy, provide video links and allow staff work time to review it. 
  • Provide information about COVID19 testing centers and how to access them. If transportation is a barrier work with the person to find a way for them to get to a testing center that is safe for everyone. Provide sick leave or other paid time if necessary to get tested.
  • Provide credible information to clients and train staff on how to talk to clients in language appropriate, culturally appropriate, and age appropriate ways to understand the risk of COVID19. Build trust with families by having credible messengers deliver these messages. Please make sure you’re adequately compensating staff for their time doing this.
  • If staff and clients need personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies, provide it to them. This may mean reallocating money from other parts of your organization’s budget or seeking outside support.
  • What advocacy do you need to do NOW to keep your staff, clients, community safe, protected, and engaged? Who do you need to talk to now to enact preventatives steps?

Contingency Plans if your Staff Test Positive:

  • Does your organization have a plan for what to do if someone on your staff or their family/housemates test positive for COVID19?
    • Does your staff feel safe reporting this to their supervisors or someone in the chain of command?
    • If they don’t, what steps do you need to put into place to make sure they are safe reporting this information? What trust do you need to build?
    • Do other staff and board members know how to maintain confidentiality about the situation? (Please remember the Asian community in particular has faced harassment and bullying due to COVID19 fears. Staff, board, and those who will communicate on behalf of the organization need to be clear about how to communicate about COVID19 without stoking fear.)
    • For hourly employees, what is the plan if they test positive for COVID19? Can they work from home if they are medically able to?
  • Does your organization have a COVID19 leave policy in place and do staff know about the plans? Early during the pandemic I worked with my board, and with the help of some other executive directors that I trust, we put together a leave policy granting all employees an additional two-weeks of paid medical leave (we probably should have made it three weeks). If you would like to see a version (slightly adapted) of the policy please email
  • Do employees and clients know how to apply for Paid Family Medical Leave if your state or municipality offers this?
    • Do employees and clients who are not English proficient know how to use Paid Family Medical Leave?
  • Are people within your organization cross-trained on essential functions to keep the organization running? Who knows how to run payroll, access to bank accounts to deposit and write checks, who knows where the logins and passwords are kept? As a funny, not funny story – my organization is 3.5 FTE, two people know how to run payroll – having two people trained on this was important to us during COVID19 disruptions.
  • Is the board up to date on COVID19 contingency plans, especially if the Executive Director or CEO needs to step away due to illness or caregiving responsibilities? Leadership is important during crises, including strong board leadership.
  • Have staff update their emergency contact information and make sure staff know where this information is stored, including the electronic storage of this information.
  • If a staff member test positive, is someone within the organization able to have a conversation with the person to ask what they will need to survive two-weeks of quarantine? Think about language, power dynamics, personal relationships, etc. to keep this a positive experience for everyone.
  • What is your contingency plans incase staff test positive and they have been around clients?
    • Do other staff members know how to communicate with clients in their preferred language?
    • If you close your physical offices do people know how to access services and information?
    • How will you take care of other clients who may have been exposed? Do they have access to testing facilities and medical services if needed?


  • What services are communities of color needing from your organization during COVID19 and a potential surge in cases?
    • Can you meet these needs without being a savior? Who else is working on these plans?
    • What innovations can your organization bring about right now because of the COVID19 disruptions?
  • What needs might be unmet because you’re hearing mostly from the loudest people who have access? Think about immigrants, people with disabilities, foster kids, people experiencing homelessness, people involved with the justice system, families without internet access – how might you hear from them and what might their needs be and respond to their request for services? Who do you need to prioritize at this moment?
  • What core services need to continue? What services can you pause to meet COVID19 surge needs?
  • What human needs do people need from you right now?
    • Do people need to talk, vent, connect? Can you provide a productive and healthy space to do this?

Stay safe friends. We’ll get through this together.

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