DonorConnect: Nonprofit Resilience as We Face the Future
May. 4, 2021
At our April 28 event, DonorConnect: Nonprofit Resilience as We Face the Future, nonprofit leaders held an inspiring discussion about how our local nonprofits have stepped up and leaned in to meet the needs of our community in the face of tremendous challenges. Watch the full DonorConnect recording below and read on for highlights from the event.
Panelists from organizations meeting the most critical needs in our community as the pandemic threatened the lives and livelihoods of Iowans spoke to the speed with which they had to work and adapt. As the pandemic brought many disparities to light, nonprofit leaders worked tirelessly to bridge existing gaps and set the stage for a more equitable future. Their immediate focus went to keeping community members healthy, housed and employed while ensuring students were able to adapt to digital learning environments to continue their education.
"It exposed a lot of disparities with technology, but it also gave us an opportunity to shrink some of that digital divide," shared Izaah Knox, executive director of Urban Dreams. "We boosted our internet to outside our walls, we got tablets to give away to people in the community, we used telehealth for mental health and substance abuse treatment; and that allowed us to grow even more and better serve clients into the future."
"As we start to re-engage and get back to supporting the individuals we serve at an ongoing basis, I think it's really important to maintain this momentum and ensure this wasn't just a temporary blip caused by the pandemic," said Tray Wade, CEO and president of EveryStep.
The pandemic gave organizations an opportunity to reassess current practices and optimize their missions and service models for the future.
"Midway through this crisis, we intentionally removed the word vulnerable from our mission statement because what we've witnessed of underserved populations is quite the opposite of that. They're not the most vulnerable, they're the most resilient members of our community," shared Suzanne Mineck, president of Mid-Iowa Health Foundation.
Programs and initiatives were quickly born out of partnerships between organizations, including the Iowa Immigrant Community Fund, an initiative of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Iowa, Al Éxito, and Proteus Inc. The fund launched April 27, 2020 after receiving inital support from a Disaster Recovery Fund grant. Organizations used the fund to meet immediate needs where they were in the immigrant community.
"The pandemic really highlighted disparities that exist in the Latino community," shared Dawn Martinez Oropeza, executive director of Al Éxito. "We looked at what was needed immediately, and knew we had to get people food, we had to get them funding for utilities and rent—so that's what we did."
At a time when maintaining closeness was harder than ever, panelists shared the relief they found from leaning on one another to be better together.
"Even though there was a lot of uncertainty around how all of our organizations were doing, that was all set aside and it became about how we can help each other get through this. That was so inspiring to watch," said Renee Miller, chief community impact officer of United Way.