Coordinating a Community Organization Response To COVID-19

4 min read · 5 months ago

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The global pandemic is complicating life for all. Everyone, in some way, is feeling the public health and economic impacts. Community organizations can do more by coming together to respond to the challenges of COVID-19. This article offers tips for a community response to the coronavirus.

Community-based organizations are in the perfect position to provide direct assistance to those negatively impacted by the pandemic. Support networks we might have relied on in the past may be out of reach due to the pandemic. With a local foothold, community resources can help out the most vulnerable in safe and inclusive ways

This article offers several strategies to support community organizations seeking to help combat COVID-19. Tips include:

  • Build a community organization network
  • Meet with nonprofits to discuss needs
  • Define community-driven group goals
  • Create a website for community resources
  • Give support grants
  • Connect volunteers 
  • Communicate with community

Build a Community Organization Network

People do care. The global health crisis has prompted many people to come forward with ideas to help their neighbors and make a difference in their communities. Worldwide, COVID-19 mutual aid groups are flourishing with members coordinating their efforts via email, text message, Facebook page, WhatsApp, neighborhood posters and fliers, and more. 

The community-based organization doesn’t have to work in a silo. Why reinvent the wheel when you can work with other organizers to learn what’s worked and best practices? By building a network of community organizations, you can improve success rates. You won’t be duplicating the efforts of a group that’s just a block over who could partner with you instead. Or you might find out about resources that are already readily available that you were struggling to coordinate access to for your neighbors.

This cooperation among organizations can also foster community building. Further, it can help ensure the community-based response is diverse and inclusive. 

Meet With Nonprofits To Discuss Needs

What you think is a problem may not be the biggest need in your community. Search online directories to locate the local nonprofits working with the people you want to assist. Visit their local business listings to determine their needs. Many nonprofits have a website outlining their mission, vision, and needs. You can also reach out directly to the organization to ask what needs your community group could help address.

Goodwill is great. But don’t waste your good intentions going down a path that is already well-trodden by an established nonprofit. Meeting with the nonprofit organizations in your area can help you determine the unique opportunities for your community members to fulfill.

Define Community-Driven Group Goals

Having done your research of online local listings to find like-minded community associations and nonprofits, your community-driven group can crystallize its goals. Having a clear objective will make it easier for participants to rally around your cause.

You may plan on this community organization being a short-term COVID-19 response outfit. Or you hope it can go on to play a long-term role in your community. Either way, it’s useful to establish SMART goals. These are objectives that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely 

Create a Website for Community Resources

You’ve done the legwork to learn who is out there doing what. One contribution you can make is to design a webpage that gathers all the community resources in one place. This can streamline volunteer efforts and make it easier for those in need to access the support they seek.

With face-to-face interactions limited by social distancing, your community members are likely to enjoy the opportunity to participate in forums. Your website can be informational and also provide a togetherness that people lack right now.

Also, make it easy for people to find your community organization by posting it across a network of local directories.

Give Support Grants

The community organization is also well-positioned to quickly gather funds to get to those who need it most locally. Soliciting donations for support grants can help tackle the immediate needs of those in crisis. 

The Council of Foundations suggests the organization should:

  • Accept applications on an ongoing basis
  • Clearly define eligibility
  • Collaborate with partners to understand effective areas for funding
  • Provide easy-to-find information about how to donate

 

Connect Volunteers 

Some of your neighbors who want to help may not have the funds to donate. Yet, they have the time and interest to make a difference. The community organization can play the role of the middleman. Help connect people in need with volunteers willing to help

The volunteer contribution doesn’t have to be a big one to make a massive difference. Options include:

  • Offering to grocery shop for a senior or otherwise vulnerable individual
  • Facilitating meal delivery
  • Providing mental health and emotional support
  • Helping tutor children learning from home
  • Doing yard work

There can be hundreds of people in your neighborhood wanting to help. But without a community resource giving them a clear idea of how to make a difference, they’re stuck at home wishing they could do more. 

Use your organization’s website to announce volunteer opportunities. Put out calls for volunteers on social media channels. Make sure your community group is easy to find in search engine listings so that the motivated individual can easily find you and get started volunteering.

 

Communicate With Community

There are many ways to keep your community organization’s members connected. You can use:

  • Message boards
  • Email
  • Text chat
  • Facebook site and Messenger
  • Discord for Voice Chat
  • Skype 
  • GoToMeeting
  • Zoom
  • Google Hangouts
  • Instagram
  • Twitter

The list goes on and on. It’s important to use a variety of these communication channels to ensure you are reaching everyone. 

You’ll want to regularly focus communications on different audiences for greater impact. What you write to a donor will be different than the text you send to a volunteer. The Instagram post encouraging people in need to reach out should be approached differently than the Facebook invitation to potential volunteers.

 

Conclusion

A community organization can make a real difference by taking the lead in coordinating a COVID-19 response. Facilitating communication, providing and sharing resources, and creating a safe, supportive online source for your community members is always a worthwhile goal.