For many nonprofits, the Paycheck Protection Program provided a much-needed life raft during the early days of the pandemic. Religious organizations have received an estimated $6 billion to $9 billion in COVID relief funds. Catholic dioceses received $1.4 billion.
These loans, many of which will be forgiven, have provided urgent relief, saved four million jobs and enabled nonprofits to continue to serve their communities. However, because initial PPP recipients were required to spend their loans within eight weeks, a time period which was later extended to 24 weeks, the funding is quickly running dry for an increasing number of organizations. If you find yourself in this situation, there are steps to help carry you through these turbulent times.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Let your employees, volunteers, donors and stakeholders know what your organization is doing to serve the community during COVID, the challenges you’re facing, what you are doing to address them, and how people can help. There is no such thing as communicating too much; however, a lack of communication could be detrimental and its effects irreversible.
If you received a PPP loan, share that information with stakeholders. Communicate the positive impact it has had on the people you serve and the employees who support your mission. Likewise, if your PPP funds are coming to an end, communicate the negative impact that loss will have on the people your organization serves if the money is not replenished in some way.
- Focus on the heart of your mission
Your organization may provide an array of services, but it’s vital that it identify with razor-sharp focus its core mission. When the human body encounters a significant threat, it responds by shutting down non-essential functions so that it can focus all its efforts on vital organs and processes necessary to immediately stabilize and revitalize life. If you are experiencing a threat to your solvency and survival, identify your core mission, its essential “organs” and processes and suspend everything else.
- Essential expenses only!
If your organization’s survival is at risk, suspend or terminate all other non-essential expenses.
- Call your vendors and creditors and discuss options for reducing costs or deferring payments.
- Make an urgent call to volunteers to help out with work which, perhaps, was previously done by employees.
- Tax-Incentivized Contributions
Highlight the tax incentives to charitable giving under the CARES Act and encourage year-end donors to make their gifts now. The CARES Act makes a new $300 charitable deduction available to individual taxpayers that do not itemize their deductions. The CARES Act also provides incentives for both individuals and corporations by increasing the available deductions on qualified charitable contributions to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income for individual taxpayers who itemize their deductions.
The CARES Act suspended the Required Minimum Distribution (RMDs) for 2020. Invite donors to voluntarily take out their RMD and use it as a contribution to your organization.
- Ask and you will receive
You lose nothing by asking for financial support but you risk losing everything if you don’t. It may feel inappropriate to ask for money during a pandemic, but we’ve found donors want to give.
Clearly and urgently communicate how your organization is assisting people during COVID. Be specific and use real examples. Remember, people don’t give to organizations, they give to people. You are not asking donors to support your organization but the people your organization supports. Highlight how their support will help people and how people will be affected without your organization’s help.
Make your ask very specific. For example, provide a menu of services and the cost for sponsoring each service:
- Fund the parish/school for a day/week – $XX.XX
- Fund religious education for a week – $XX.XX
- Keep the Lights On $XX.XX (costs associated with keeping the church open and maintained)
- Don’t Stop the Music! $XX.XX (support music ministry)
Many of our clients have successfully begun or completed campaigns during COVID. Now’s the perfect time for many organizations to consider a campaign.
But a campaign may not be the best option for all organizations. Recognizing the unique challenges facing dioceses, churches and schools, the Steier Group is offering a customized service, called the Church Stabilization Appeal, which helps our clients replenish lost offertory revenue due to declines in weekly giving during COVID and establish or build upon an emergency reserve of six months offertory to protect the church in the future.
In an effort to alleviate – not increase – your financial burden, the Steier Group does not charge our clients until the appeal is complete. The Church Stabilization Appeal will pay for itself many, many times over with expenses representing a small percentage of money raised and paid for with the cash flow raised through the appeal.