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How to Create COVID-19 Adaptive Programs

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

If you are looking for grants, many of the grants available will require you to talk about your community programs and how they will operate next year and beyond. The time is now to start thinking about how you will execute your COVID-19 programming during a pandemic. All of your grant proposals, especially those submitted in response to COVID-19 emergency assistance grants should be crafted with this in mind.

Here are some tips on how to create impactful, responsive, and adaptive programs for COVID-19 an beyond:

1. Be honest.

If your program is not essential and can't be safely run, you may want to consider delaying your programming until it is safe to do so. If your program is essential or if your organization decides to run the program, be honest about how COVID-19 will impact your participation numbers.

Acknowledge the success you've experienced in the past while being realistic about the anticipated impacts this pandemic will have on your participants and the success of your programs. Above all else, operate safely. Speaking of safety…

2. Commit to observing social distancing measures and other safety measures.

COVID-19 measures change so often and vary by state- who can keep up? Who will know what is allowable by the time your program is operational? Be safe and say, "we will observe all COVID-19 safety measures as defined by the CDC, or our state health department, etc.

No one wants to run a program and risk contributing to an outbreak. Always refer to recommendations by the CDC, your local health department, or any other reputable source.

3. Assess the need.

It's great to have a community needs assessment to identify target audiences with the greatest need, however this may be a good time to consider an update. What has changed since your last community needs assessment? Who needs to be served now? Is it time to complete a new community needs assessment?

You may be amazed how the size, scope, and characteristics of your target audience have changed and also the needs of your target audience have changed given how they have been impacted by changes in society.

4. Go virtual, if possible.

A sure shot way to run your program without too many unexpected changes or risks is to go virtual. Many COVID-19 emergency funding opportunities include money to help organizations pivot to running their programs differently.

Some examples that I have come across include:

  • an arts organization that used to offer theatre performances in person for the price of admission, now offer their performances virtually. Instead of just earning revenue from those that are locally able to attend, they expanded their revenues by offering their programming to a national audience.

  • a summer camp for students with disabilities is offering online summer camp. Students can complete summer activities like drawing, creating projects, and art designs via Zoom and can present their projects to fellow campers.

  • a mentoring program that moved their mentoring from in-person to online by offering weekly connections between mentees and mentors.

Speaking of going virtual.....

5. Have an accountability plan in place for your new virtual environment

I was recently serving as a reviewer for a federal grant when the following criteria was introduced: Does the applicant have policies and procedures in place to help staff properly execute the program in a virtual environment? How will participant outcomes be measured and accounted for virtually?

These questions speak to how your organization including leadership, staff, and volunteer will be held accountable for executing the program remotely, and how program outcomes can be documented and accounted for.

Having an accountability plan in place helps communicate these ideas within an application.

6. Have a COVID-19 contingency plan.

Even if you have in-person programming executed within social distancing guidelines, have a contingency plan.

Anything can happen, including another round of diagnoses. Let the funder know you've thought through everything and have a plan. Lately, I have seen funders require a COVID-19 contingency plan, forcing nonprofits to think about what to do and articulate it.

Want to learn more about creating a program in the mist of COVID-19? Learn more about creating programs under nonprofit consulting.


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