COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacts Black and People of Color led Nonprofits

By April 9, 2020 No Comments

COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacts Black and People of Color led Nonprofits
Here are 5 Steps We Can Take to Lessen the Impact


Authored by April Jean, MSW

Pervasive racial inequities continue to have crippling consequences on vulnerable communities of color. At this moment, key decision makers in government and philanthropy are rushing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is understandable they’re working with urgency. The problem is that without applying a racial equity lens, they’ll continue to fail those they seek to help.

Despite being under-funded and overworked, people of color led nonprofits are responding to the most complex needs of their communities. They are tackling racial and economic inequities perpetuated by an unjust system, and their work is amplified during times of crisis.

“When the majority of our community catches a cold, communities of color catch pneumonia.” – Senator Holly Mitchell

Here are five things our government and philanthropic leaders must do right now to mitigate the negative impacts to communities and nonprofits of color:

1. Put Race on the Table

We must address the long-justified mistrust that people of color have in government and philanthropy’s ability to make inclusive and equitable decisions on behalf of our most vulnerable populations. It is our collective responsibility to address issues of power and privilege in order to transform the way we fund, support and serve our most under-resourced nonprofits.

2. Understand the Unique Needs of our Anchor Organizations

Our anchor institutions are those led by people of color who serve their communities through a lens of racial equity and cultural responsiveness. They understand economic and racial trauma in their communities and they have the competency to serve their communities in ways that are innovative, uniquely responsive to their needs. Things to consider: Identify the anchor organizations within your region. Reach out to those you aim to serve through relief funds. Learn what they need. Listen to what they say. Provide them with support. Move out the way!

3. Equitable Funding Efforts are Necessary

True equity means giving people what they need and not what you think they need. We must recognize the deep racial and economic inequities that intensify in times of crisis. The philanthropic community can help by developing a funding strategy that supports nonprofits who are trusted messengers for communities of color and who can speak to the unique concerns of these communities. Ensure there is an intentional effort to remove barriers in order for these organizations to have an equitable opportunity to receive relief dollars. Questions to consider: What communities/populations are likely to be impacted? Disaggregate this data by ethnicity, and this is how you determine where resources go. How can a racial equity lens improve outcomes for said target population?

4. Workforces are Vulnerable Too

Many of these organizations and their workforces are vulnerable and we should do everything we can to protect them. Over 60 percent of our direct service nonprofit workforce are people of color and in most cases, these are black women who are classified as 10 percent of working poor. These organizations are already vulnerable to the compounding impacts of not having access to living wages, limited access to healthcare and limited options for affordable childcare during work hours. These essential organizations with vulnerable workforces are being asked to remain on the front lines and increase the volume of their work with limited-to-no support from funders. If we are truly functioning from the lens of racial equity, relief funds must include hazard pay for those who remain on the front lines putting their health and safety at risk.

5. Remove or Reduce Reporting & Use Requirements

As service needs shift, resources and support from funders needs to match. Commit to reducing the burden on the reporting process and be flexible with how your investment is used during this time of crisis. For example, forego monthly reports and allow them to shift restricted funding to general operating support. Provide nonprofits with space to pivot so they are able to operate and provide support to families most affected by COVID-19.

Applying a racial equity lens requires us to do the hard work, even during a crisis. Now is the time for our government and philanthropic leaders to create a funding framework that ensures equitable outcomes for the future. In order to flatten the curve, we must invest in the safety, health and economic wellness of our most vulnerable communities, and this includes the nonprofits who serve them.

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April Jean brings over 16 years of experience in nonprofit social services, mental health, foster care, child & adult welfare, nonprofit administration and community development to the Impact Foundry team. Prior to joining Impact Foundry, April founded Advocates for Action, a consulting effort focused on reimagining a comprehensive systems approach to improve outcomes for communities of color in the Sacramento region.