Marin Voice: Hurting Nonprofits Need to Take Action Now to Survive

CEO, Linda Jacobs, shares her advice for nonprofit leaders in this weekend’s publication of the Marin Independent Journal. Read the full story here.

Every nonprofit leader is facing tough decisions due to COVID-19.

There are 110,547 nonprofits in California. The 2019 report, Causes Count produced by California Association of Nonprofits states that the nonprofit sector generates $273.7 billion in annual revenue. One in every 14 California jobs is at a nonprofit accounting for seven perfect of all employment. Nonprofits rank third largest by wages among key industries and the fourth largest by number of jobs, more than finance and insurance, wholesale trade or construction.

The majority of nonprofits have budgets less than $50,000. These organizations are highly vulnerable right now and  many have less than one month’s cash reserve with some having liabilities that exceed assets.

The nonprofit sector is critical to providing essential services to the most vulnerable in society during the best of times. Now with a global pandemic — as well as constantly shifting and incongruous leadership from the federal government — managing employees and programs has become extremely challenging.

Each day since Marin went into a “shelter in place,” the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership has received requests for advice on how to deal with fundraising, financial management and human resources concerns — including how to manage a newly remote workforce.

Nonprofits are canceling fundraising events and many of these events supply the organization with the bulk of their funding for the year. Services have been stopped or reduced. Staff working remotely helps, but it is not clear what will happen to those not able to work once there is no work left to do. They are hurting financially but their clients are counting on them.

The fear, anger, concern and sadness has created a sense of paralysis, which is all completely understandable. Good leaders, of which there are many in our communities, must step up and take immediate and decisive action if an organization is to survive. Nonprofit executives, board members, funders and community stakeholders must take corrective measures now.

Sadly, for some it will be too late or not enough. Many nonprofits around the nation will likely close.

At CVNL we want to do everything we can to help nonprofits carry out their missions. We recognize how difficult these times are and stand committed to supporting the health and well-being of our nonprofits and volunteers by providing helpful resources and informational webinars. In addition, we offer the following:

  • The new CARES Act includes several opportunities that will result in funding for nonprofits ( Nonprofits are eligible to apply for Disaster Assistance, Paycheck Protection and Small Business Loans ( Other financial benefits from the state are also available (
  • Take time to restructure your organization to allow for survival of your mission. As hard and sad as this may be, it is better than closing up shop.
  • Consider mergers and partnerships. I know, not the best time, but again, better than closing up shop.
  • Make sure that you understand the new laws that provide support for your organization and staff.
  • Communicate with your funders and stakeholders.
  • Stay connected. Maintain regular communication with staff and volunteers.
  • Donate. Instead of giving to large national organizations, universities or political campaigns, support local nonprofits that serve the community where you live.
  • Offer your expertise and skills, especially if you’re not working full time right now.
  • Volunteer. If you are healthy, at low risk and willing to help, you are needed. Volunteer opportunities are continuously changing, and all urgent needs are being published on our volunteer portal:
  • Expanded unemployment and enhanced funding for social support programs

We encourage everyone to visit this website to check on what the needs are and sign up to help. It is extremely important that volunteers follow guidelines. If people want to volunteer, they need to do so safely to prevent further spread of the virus.

Volunteers should not self-deploy. We are seeing spontaneous volunteer groups form in communities, and while their intentions are good, they may not be aware of essential health and safety protocols.

They will be contacted directly when they are needed. People can also follow us on Facebook where we announce volunteer needs:

We are stronger together and nonprofits have a better chance of continuing to serve the community if we come together now.