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The Community Foundation Blog

Adapting and Building the Sector’s Capacity During COVID-19
By The Community Foundation / June 24, 2020
Adapting and Building the Sector’s Capacity During COVID-19

Strong, skilled leaders are essential to fostering sustainable nonprofit organizations and a healthy, thriving community. The Community Foundation takes a holistic approach to capacity-building that includes more than just grantmaking. Our learning and leadership opportunities are designed with a commitment to continuous learning, high-quality programming, and an exceptional learner experience. Throughout the year, we offer a robust nonprofit learning and professional development agenda primarily focused on board governance, operational excellence, skill-building, leadership development and excellence in volunteer management.  

Until this past March, nearly all the Foundation’s learning opportunities took place in-person. However, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, staff quickly pivoted classes to new formats and adjusted content to reflect emergent needs in the community and sector. We developed several free, time-sensitive webinars; offered select virtual courses from our “regular” calendar; and created some limited-admission “deep dives” – all delivered live through online platforms. Through surveys to nonprofits and conversations with current instructors and community partners, we were able to create responsive learning opportunities for over 2,000 nonprofit professionals and community members, locally and across the country.

Pictured: Scott Andrews-Weckerly, Community Engagement Specialist at the Community Foundation, working from his home office to develop new and timely online learning
opportunities for local nonprofits.

"People may often or only think of the Community Foundation as a grantmaker, but what this time has confirmed is that we are a 'capacity builder.' We've been honored to bring timely content around fundraising, human resources, and equity to thousands of our colleagues during the pandemic. A healthy nonprofit sector is so important to the life of a community, and we're committed to helping organizations rebuild capacity as they move forward mindfully,” says Scott Andrews-Weckerly, Community Engagement Specialist at the Community Foundation.

Recognizing the complicated landscape of childcare in the time of COVID, the Foundation planned a live webinar for parents with young children, caregivers, and providers that focused on “childcare decisions” during the pandemic with Virginia Early Childhood Education Foundation, Robins Foundation and Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond. Virginia’s First Lady Pamela Northam welcomed the 200+ attendees, and a panel of experts shared insights, perspectives, and considerations for children under age five returning to day care and summer camp. The experts included a pediatric epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist, a childcare center operator, a family childcare business provider and a parent of small children.

After the webinar, one parent shared, “I decided to start my child in their childcare program next week. The providers helped me understand the measures they are taking to keep children and staff safe.” Another parent said, “Listening to the stories on the news about COVID-19 is scary, but it helped to be able to ask a local pediatric health professional questions on how to keep my family safe and what it will look like to send my two preschool-aged children back to school/summer camp.”

As the country and our sector move into a “pandemic recovery mode,” we will continue to assess the needs of our sector and adapt or evolve our capacity building offerings accordingly. In May, we partnered with several organizations to develop and disseminate a survey to better understand the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses and nonprofits throughout Virginia.

“From the survey results, it appears that organizations have largely absorbed the initial shock caused by COVID-19 and are moving toward offering services that are mission-driven but respectful of the new reality the pandemic has brought about. We're looking forward to building on the relationships we’ve built thus far as we focus the rest of our learning year on 'Organizational Resilience’ in a virtual format,” said Andrews-Weckerly. “Organizations have articulated that they need guidance on developing new and different pathways to thrive and want instruction that is specific, actionable, and time-efficient. With this in mind, we are excited to share our new capacity building plans in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.”

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