COVID-19 Survey Report

The following information was provided through a Missio Nexus initiated survey from March 23-29, 2020. Sixty-three organizations of varying sizes from across North America contributed.

The ongoing reality of COVID-19 will necessitate that all organizations create both short-term and longer-term contingency plans. The time spent will not only provide a structure for decision making in the days ahead, but it will also assist for future scenarios. Missio Nexus has prepared a contingency planning tool that can be accessed at: COVID-19 Contingency Planning
Additional resources for planning teams can be found here: (Webpage)

A Yammer virtual group has been created to assist with collaboration between response leaders. Contact mkpalguta@missionexus.org if you would like to be added to the group.
More travel restrictions and economic disruption will likely dictate the need for organizations to actively adjust budgets. It is critical to understand the operations and ministries budgets, which will aid in limiting spending now to prevent larger cuts later.
Protecting financial processes is critical for mission agencies. Some may need to move to cloud-based tools to ensure that staff can work effectively from remote locations. Increased office cleaning may be necessary to protect on-site staff and perhaps health screenings upon arrival.
Short-term teams are an important ministry for many sending agencies. Agencies whose primary ministry is short-term teams will need to begin planning contingency for loss of revenue. Ongoing travel restrictions clearly create implications for 2020 teams, but it is also imperative to evaluate recruiting and planning for 2021.
Very few of the organizations who took part in this survey are cancelling orientation and training programs. Of those postponing, many were investigating virtual programs. A number of agencies in the past few years have begun moving to a virtual context for orientation and candidate screening.
Likewise, very few organizations are definitively cancelling missionary departures. Instead, many are waiting to see what the next few months may hold. Increased communication with sending churches will be essential to care for these new missionaries who are in limbo over the summer and into the fall of 2020.
Organizations are trying their best to keep missionaries funded as they postpone departure to the field. Increased communication from missionaries to their donors will be essential to keep their accounts funded. In addition, intentional communication between the organization and sending churches will help insure that missionaries are cared for and that housing and other needs are secured – especially as they transition toward living on the field.
Short-term planning is often focused on solving technical problems. These problems are often easier to identify and faster to solve. Some examples might be helping staff work from home, ensuring donations are being processed, and adapting short-term missions.

However, adaptive problems are more difficult to identify. These challenges require changes in roles and approaches to work. Sometimes the solutions even require new discoveries. As we engage with long-term changes, organizations need to be open-minded and innovative as the face new realities.

An increased need for Member Care may be the greatest needed focus in long-term contingency planning. Organizations may be forced to deal with massive transitions and even loss of life. Some approaches may be re-tasking staff to support Member Care, providing greater virtual resources, and fostering stronger relationships with sending churches. All of these are tangible ways to care for staff more effectively.
It is essential for ministry leaders to know the amount and the burn rate of the operating and cash reserves for their organizations. A recent article on CNN.com reported that less than half of nonprofits have one month of operating reserves and less than six months of cash to keep running. (Additional research)
What can you do now to shore up your operating reserves by limiting spending? How will the decrease in travel or even in usage of your office provide additional resources that would have been spent?
Most organizations have begun utilizing virtual communication tools prior to COVID-19 social distancing mandates. Now usage has reached record breaking levels. In addition, there have been a significant increase in webinars, Facebook broadcasts, and video posts to connect with teams, donors and constituents.

In an ongoing effort to not fatigue constituents, organizations need to be innovative in the ways they stay connected. A mixture of print, phone calls, messaging, social media and video broadcasts will be essential to uniquely care for them (but not oversaturate them) and to provide opportunities for mission engagement.

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