Right there when we need them: Nonprofits, philanthropic groups in Mississippi step up

Nonprofits and philanthropy in Mississippi step up during COVID-19 to help their communities, as told by Sammy Moon, director of the Mississippi Alliance. Originally published in the Clarion Ledger.

Most of us go about our normal daily routines without giving much thought to the role nonprofit and philanthropic organizations play in our communities.

As unaware as we may be of what nonprofit and philanthropic organizations are doing, the fact of the matter is a big part of why healthy and resilient communities thrive is because nonprofits and philanthropies are relentlessly doing important behind-the-scenes work to promote, preserve, and protect the well-being of children and families living in those communities.

While we go about our normal daily routines, that important work continues to be done with little public recognition or celebration; and the passion, vision, and community-building spirit that drives the work all too often goes unnoticed. All of that instantly changes when things are no longer “normal,” and as we have all come to recognize, there is nothing “normal” about COVID-19 and how it is affecting children, families and communities in Mississippi.

In the case of a crisis or emergency, there is a very different set of expectations for nonprofits and philanthropy. Their roles change based on what’s happening in a particular community on a given day.

In many cases, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations become part of the frontline response, working with government, business, faith communities, and other first responders to mitigate the impact of unexpected events that can shatter our sense of normalcy.

Right now, nonprofits and philanthropy are being tapped to continue the services and support they routinely provide while quickly adapting their operations and enlarging the scope of their work in response to the pandemic. These organizations are committed to doing that important work because they understand more and more of us will be needing help and support during and after this pandemic.

Even in the very early stages of COVID-19, communities across the state are experiencing an increased need for services, supplies, and support. This list will grow over time, expanding from the immediate, tangible needs of Mississippians struggling to survive during this crisis, to the longer-term mental, emotional and physical health impacts, the economic effects of job loss, childcare needs, and the shared grief experienced by countless families and communities.

Nonprofit and philanthropic organizations are anchored in the communities they serve —and often serve as vital community anchors. So, when anyone asks, “Where are nonprofits and philanthropic resources when we need them,” I can respond with confidence that Mississippi’s nonprofit and philanthropic organizations are there in local communities all across the state, working diligently to keep up with the “normal and ordinary” while doing what’s needed to deal with the “unexpected and extraordinary.”

I have purposely referred to nonprofits (service providers) and philanthropy (resource providers) in the same context because both are critical in making sure the most vulnerable among us get the services they need.

To effectively operate, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations must focus more intently on working collaboratively, regularly communicating to assess and review community needs, developing appropriate responses to those current and emerging needs, and ensuring long-term recovery work happens in communities. This new way of working must be a priority — even though we know philanthropic assets are being negatively affected by steep declines in the stock market.

This is not the time for the philanthropic sector to pull back on funding commitments nor is the time for nonprofits to cut services. In fact, this is an ideal time for philanthropies to increase support for nonprofits, ensuring continuity of services to individuals and families.

The community needs are greater than ever, and I have no doubt those needs will be even greater in the future — so, staying strong, committed, and resolute in mission is critical now more than ever.

Sammy Moon is the executive director of The Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy (The Alliance), the state’s membership organization for nonprofit and philanthropic organization. To learn more about The Alliance’s work, visit www.alliancems.org.