How can a non-profit organization contribute to thrive and remain relevant amidst the challenges brought about by COVID-19?
For Curamericas Global, a non-profit committed to making a difference in the lives of women and children through access to healthcare, they had to pivot, fast.
“We’ve been through this before. We’ve dealt with Ebola in Liberia,” shares Andrew Herrera, Executive Director, Curamericas Global. “We understood what a pandemic meant and what communities needed from that experience.”
Founded in 1983, Curamericas’ strength lies in its ability to set up networks of community members who advocate for their health. “The focus is on moms and babies across nearly all of our projects,” Andrew says. Prenatal health, for example, has always been one of the priorities.
“With the COVID-19 outbreak we knew we had to change the messaging,” he explains. “How do we make sure we utilize the networks that we have in place and leverage the relationships that we have in place to keep going, albeit differently?”
The non-profit immediately shifted its messaging from prenatal care to COVID-19 prevention. Curamericas’ public health experts began developing COVID-19 educational materials as early as March, which was then shared with the organization’s partner communities
Curamericas also worked on providing essential supplies. We all know that hand-washing helps prevent the spread of the virus but unfortunately, “there are hundreds of millions of people with no access to clean water. Washing your hands is a little more complicated in those settings,” Andrew says.
Not only did Curamericas provide education and supplies; it also empowered communities through skills training. “We taught moms how to build hand-washing stations from locally available materials and how to make soap at home. Today those moms are selling hand-washing stations to their neighbors; their entrepreneurial spirit is kicking in.”
The non-profit also had to adopt new ways of reaching out to the communities it serves. The pandemic has affected Curamericas’ boots-on-the-ground strategy; staff mobility is extra challenging with quarantine restrictions and border closures still being enforced. Curamericas embraced virtual training and remote work arrangements to ensure that their projects are still being implemented as planned. This set-up was considered unimaginable given the infrastructure and bandwidth required.
The generosity continues, but in a different form
Not surprisingly, the pandemic has affected the financial support non-profits receive from their donors.
“We have seen a 40% reduction in donations. The economic uncertainty in the world that we live in is not getting better. That uncertainty is affecting people’s willingness to give,” Andrew observes.
“But I’ve also seen an incredible outpouring of people interested to help. We’ve been able to mobilize over 400 volunteers to make phone calls in Spanish. So while people might not be able to give financially, they are giving their time and their talents.”
These phone calls were in line with a program that aimed to call families in Raleigh’s Spanish-speaking communities and educate them on COVID-19: what it is, how to prevent it, and what to do in case someone they know gets sick. It was also a way to let them know that they were not alone in navigating through these challenging times.
To ensure Curamerica’s long-term viability, a business plan has been put in place since 2016 so as not to make Curamericas vulnerable to economic volatility. Part of that business plan was to create an endowment and to have a recurring fundraising campaign such as the Mom-A-Thon.
“As an institution, having that long-term plan already in place has protected us a little bit more, assuring donors that we’re not moving away just because there’s a pandemic,” Andrew says.
“It’s important to run a non-profit organization like the business that it is.”
Visit curamericas.org to know more about how you can help make a difference.
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