Nonprofits Never Closed Thanks to Incredible Leadership

OpEd by Marnie Taylor, President and CEO
Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits

Per the Governor’s recommendations, some Oklahoma businesses are beginning to step back into public opening this week. Many of these are nonprofits. However, the Oklahoma nonprofit sector never truly closed. We have just been operating in different ways to serve our clients. A few weeks ago, Stacey Ninness, CEO of Neighborhood Services Organization, quipped that “we don’t close, but COVID-19 is another full-time job.”

Organizations quickly altered the way we did business while quarantining and observing recommendations from the state and municipal levels. Our organizations moved a lot of services online thanks to technology. While the Oklahoma City Ballet couldn’t have in-person classes, the dancers organized online dance classes to keep the artistic magic going. Organizations that required in-person and close-up services adjusted their own protocols to ensure the safety and well-being of their clients.

 Philanthropy also leads an important charge, with foundations and corporations creating emergency grant programs and various emergency funds throughout the state. Our United Ways have stepped up in a big way to support the more than 150 agencies they fund throughout Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits has had a consulting program available to assist nonprofits in securing Paycheck Protection Loans (PPP) through our banks and the Small Business Administration. Those have been a Godsend for nonprofits.

 Our entire Oklahoma federal delegation helped to ensure access to those loans. We are especially grateful to Sen. James Lankford for his advocacy and campaign for inclusion of nonprofits in the federal loan program. OKCNP quickly created a consulting program to assist our nonprofits from across the state to access these funds, providing more than 300 hours of free consulting services to nonprofits thanks to the generosity of several of our funders. To date, we have heard from 95 responding nonprofits that they collectively have brought in $19,136,600 in these loans (that can be forgiven) to the state. We believe that is the tip of the iceberg.

While this crisis has turned one of potentially many corners, the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits continues our 24-hour work to help nonprofits navigate these choppy waters. OKCNP, in partnership with the Governor’s office, Sen. Lankford’s office, and the Department of Commerce, has just released a new document to help nonprofits navigate their way back from quarantine and stay-at-home orders, so that they may continue to keep staff and clientele safe while offering services. The process will be long, but it will be methodical. OKCNP worked with professionals, nonprofit executives and faith leaders from around the state to create these helpful considerations as nonprofits re-engage with the community.

And we continue to applaud Sen. Lankford’s work at the federal level. Last week, the Senator sent a memo to Senate leadership asking for more legislation to support our sector, including a robust Universal Charitable Deduction that would give an incentive to every donor through an above-the-line tax deduction. We hope that this could pass through Congress and get the President’s signature as it would encourage giving to nonprofits in a big way.

It’s going to be a long haul, but our nonprofits are poised to continue serving our citizens thanks to strong leadership at home and in Washington.

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