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This playbook provides guidelines for Greater Des Moines (DSM) nonprofit organizations serving regional communities. Leaders are also encouraged to look at other playbooks for applicable advice from related industries and consult the professional playbooks for additional guidance and templates. Organizations may need to adapt specific steps outlined below according to their size and mission. 

Sample: Nonprofit Thrift Store Risk Profile

Nonprofits Risk Profile Frequency

Nonprofits Risk Profile Duration

Nonprofits Risk Profile Variety

The sample risk profile has been determined for nonprofit thrift stores in DSM. The profile shows frequency, or how many people in a day; duration, or length of typical interaction; and variety, or the number of different people.*

Current Impact 

Current Impact

Future Trends 

Future Trends

Recommended Practices 

Recommended Practices

Community Partnership 

Community Partnerships

Additional Resources 

Additional Resources

Current Impacts

The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown has had significant effects on services, operations and the people working in the nonprofit sector. According to a follow-up assessment conducted in July by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the University of Northern Iowa, 88.8% of nonprofits located in DSM reported a negative impact from the outbreak of COVID-19. Moreover, 83.6% of these nonprofits said the largest impact has been on their business operating models. The top three concerns of DSM nonprofits included: employee health/wellbeing, revenue loss and financial impact on operations and/or liquidity and capital. Respondents noted a continuing negative impact on revenue and employment. On average, 43.7% of these nonprofit organizations' clients, customers or beneficiaries were no longer being served or received reduced or incomplete services as a result of COVID-19 impacts. When asked to estimate the dollar amount needed by their organization to meet expenses from May to August 2020 due to COVID-19 related revenue decreases, answers ranged from $1 to $44 million with a median dollar amount of $50,000 and an aggregate mean of $527,445.

Melissa O’Neil, CEO, and her team at Central Iowa Shelter and Services began planning for the COVID-19 pandemic on Feb. 3, before many other nonprofits and businesses. Their first task was to rapidly transfer individuals in the shelter who needed only a security deposit or first month’s rent. The majority of this project was supported by the Polk County Housing Trust Fund.  Although the pandemic has required a huge effort from the staff, they also see it as a chance to change our community long-term. The state of Iowa will receive between $20 million and $40 million in federal stimulus money to address homelessness. O’Neil calls this their Ice Bucket Challenge. How could we use this as an opportunity to end homelessness in Central Iowa? View the full story here.

Future Trends

Nonprofit Continuity Planning

Continuity Plans

Organizational continuity planning is a crucial component of a risk management strategy and is helpful in preparing for effective operations with reduced staff. Ensure your business continuity plans are up-to-date and block time to craft plans if they don’t yet exist. Helpful places to start include identifying your most essential activities, identifying which programs and resources could be discontinued or suspended, and mapping out how to communicate plans to external stakeholders. Continuity plans should also consider board management. Provisions during the crisis could allow for virtual meetings, smaller quorums, shorter meeting notices, etc. all elements of agility that might be needed if board members become incapacitated.

Nonprofit Programming

Recalibrate Programming

Understand how your programming and resources will need to be changed after COVID-19. Organizations that have the opportunity and means to serve clients through telework or virtual channels should develop these capabilities. Those who require a physical presence to deliver their services should identify what safety equipment or policies may now be required.

Nonprofit Remote Work

Remote Work Changes

Organizations may maintain a partially digital and remote workforce allowing them to repurpose physical space for new, value-added activities.

Nonprofit Digital Technology

Digital Channels

Donors, clients, staff and community members may be used to experiencing your organization and its services in a physical setting. Ensure digital technology captures the “magic” you deliver to these constituencies via platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or WebEx which support effective communication to staff, clients and communities. Increasing investments in social media, website design and other media channels can help broaden your message to your audience.

Nonprofit Stakeholders

Leverage Board Members, Leaders and Top Donors

Enlisting stakeholders closest to the mission could be helpful in mitigating funding loss due to COVID-19 and continue programming and resource delivery to clients. Enlisting executives, board members, and others greatly invested in the mission to support fundraising, communication, and even program delivery will help weather the storm created by COVID-19. See the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines resource page (linked) below for more ideas, information and available resources.

Nonprofit Donors

Donor Partnerships

The pandemic response has brought donors together at the local, state, national and global levels to pool resources, align on priorities and deploy funds rapidly through collaborative funding platforms. When it comes to philanthropic giving, team up to combine expertise and drive efficiency rather than go at it alone.

Nonprofit Communication

Personalized Digital Donor Communication

Individuals overwhelmed with information are seeking authenticity and personal communication in a growing “attention economy.” Deepen engagement with donors and potential supporters through personalized communication and effective storytelling via digital channels. This effort can be accelerated through donor data analytics to determine which elements e.g., videos, testimonials, etc.  are most effective.

Nonprofit Volunteer Management

Volunteer Management

Volunteer workforce shortage is impacting nonprofits that rely heavily on volunteers, particularly retirees who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 and are not volunteering as a result. Such nonprofits may leverage partnerships to share volunteer workforce or develop new or additional virtual mechanisms by which volunteers serve remotely, or increase outreach to new potential pools of volunteers. The United Way of Central Iowa and Volunteer Iowa (see links below) can assist organizations who need assistance in this area.

Nonprofit Grants

Reduce Burden on Grantees

Seeking and managing grants can be a cumbersome process, especially for small, community-based organizations. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many foundations to relax grant requirements, speed up decision-making and give recipients additional flexibility in how they use funds. As the crisis abates, donors will consider whether it might be time for a sector-wide effort to ease nonprofits' administrative burdens.

Nonprofit Spending

Accelerating Spending

COVID-19 has prompted a number of donors to dig deeper into their endowments and deploy more capital than they had planned. Boards and leadership teams, as well as individual philanthropists, should plan on having discussions about the rationales for their giving horizons and consider permanently accelerating the pace and volume of giving.

Nonprofit Collaboration

Public Sector Support

The pandemic has brought philanthropic innovation to the forefront both in advance of and in conjunction with local and state agencies. Continue to collaborate with public-sector partners to support innovative programs, solve underlying programs and ensure recovery policies are responsive to community needs.

Recommended Practices

Health & Sanitation

  • Conduct a health screening with all employees before their shifts in accordance with the most up to date recommendations from your local public health department.
  • Encourage employees who feel sick to stay home. Employees who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should take precautions, including self-quarantine, in accordance with CDC guidance.
  • Provide accommodations like specific schedules for vulnerable populations if possible.
  • Follow CDC guidance related to Cleaning and Disinfection for Community Facilities, including frequent cleaning and disinfecting of all high touch surfaces, desks, workstations, doorknobs, light switches, etc.
  • Ensure workers regularly wash their hands and handwashing and/or hand-sanitizer facilities are readily available and stocked.
  • Face masks and other PPE should be worn by employees and clients in accordance with the most up to date recommendations from the local public health department.
    • People two or older are required to wear a mask or face covering when inside an indoor public space and when social distancing is not possible for 15 minutes or longer. Exemptions include people with medical conditions, people working alone or where social distancing can be maintained, people consuming food or drink and people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Ensure your employees, volunteers and ambassadors know what they can do to protect themselves when serving clients and the community.

Nonprofit Health

Process & Space Modifications

  • Encourage employees to work from home if possible.
  • Implement measures to enable six feet social distancing.
  • Consider staggering shifts and breaks to reduce worker population at any given time and reduce staff interactions.
  • Limit congregation in office spaces and non-essential worker interaction across floors, buildings, campuses, worksites, etc.
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment.
  • Review or create a remote worker’s policy to help keep your staff safe and ensure your business operations and services continue.
  • Boards should ensure their bylaws include options to conduct virtual board meetings and ensure virtual voting so important discussions can occur in a timely fashion.
  • Consider the nature in which new board members are onboarded and whether it is beneficial to extend board terms to ensure adequate support and governance.
  • Identify if there are appropriate ways to serve clients and community members through telework and virtual channels and volunteers.
  • Evaluate and adjust sick leave policies to reflect the need for isolation and incentivize workers who are sick to stay home. Clearly communicate sick leave policies to all workers.

Nonprofit Workspaces


  • Provide reminders to employees and members of the public to stay at least six feet away from others when in the facility and mark six-foot intervals when possible.
  • Post signage at the door indicating no one should enter the establishment if they currently have symptoms or have been around anyone with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis in the last 14 days.
  • Remind employees of steps they should take to protect their own health while at work.
  • Give accurate, timely, relevant and credible information to your clients, communities, and stakeholders.

Nonprofit Communication

Community Partnerships

Private Sector Support

In mid-April 2020, Principal Financial Group launched Giving Chain which supplies communities here and elsewhere with everything from grocery gift cards to custom cupcakes. Recently, Principal and Young Women’s Resource Group delivered 50 gift baskets to local mothers and children containing activity kits and gift cards to local grocery stores and restaurants.

Leveraging Partners in Program Delivery

In late March 2020, Food Bank of Iowa and Cottage Grove Church partnered to meet the needs of DSM residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cottage Grove serves as a distribution point to provide dry goods to members of the community and also solicits donations for dry goods. Other previous Food Bank Mobile Pantry Program members have been shifted to drive-through distribution facilities in light of COVID-19.

The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) is partnering with the Iowa Cancer Consortium (ICC), with guidance from the American Cancer Society (ACS), to provide reliable transportation options for cancer center patients who need transportation to reach their treatment appointments. DART is also collaborating with the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) to support meal delivery during a time of growing food insecurity throughout the community.

Supporting Essential Workers

Consider offering gifts, discounts, or partnering with essential organizations. For example, Goodwill of Central Iowa, a local workforce organization and thrift retailer, ran a weekend fundraiser for Central Iowa Shelter and Services to provide necessary goods to homeless citizens in DSM prior to the shutdown in March.

Engaging Central Iowans Virtually

Due to temporary furloughs and layoffs, some community members are seeking volunteer opportunities while ensuring proper safety and sanitation. For example, Everybody Wins Iowa! has asked supporters to record videos reading children’s books aloud and is transitioning to an online delivery model to deliver online reading to their community.

Additional Resources

Recommended Playbooks

The business function playbooks include takeaways that are specific to professional functions that could be present in any business, regardless of industry.

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Human Resources
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Information Technology
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Sales and Marketing
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*We note that these assessments are qualitative and based on expert-led judgment (Johns Hopkins, 2020). Currently, there are not enough detailed data available to enable quantitative risk stratification. Businesses will need to make decisions about re-initiating business activities before there are validated data to know the precise levels of risk.

Legal Disclaimer

The Greater Des Moines Partnership's DSM Forward playbook is not intended to constitute legal advice or provide specific direction. The preparation of a business continuity or preparations plan should be undertaken with the advice and direction of appropriate specialists and personnel, in consideration of the unique circumstances impacting each business. Third-party websites or material linked to or referenced in DSM Forward are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation of The Partnership of that material or its authors.

Last updated: 8/17/2020