Nonprofits play a critical role in San Francisco and California, providing support and resources in countless ways. Many nonprofits have also been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly those who rely on philanthropic donations to stay open.
Nonprofits have been a big part of my life in San Francisco. For the past 23 years, I’ve worked hand in glove with San Francisco’s robust nonprofit community.
My first experience with the San Francisco nonprofit community was our own LGBT Community Center. When I moved here in 1997, as a 27 year old gay man, I learned that San Francisco did not have an LGBT Center and that an effort was underway to build one. I immediately got involved as a volunteer, and six months later I was asked to join the Board of Directors. Over the next 6 years, I served as the Board’s Treasurer during the construction of the Center and then as Board Co-Chair during the first two years of operations. I helped hire the Center’s first three executive directors. After leaving the Center’s Board, I continued to support the organization financially. As an elected official, I’ve worked for the past decade to ensure the Center has the resources it needs from the government to provide critical safety net programs.
My experience with the LGBT Center focused me deeply on why nonprofits matter so much to our community: they deliver critical services, reflect our values, and are part of who we are.
With our economy heading towards what will likely be a very difficult recession, we are also seeing philanthropic donations go down across the board.
My team put together some resources for those who want to assist nonprofits right now, as well as some links to comprehensive resources for nonprofits and nonprofit employees looking for support. While we’d love to highlight every major nonprofit in SF, there are just too many to list. So we encourage everyone to do your own research and support the nonprofits that are working on things you care about or that impact you and your community.
How you can support nonprofits right now (if you have financial means to do so):
- Donate your stimulus check
Are you stably employed and financially secure, but still eligible to receive a stimulus check from the federal government? If you feel that you’re in a position to do so, you can donate your stimulus check to nonprofits in need. Choose a nonprofit that you’re passionate about — COVID-19 related or not — and donate however much you want of the amount you receive. Or, you can donate to multiple nonprofits. Check out Charity Navigator if you want a list of highly-effective nonprofits as well as nonprofits dealing with COVID-19, or if you want to check and make sure a nonprofit you are interested in has transparent and accountable financials.
A good option — if you’re not sure where to donate — is to donate to the Give2SF Fund set up by the Mayor’s office. Your tax deductible donations will go to “[l]ocal businesses and nonprofits that are not only significant contributors to the economy, [but] are valued parts of our neighborhoods. Support will help businesses weather temporary closures or reduced demand due to the public health crisis.”
Other good options are the United Way Bay Area’s Community Relief Fund, which will distribute donations to local organizations and nonprofits in need, and the San Francisco Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund, which will make grants to nonprofits addressing the impacts of COVID-19.
- Host a virtual fundraiser
Were you planning on giving a gift to an organization at their annual gala? Are you normally someone who donates every time you attend an in-person event? Does your network/community have the means to donate money right now? Consider making your gift anyway. You can also contact a nonprofit and offer to host a virtual event or fundraiser for them, and gather your friends, family and community to donate. Just because in-person events aren’t happening doesn’t mean organizations don’t need to fundraise.
Or, if you had been planning on hosting a fundraiser or putting together a table for an event before the shelter-in-place order, you can still ask people who were going to attend to contribute online.
- Become a monthly member
Don’t have the means to give a large amount of money? Small monthly gifts, even $5 a month, can help nonprofits weather this storm. Many nonprofits have a monthly membership program where you can donate small recurring amounts. Sometimes memberships even come with perks — like discounts to merchandise or access to exclusive events. For example, if you become a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, you get great discounts at local bike shops and restaurants.
How you can support nonprofits if you are struggling financially right now
- Volunteer your time
Your time is valuable! If you have free time right now and are in good health, reach out to any nonprofit you’re passionate about and ask if they’re looking for volunteers. Some need virtual volunteers to help with things like data management or phone banking. Some need in person volunteers to (safely) run errands or help out — for example, Meals on Wheels is currently accepting volunteers to deliver meals to seniors. Others might not need volunteers right now, but may add you to a list for a future date. If you’re not sure where to look to volunteer, go to California Volunteers, which has great links to help you get involved.
- Spread the word
Can’t donate yourself and don’t have the time or ability to volunteer? That’s ok! You can post on social media to raise awareness about nonprofits you care about, and the work they’re doing. You can ask others in your community to donate if they have the means. Or, you can simply send nonprofit staff and boards an email to let them know you’re thinking of them and support their work.
Are you a nonprofit looking for resources?
One of the best lists of resources for California-based nonprofits is on the CalNonprofits website. They provide loan information, links to local emergency relief funds, and so many great resources.
The Paycheck Protection Program (low-interest or forgivable loans for small businesses and nonprofits who use the money to retain workers) has a great FAQ on the program here.
If you have more questions about your nonprofit and need assistance, you can get in touch with our office at Senator.Wiener@senate.ca.gov.
We need to help our nonprofits get through this challenging time. I’m committed to making sure they get the support they need.