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Responding in a crisis

This column first appeared in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel


How can we respond to a community crisis? How do we step in an impactful way in the midst of something so unknown, something never before fully considered? We do that in the same way that we respond to the more common and the more expected. We start by listening. We monitor. We utilize the strong community ties already in place to determine where the gaps are emerging, sometimes in rapid-fire real time. Then we pause. We know that we are not equipped to be the all-encompassing, limitless resource, first responders. So before we deploy resources we pause. We look at the resources and strong programs already in place and consider how they could shift slightly or pivot just a bit to accommodate emerging and unexpected needs. Once again, we rely on those strong, already established community relationships.


We’ve spent three weeks encouraging and facilitating the repurposing of resources. We know it was important to use everything available to us even if it is in an unconventional and not quite thought of before way. Our United Way is uniquely positioned to encourage and empower these adjustments. We have the relationships. We know the inventory of resources. As we have work to shift energies and redirect opportunities, it has allowed us to identify the true gaps that have not yet been addressed. Then we begin to act. We begin to bolster those organizations who are already serving strongly in this crisis. We provide additional resources. We lend support. Sometimes that is dollars, sometimes that is leveraged resources, sometimes that takes the shape of capacity sharing. Whatever it takes. As we continue to lend support to those already engaged and making an impact in the current situation, we also begin stepping to determine how our response resources can be infused into the community to create new solutions to never before expected needs.


Every day we determine new needs. And every day we move through the same process. Is there someone in our nonprofit ecosystem who can help address this with current resources and capabilities? Do we have private sector partners who could step up with informed guidance and make a difference for this need? Most often to answer these questions has been yes. The only thing lacking to solving the issue at hand has been coordinated communication, and that’s where we deliver best. Then when we realize a solution is just not readily available despite any rearrangement of efforts and energy, then we step forward and create a solution and put the financial support behind that to bring it to life.


Serving the community in crisis, really serving that community well, it’s about much more than simple check writing. Don’t get me wrong, the checks are imperative. The financial support is integral to weathering the storm. Yet it takes more than dollars. All of the donations in the largest fund won’t make the impact if there is not strategic and intentional work being done alongside the gifts. It takes coordination and collaboration and cooperation. It requires the willingness to work outside of normal procedures or typical purpose. There is no space in this time for egos or proprietary acknowledgments. Serving the community in crisis means whatever, whenever….. it means a team that is working sometimes long hours and way out of their traditional roles….. that means a team that is committed to a community and will ask anything of anyone to make sure that the best possible outcomes reach fruition. That’s what your United Way is doing. That is how we are serving our community. We are blessed to have the nonprofit partners and the private sector supporters that are enabling us to deliver critical services in unconventional ways during a terribly uncertain time. This is a time when everyone must rise up and decide to be a difference maker. If you can, you must! We have many no contact volunteer opportunities.


For those that are still out and about in the community, there are opportunities to serve that might only take a few minutes and still make an amazing impact. We need donors. We need donors at every level; we need people doing what they can. Our response and recovery fund will continue to deploy specifically in the mid Ohio Valley, now and for months to come. This fund and our service continue to greatly impact our friends and neighbors right here at home.


Do you feel called to be a difference maker? Are you willing to join the whatever it takes movement to support your community in this most difficult time. Reach out to your United Way. Whether it is a monetary gift or a gift of your time, you CAN make a difference. You can be a part of the synergy that sees us through the darkness an ensures that we are all strong and healthy on the other side of the crisis.


You can make a gift by texting MOVResponse to 40403 or give online right here


Stay safe & healthy friends. We WILL get through this together. Your United Way is here to help ensure that!