Supporting Your Health-Care Nonprofit Beneficiaries During Social Distancing

Date Published
05/06/2020

Nonprofits of all types are facing unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing guidelines put in place to limit its proliferation. But health care nonprofits face a unique challenge: Not only must they adapt their operations to address general safety concerns, but their core missions may be greatly impacted by the increased risk of disease transmission and their beneficiaries may be especially vulnerable to its effects.

How can health care nonprofits continue to provide crucial support for their communities and clients while respecting social distancing best practices? There isn’t an easy or universal answer, but these suggestions can help your organization find a viable path forward.

Follow current guidance and stay updated

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed detailed interim guidance for community and faith-based organizations to consult and follow as they continue to operate in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This link is especially useful as the CDC continues to revise the information shared as more knowledge is gathered related to the coronavirus.

While the guide is not specific to health care nonprofits, it provides valuable and practical steps that support safe operations. It includes three levels of guidelines based on the severity of community transmission, allowing all health care nonprofits to ensure they take the appropriate steps to develop safe operations.

Create safe connections with beneficiaries

Close personal contact is substantially limited currently by social distancing guidelines, and additional restrictions may be necessary for immunocompromised and otherwise vulnerable individuals beyond those put in place for the general public. Depending on the specific work your health care nonprofit engages in, these limits on in-person interactions may make it significantly more difficult to provide valuable services to your beneficiaries.

Finding opportunities to safely connect with the people your nonprofit supports and provide health care services is especially important. Depending on your organization’s specific mission and the population it serves, you may be able to help address mental wellness and the psychological issues that can arise from or be exacerbated by isolation.

ScienceNews highlighted the potential for mental health problems to arise in response to prolonged isolation, which is possible both in enforced quarantines and in less-strict arrangements like social distancing. Although it may not be safe to make in-person visits to your beneficiaries, using phone calls, videoconferencing apps and similar tools can support clients by addressing their need for personal contact in a responsible way. Showing genuine support for and interest in the lives of beneficiaries offers some positivity in a time when many forms of contact are discouraged.

Additionally, for nonprofits that provide diagnostic services and care, telemedicine consultations can cut down on physical contact while still effectively addressing their health concerns. While some clients will still need to visit a health care facility or pick up a prescription from a pharmacy, they won’t have to make as many trips outside of their home and can reduce their exposure levels as compared to the traditional process for accessing care.

This type of contingency planning is especially important for health care nonprofits, as the populations they serve may face more risks from communicable diseases than the general public. Identifying opportunities to continue to provide relevant service and support beneficiaries can help nonprofits continue to fulfill their missions even as COVID-19 makes social distancing the new normal, at least in the short term.

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