GUEST COLUMN: Let nonprofits, service providers, independents keep the money

Jennifer Howard

By Jennifer Howard

Like many during times of crisis and uncertainty, I look to the news, social media, and friends and family for information and comfort. Because we have been physically cut off from each other, platforms like social media have become a more critical platform to connect. Facebook is my main go to.  ‘m old enough to have experienced Myspace and also old enough to struggle using Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or the Tic Tok thing.  My teenagers, however, are brilliant at all of the above!

As I’m catching up with friends on Facebook, I notice a disturbing trend. I see several comments about fundraising events that were cancelled and small businesses and nonprofits who had to temporarily close. I expect to see disappointment and I certainly feel that myself. I am, however, surprised to see how concerned people are about getting their fees returned or their tickets refunded.

Let me propose something which seems strange or even illogical during normal times, but I ask you to keep in mind, these are NOT normal times. You’re thinking, “Thank you Captain Obvious, I KNOW these are not normal times,” but seriously, do you remember back when we had our last global pandemic? Yeah, neither do I!

Here’s the proposal regarding the nonprofits and small businesses: Let them keep your money! Let them keep the fee. Let them keep the ticket cost. Now, if you or someone in your family has lost their job because your company has shut down or you suspect this is going to happen, this proposal does NOT apply to you and my heart is with you. Of course you have to save every penny you can. This is a proposal for those who have job security right now, those who have been able to save, and/or those who are in a good position to support local nonprofits and small businesses.

I’m a social worker who’s spent the last 20 years working in nonprofit, everything from volunteering to serving as the executive director of a local nonprofit. Local nonprofits and small businesses serve a critical role in our communities. They are the folks who are there for you in your darkest, most challenging times. They work to empower, educate, and mobilize communities.

Nonprofits work by employing a few people who recruit and empower hundreds of volunteers. It never ceases to amaze me how many lives are touched with so few resources. Most nonprofits keep some reserves, but usually not much if any at all; many small businesses do not have months and months of reserves.  Independent, one-person businesses like housekeepers and hairdressers may be living paycheck to paycheck.

What if you bought a ticket or sponsored a fundraiser that was now cancelled and couldn’t be rescheduled? What if you let the nonprofit keep that ticket price or sponsorship as a donation that you could write off?  What if that decision made the difference between that nonprofit being there for you and our local families in the future or having to close its doors?

Please consider the following:

• If you have a housekeeper, put him or her on temporary leave with pay.  Push up your sleeves and do the work just for a bit. You won’t have to spend any more, just do a little more housework than before.

• Pay your massage therapist, hairdresser, or nail technician for the appointment you already have scheduled even though they are not allowed to serve you.

• Let your locally owned gym, YMCA or other non-profit exercise classes keep the fees for general membership or classes you were registered for.

• Let the local nonprofit that you love and support keep the ticket fee as a donation to their annual golf outing or gala or other event that had to be cancelled and couldn’t be rescheduled.

• If you own a secure business that sponsored a local fundraiser, let them keep the sponsorship as a general donation.

• Make an extra donation to a local nonprofit that you love in honor of someone you love.

Even if we do all of these things, nonprofits and small businesses will suffer, but the damage will be minimized and may make all the difference.  In other words, if you truly love and value these causes, people, and services, help make sure they are still there when this is over. We’ll all get to the other side of this and the businesses and nonprofits that you help support now will be there to help us rebuild later.

Jennifer Howard, who has lived in Hamburg Township for over 20 years, has spent most of her career working as a nonprofit director primarily focused on older adults. She is a band and theater mom with daughters at the University of Michigan and Pinckney High School. Like many others, she is in week two of quarantine with her family, much to the joy of her dog and the dismay of her cats.


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