Capacity Building in COVID-19

It’s been five weeks since our Mission Capital staff began sheltering in place and working from home… we humbly recognize the truly privileged position we’re in to be able to telework. Many of our Central Texas neighbors have lost their jobs and find themselves struggling to pay their rent/mortgage, and groceries.

For frontline essential workers and healthcare professionals, who continue reporting to work, we thank you for the risks you are assuming to take care of us while safeguarding public health in our community.

As for Mission Capital, as a capacity builder and resource hub for the nonprofit sector in Central Texas, the last few weeks have been surreal, sobering and stressful. The global spread of COVID-19 is ravaging our communities and the stability of our nonprofit sector as a whole.

Over the last several weeks, we’ve invested our time and energy equipping and connecting mission-driven leaders, organizations and networksas we collectively do our best to weather the trifecta of storms (a public health pandemic, social isolation and an impending financial crisis) affecting our beloved Central Texas community.

Strength in Solidarity

We in the nonprofit sector are accustomed to leading through change. Like many of you, we’re exploring what’s possible and finding ways to continue our work in a new reality. During the first week of COVID-19 lockdown, we were grateful for fellow community partners who quickly mobilized to assess and anticipate what nonprofits were going to need during this difficult time. We joined a coalition of over a dozen partners – ACC Center for Nonprofit Studies, Decibel/Austin PBS, GAVA, GivingCity Austin, Good Measure, FLCCT, ILHIGH, Impact Austin, Leadership Austin, MEASURE, Notley, One Voice and United Way, to collaborate on a collective rapid response Nonprofit Pulse Survey, to quickly assess community needs from nonprofit leaders.

This collaborative approach enabled us to gather a broader range of perspectives in the design and interpretation. Our teams also had open discussions about bias, power, influence and choice points and how to recognize and balance the web of relationships and resources in our region.

Nonprofit Survey Insights

We had over 458 unique responses to the NP Survey and over 640 registrants for the Data Insights Webinar. The overwhelming community response demonstrated a deep need for clarity, access to resources and social connection among our nonprofit sector. Of seven key data findings, one particularly resonated with me – without interventions, COVID-19 will exacerbate historic inequities.

By now, many of us have seen the national and regional data showing the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color. The qualitative data in our NP Survey highlighted several examples of organizations concerned for the disproportionate and compounding effects of historical inequities for multiple communities.

This data does not tell the full story; rarely does it ever. It’s a point in time snapshot. It does not capture how intersectionality and inequalities compound the pandemic as it plays out across Central Texas communities.

As local and state governments begin publishing data by race and ethnicity, the disproportionate consequences of COVID-19 are becoming clearer. Now more than ever, we at Mission Capital are fiercely committed to “advancing equity and opportunity in Central Texas”, along with all of you, our nonprofit partners.

Leaning into Learning

This pandemic is unique in its magnitude. It’s a public health crisis, it’s a test of our human nature as social creatures, it’s a looming economic recession. We know what it’s like for families who never recovered from crises like the 2008 recession or Hurricane Harvey.

Today, we are adamant about learning from what we didn’t do then. Equity is the heart of our opportunity. The wisdom, resilience and leadership of our lived experience from those emergencies are the roadmap to how we confront COVID-19.

Crisis Reimagined as Opportunity

As we continue to navigate this crisis with our nonprofit partners, we’re also innovating, pivoting and activating our strongest assets: data insights, leadership and lived experience. COVID-19 doesn’t stop our equity work; it shines a spotlight on historic inequities that must be addressed and new opportunities that must be created.

Last summer, Mission Capital and our community co-conspirators partnered with the Building Movement Project (BMP) on the Race to Lead Survey about the racial leadership gap of people of color in the Central Texas nonprofit sector. The potential consequences of that gap are more dire now than ever. It’s time we address the divide between who is at the table and gets to make decisions and who feels the impact.

We’re looking forward to hosting a Virtual Race to Lead Convening on May 12th, where we will learn together and reflect on our community’s shared assets. BMP’s Ofronoma Biu will share an overview of our own Racial Leadership Gap in Central Texas and we’ll be joined by a panel of NP leaders of color as they share their wisdom on closing the racial leadership gap.

I invite you to join us in this movement to support diverse, equity-centered nonprofit leadership that reflects our communities and their needs.  

A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly. – Desmond Tutu.

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