This article was updated to include information about ADA layoffs on May 20, 2020.
The economic effect of the COVID-19 crisis is hitting nonprofit advocacy organizations hard. Fundraising losses are seen across the board, and as donations dry up, many groups are facing a fight for survival even as Congress explores financial lifelines that could help these charitable groups in some ways.
Within our Diabetes Community, some organizations are feeling the pain with forced furloughs, salary reductions, program cuts, and more.
In the United States and abroad, the JDRF has implemented furloughs for the next few months at least, while a popular Northern California nonprofit focused on T1D families is shuttering the organization for good.
For JDRF, most paid staff at local chapters and at the national level have been furloughed and their automated email responses note that they are unavailable without access to email. The JDRF’s national manager of public relations and communications, Ayana Young, offered this statement from the organization:
“The global pandemic has affected nearly every business and organization in the nation, and JDRF is not immune. As a result of the need for (physical) distancing, and our commitment to the safety of our employees and all members of the T1D community, we have canceled all our in-person events, resulting in a reduction of revenue. As a result, we cut operating expenses.”
JDRF’s first move was to ask its executive leadership to take a 20 percent pay reduction, and all other employees were initially cut back to a 4-day work week.
“Unfortunately, those measures were not enough, and we’ve made the painful decision to furlough some JDRF employees for two to three months,” the organization now states.
Notably, among those furloughed was Nicole Johnson, diabetes advocate and former Miss America. She’s been serving in a JDRF senior leadership role since 2017, focused on behavioral health and psychology initiatives. In May, Nicole announced she’d opted to move forward with another career opportunity rather than remain furloughed at the diabetes organization.
But JDRF says it remains committed to funding all existing research grants supporting new technology and cure research. Their Bag of Hope program that provides newly diagnosed families with a pack of resources will also continue, though with physical distancing measures in place for delivery, the JDRF says.
Located in the California Bay Area, the 9-year-old organization known as CarbDM has announced it is unable to continue operating as a result of the pandemic and is closing down effective June 30, 2020. Founded in 2011 by D-Mom Tamar Sofer-Geri, whose daughter was diagnosed as a child, the organization has held hundreds of in-person programs through the years, including its signature mingling and educational events like ‘Coffee and Carbs.’
The org made the announcement in a public letter to the community on April 28, 2020. Several of the programs and initiatives created by CarbDM through the years will live on, being picked up by JDRF as well as Beyond Type 1 and the Diabetes Youth Foundation (DYF) organization in California.
“I wish it wasn’t so, but many organizations big and small really are struggling right now,” said longtime type 1 Krystle Samai in California, who took over as CarbDM’s executive director about 2 years ago.
Samai tells DiabetesMine that the org had primarily relied on donations — 50 percent from individuals, 25 percent from corporate, and 25 percent from program revenue. While operating on a “shoestring budget,” the org had started 2020 on a strong note with money in the bank to pay their 2.5 full-time staffers and continue to expand their impact and reach.
“The global pandemic truly upended everything,” Samai says. “In early March, COVID-19 really began to impact our Bay Area community and the economy took a nosedive.”
Despite transitioning to virtual events, the org saw corporate donations drop by 90 percent for one of its key forums that typically brought in 500+ people.
“Whatever CarbDM might have lacked in infrastructure and funding, we absolutely made up for in heart and commitment,” she says. “And I know that these things will not change.”
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has shifted to a virtual fundraising platform and is transitioning all in-person events to online, including the huge annual Scientific Sessions in June and all diabetes summer camps. See details on that directly from the ADA’s CEO here.
On May 15, we got word that the ADA let go over 200 staffers around the country. Among them was Matthew Netto, who served as Associate Director of Event Production for the organization. He shared on LinkedIn: “Seeing all of my former colleagues from the American Diabetes Association posting their offerings of support is very touching. None of us did anything wrong but due to circumstances beyond our control we had to be laid off.”
While those orgs have seen dramatic impacts, others are working to weather the storm.
One example is TCOYD (Taking Control of Your Diabetes), which hosts diabetes education expos around the country. They have also shifted in-person events to online or future dates, but to date haven’t had to let go any staff, we’re told.
Beyond Type 1, the Northern California-based advocacy powerhouse that is now working closely with JDRF, says they’re closely monitoring the situation but so far are not negatively impacted.
“We are aware that COVID-19 has forced many organizations to make changes, us included… (but) because so much of the work we do to serve the community was already digital in nature, we were perhaps less directly impacted than many other entities,” CEO Thom Scher tells DiabetesMine.
Scher says Beyond Type 1 has moved to online programming, revised some timelines on new projects it had planned to roll out, and is reallocating internal resources to prioritize COVID-19 related initiatives. So far, the org hasn’t had to make any staff cuts or implement furloughs.
“Fortunately, we have not had to make broad staffing changes, though we have seen many other organizations forced to make hard choices to weather the ecosystem-wide decline in individual giving and the tremendous uncertainty around when, if, and how in-person events will resume,” Scher added.
Even as some nonprofits are hit hard by the current crisis, good work continues as many collaborate in new ways to help the D-Community in these difficult times.
More than 100 diabetes organizations and companies are collaborating and supporting this effort in some way. “Together, we can tap into the power of the global diabetes community to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” a joint JDRF-Beyond Type 1 statement says.
DiabetesMine is proud to be participating as a supporter alongside many leading orgs and companies from across the world.