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Member FAQ: Initial Response to the Pandemic

FAQ:

What was your organization's initial response to the pandemic?


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Member Answers:

10,000 Degrees is a scholarship and school-based support provider largely located on high school and college campuses. 80% of our support comes from donations, generally from individual donors and much of that through spring events and fundraising. We have a staff of nearly 70, some of whom are already facing family members being laid off or furloughed. We had to quickly pivot out of school-based support and give thought to the best ways to support students, care for staff, and reach donors in this milieu.

First, We Made Several Key Decisions:

  • To expedite any outstanding scholarship payment to the student, regardless of whether transcripts have been received or other requirements fulfilled.
  • To recognize that our staff members are suddenly juggling homeschooling and childcare, and to encourage flexibility and self-care measures to relieve some of the anxiety. It is important to remember that none of us will be as productive as usual right now, and that this will be our ‘new normal,’ possibly for quite some time. We decided to clearly reflect this awareness to the whole team as everyone adjusts.
  • We decided to put off an organization-wide strategic thinking process we were in the midst of. Strategic planning is an exciting thing, but it often entails a lot of extra work for employees. It’s also hard for many people to think ahead right now, so a pause on long-range planning may be best for everyone.
  • We also immediately convened our investment committee to discuss current and potential financial impacts. Does your group need to have discussions about planning in that area?

We Prioritized Virtual Means of Assisting Students:

  • 10,000 Degrees shifted to virtual advising. This has been done in the past for students who are further afield, but now it’s the best option for everyone. We use:
    • Google Hangout (for meetings with students and staff)
    • Google Appointment (for scheduling)

This Required New Procedures for Staff:

  • We requested that staff members set up virtual office hours as they began working from home.
  • We asked that they give out their cell phone numbers and reach out individually to students.
  • We are creating and managing a higher amount of traffic on social media. We began by identifying and promoting resources in specific communities, and later will shift messaging to include best practices for remote education
  • Even when working remotely, it is important to keep your cultural feel and continuity. We requested that staff wear their logo wear and name tags in video meetings, for example, as they would in the physical office environment.

Considering Our Donors:

  • Staff were planning a major gala for the end of April, so we are currently in the midst of cancelling. 10% of budget typically comes from that event.
  • We have spent several days individually contacting all of our event sponsors. 100% have agreed to donate the sponsorship to assist our organization.
  • We are preparing a correspondence to donor base about the event being cancelled. No one will be surprised, but we feel that this is the time to thoughtfully communicate what impact cancellation will have for students and the organization. We wish to set an appropriate tone as everyone navigates and experiences this ‘pause’ in different ways.
  • During individual outreach to donors, we have learned that many donors are concerned about their own portfolios and beginning to realize the impact the pandemic is having on local communities. As an organization, remember that it will take time and a lot of individual outreach to navigate the next few weeks and months.
  • We are making it a priority to provide strategic communication about how the organization is supporting students and what students are reporting during this time. We are trying to give as much of the picture of their needs as is possible.
  • We have also created lists of individual donors and institutional partners who may have some flexibility and/or be amenable to a special ask, should one be required to help maintain the organization and staff and programming.

What We’ve Heard from Institutional and Corporate Partners:

  • Foundations seem to be adding a lot of flexibility in terms of reducing restrictions and handling deadlines and reporting.
  • Many students were to be involved in internships over the summer, but our corporate partners are hesitant to plan that far ahead at this time. The corporate sector will probably be cancelling a lot of paid opportunities. It would be wise to start thinking about finding different resources for students who will require those internships.

Traci Lanier, Vice President, External Affairs, 10,000 Degrees



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