Could Your Nonprofit Go Up in Flames?
A Case Study on Nonprofit Disaster Recovery
Late one December evening, the Executive Director of Mission Science Workshops got the call no leader of a non-profit ever wants to receive. From the other end of the line came the bad news – there had been a fire in the church that housed one of their program delivery centers.
Mission Science Workshops are bilingual community science centers in San Francisco that provide hands-on science enrichment activities to underserved youth from low-income communities, their schools and families. Their workshops are their programs. Disruption of services, minimizing it and communicating it to users, was immediately predictable. But what about all the other ancillary costs like cleaning, moving, potentially increased rent, and staffing gaps? And what about all that paperwork? Quickly their leadership understood that the fire’s destruction wasn’t just limited to tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to their equipment.
That’s when Community Initiatives said, ‘we can help.’ It’s times like these when a relationship with a fiscal sponsor like Community Initiatives can provide the most benefit. When having access to an organization with collective bargaining power and a staff with years of experience working with insurance brokers, landlords, and contractors can mean the difference between keeping the doors open and shutting down. One call on a December night could have delivered a crippling setback to the organization. But instead, with just one call, Mission Science had an entire team of skilled advocates working on its behalf to make sure that didn’t happen.
Their client services manager, Susan, knew exactly what to do in a situation most organizations don’t even have the capacity to plan for, much less manage. At Community Initiatives, projects are not separate entities, they are legally and financially part of the organization, receiving payroll, HR, and legal services through Community Initiatives. With a roster of over one hundred clients and twenty years of fiscal sponsorship, Community Initiatives doesn’t just have a long-term relationship with its insurance company. It also has substantial collective bargaining power.
Community Initiatives had the leverage to negotiate successfully with the insurance broker for coverage when Mission Science’s rent went from $1,500 per month in their current space to $6,000 a month in their temporary space – even when there was a six-month delay in the expected return date. Community Initiatives had the know-how and the relationship with a contractor to manage the process of meticulously cleaning and returning to service thousands of dollars of delicate and complex scientific instruments and tools – microscopes, power tools, beakers, burners, electrical equipment and more. While many organizations might have relied on volunteers, increasing the time lost, money lost, and liability, Mission Science received professional-level assistance not just to salvage tools, but to professionally pack and deliver them to their temporary space.
Mission Science wasn’t the only organization in their sublet space to suffer a disruption from the fire. But they were the only one with a fiscal sponsor that stepped up in a huge way. Not just as an administrator, but as a true partner. Instead of Mission Science leadership spending countless hours on the phone or the computer filing extensions and claims, they were able to focus on service delivery and recovery. Community Initiatives was there to advocate on their behalf. Through months of relocating delays and the insurance extensions required. While other organizations were waiting and making due, Mission Science was receiving checks to cover losses and continuing service delivery.
Partnerships are relationships that organizations and individuals can count on to be right there for them when help is needed most. Community Initiatives is proud to be a true partner to Mission Science Workshops, and to all the organizations we sponsor.