Milwaukee-area nonprofits met virtually to brainstorm 'strategies to survive' pandemic

MILWAUKEE -- From educational resources for children with autism, to activities for those with disabilities, charities are feeling a pinch as a result of the coronavirus. COVID-19 is impacting their mission, in general, and how they raise funds to fulfill that mission.

In the era of social distancing, more than two dozen groups from across the state, many with missions involving those with special needs, dialed into a call organized by the Community Resource Network Wednesday, April 8.

"Unfortunately, some of our work comes into play with crisis management, so, right now, that's been a big part of our work with organizations," said Steve Strang, Specturm Nonprofit Services.

Steve Strang

"I hope that today's call will give you some strategies to help you survive this situation," said Robert Johnston, founder of the Community Resource Network.

"We have a staff of about six, and we've managed to make payroll, and we've applied for all of the stimulus money we can find," said Denise Schamens with Good Friend Inc., an autism awareness group.

"We're finding that we're doing a lot of really fascinating and different things," said Lynne Katz-Petted with Revitalize Milwaukee.

For Waukesha-based Good Friend Inc., April, Autism Awareness Month, is a big time of the year, but with attention turned elsewhere, the group, which normally operated in schools, is now bringing their message directly into people's homes.

Denise Schamens

'We've had to just kind of figure out how we can offer what we offer virtually?" said Schamens. "That, as well, goes for our fundraisers."

Officials with other groups, like Wauwatosa-based The Ability Center, said they're concerned about long-fought for projects being sidelined.

"Certainly in a better situation than others," said Cay Landowski with The Ability Center. "But there are programs that have been canceled and will continue to be canceled going forward."

A common concern raised by the nonprofit groups on the call related to a greater need for their services, especially in these times, but with traditional providers like schools closed, and large gatherings banned, they've found it even more difficult to fulfill their mission, despite the need.