The impact of COVID-19 on NPOs

The impact of COVID-19 on NPOs

Although much has been said about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown on business, very little attention has been given to non-profit organisations (NPOs) within the “third sector”.

Dr Armand Bam, Head of Social Impact at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) says that although it’s too early to determine the total effect locally, globally the impact has been severe. “In a recent survey conducted by Nonprofit Quarterly, Responding to COVID-19, of the 284 respondents 20% indicated they had moved to limited hours or laid off staff. Globally the International Labour Organisation predicts that COVID-19 could cause the equivalent of 195 million job losses across sectors. In South Africa, we can expect a greater impact due to the downgrading and poor performing economy.”

Dr Bam says there are over 220 000 NPOs registered with the Department of Social Development in South Africa and it’s now more than ever, during this time of a crisis, that the important role of these mission driven organisations become evident. “NPOs act in communities where government and businesses are not able to reach. They are accessible and agile to attend to the current crises and need our support. While the government can rely on our taxes to stay operational and well-resourced businesses tap into financial reserves, NPOs primarily rely on donations and personal fundraising to ensure service delivery.”

“Many of these organisations are now facing the threat of downsizing and retrenching staff while the need for their services increases. Although many leaders within the sector are used to working in under resourced scenarios, the impact of social distancing will affect service delivery to beneficiaries and the ability to relate in person with donors. Along with beneficiaries and donors, employees will be operating with some level of uncertainty as job security is affected.” So, what is it that NPOs can be doing to avoid panic and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic? Dr Bam shares the following insights:

Communicate with clarity

With a range of stakeholders, it is important for NPOs to maintain communication, stay informed of what is happening and share relevant information.

  • Remind board members, volunteers, employees and donors of your vision, mission, goals and activities. Take the opportunity to revitalise the commitment to your cause. Web-based communication is cost-effective and can reach large audiences. Websites are effective public relations platforms to reach donors as well as the media provided specific contact and fundraising details are visible.
  • Develop your digital presence through mobile optimisation. There is a global shift to transacting this way and fundraising can now occur in the palm of a smartphone user.
  • Be discerning with the information you share. The information you choose should be from reputable sources and useful to the general public as well as specific to your sector.
  • Take the time to cultivate new donors and donor-relations. Fine tune your message and be clear about your impact.
  • It’s not all about fundraising so be in contact, say thank you, reaffirm trust and lay the ground for new funding sources. Your donors are stewards of your organisation, inspired by your mission and they also care for the people driving it.

Re-evaluate your operations and budget

With the prospect of a reduction in donations, immediate attention should be given to prioritising how finances are managed. The continuity of your services needs to be maintained and this means revisiting your business plan.

  • Cash flow is critical. Making use of a simple excel spreadsheet can assist with decision-making.
  • Fixed costs require a plan and the management thereof is essential to ensure you can continue to deliver services and that programmes are implemented. Where possible discuss the possibility of delaying or restructuring payments to suppliers.
  • Reach out to your existing funders and detail unavoidable costs and where you require definite support. The re-direction of existing funds may be considered under these circumstances.
  • Compliance remains important and although requests to redirect funding may occur, financial accountability must be at the top of mind.
  • If you have not considered this before, our current situation requires that NPOs seriously consider a recovery plan as part of their future proofing.

Actively search for donor/ funding opportunities

Funding remains the lifeblood of any NPO and should form part of the core operations while under lockdown. The 2019 Charities Aid Foundation report indicates that cash donations remain the most common form of giving.

  • NPOs, whether directly or indirectly involved in fighting COVID-19, should explore the opportunities that are available locally and globally to alleviate expected funding constraints.
  • There will be an increase in funding directed by corporates and government alike to partner in addressing the impact of the pandemic. While these opportunities do become available, avoid moving beyond the scope of your mission.
  • Online concerts have become a means for entertainers to deliver to their fans. Live streaming of performances and online auctions might not have the same returns but do come with reduced expenditure.
  • Don’t forget the messaging for Gen Z and Millennials should be specific and relevant as their spending power has increased.
  • South Africa has a range of crowdfunding platforms available for use. With the increased reliance on digital technology post COVID-19, it would be beneficial to visit one of the following: BackaBuddy; Brownie points; Click ‘n Donate;; Doit4Charity; forgood; GivenGain; Jumpstarter; MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet; Pledge-a-Portion; WeBenefit

Collaborate for impact

As the impact of Covid-19 is global, the opportunity to partner and collaborate with local and international nonprofits to find solutions and discuss the impact on NPOs worldwide presents itself.

  • Sharing within the local sector can serve two purposes. Sharing common challenges (coming to terms that you are not alone) and adopting approaches that might be transferable between organisations. There is plenty we can learn from each other.
  • With the decisive approach to enforce a lockdown, our South African experiences may offer unique insights to the impact on NPOs in the global South while learning from others in other parts of the world.
  • Being at the coal face of the COVID-19 experience, opportunities to collaborate with research institutions can provide greater exposure and awareness of your organisation and its impact.

Working from home

This might be the trickiest aspect of ensuring you are able to maintain your services and the start of the new normal for many NPOs.

  • Above all care for your staff.
  • Along with financial planning the opportunity to review organisational policies with respect to remote work presents itself. This isn’t a possibility for all organisations and in some NPOs only certain staff will be able to work from home.
  • Remember not all staff have the same access to resources so make sure you can support their needs. Assess everyone’s job requirements and responsibilities on its own merits.
  • Communicate your expectations clearly. Ensure that staff understand they should continue to follow their daily work routines and be contactable as normal.
  • Keep your staff connected. Having group gatherings will go a long way to serving the culture of your organisation.
  • Explore the online resources offering free access to their products Microsoft Teams; Google Hangouts Premium and Dropbox Premium are some of the more popular.

Provided by Jigsaw PR.

Working from home: flattening the curve on cybercrime

Working from home: flattening the curve on cybercrime

The COVID-19 global pandemic forcing millions of office workers to become remote workers has created a “perfect tsunami” for cyber criminals seeking to exploit the crisis and penetrate corporate defences via unsecured home networks.

Unprecedented digital dependency has created unprecedented vulnerability, and an increase in malicious attempts to exploit the mass shift to online platforms for remote working, with South Africa experiencing a ten-fold spike in network attacks in mid-March when much of the country moved to working from home.

Dr Martin Butler, senior lecturer in digital transformation at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) says companies should ensure that the “digital equivalent of handwashing, face masks, social distancing and decontamination” is being implemented by their now-remote workforce.

Cybersecurity provider Kaspersky reported a spike in South Africa in devices affected by cyberattacks, from the norm of under 30 000 daily to 310 000 on March 18, and “extremely high levels of cyber exploits since – similar to reports from across the cybersecurity industry and across the world”, he says.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently reported that the rise in cybercriminal activity seeking to exploit the COVID-19 crisis made cybersecurity “critical to collective resilience” in the face of the pandemic’s impact on the global economy.

Butler says the risk of “brute force attacks” – in which cybercriminals attempt various password combinations to gain access to corporate systems via individual user accounts – remained high and, with compromised credentials responsible for over 80% of breaches, businesses need to implement encrypted communication such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) now more than ever.

“Ensuring company policies are applied on the corporate laptop that shares a home network with multiple devices such as mobile phones, is not sufficient,” he adds. Cybersecurity company Cynet has identified two main trends in the coronavirus-linked information security breaches – attacks aimed at stealing remote user credentials, and weaponised email attacks such as phishing and malware that may not be picked up by home email software.

With most work-from-home employees using online collaboration and video conferencing software, Butler warns that some of these systems are not yet integrated into corporate single-sign-on systems or thoroughly tested and embedded in safe remote environments.

“This creates a perfect tsunami for cybercriminals. They can attack devices on unsecured home networks, mostly running outdated software or unsecure hardware, or exploit employees who are using relatively new systems at the extreme of their comfort levels.

“For cybercriminals it is the perfect time to get a malware link to the anxious, and not very tech-savvy, end user wanting to know the latest COVID-19 news and information. One ill-informed action may be all that is required for ransomware to penetrate corporate defences from remote locations,” he says.

While highly secure corporate networks should be able to prohibit or at least identify unauthorised activities to ensure that data assets remain protected and services are uninterrupted, home-based WiFi networks and 4G connections don’t have the benefit of corporate security policies and technologies.

“Although it is in principle possible to secure these distributed onramps to the internet that have become central in the work-from-home context, protection of them is now the responsibility of each individual user and not corporate IT – and therein lies the danger,” Butler says. In addition to using encrypted communication such as a VPN, Butler recommends that remote workers take precautions including:

  • Using secure and complex passwords; and changing them frequently.
  • Not replying to or clicking on links in phishing emails or messages.
  • Be on the alert for COVID-19 scam emails.
  • Ignore and delete Whatsapp messages with unknown links (especially from unknown senders).
  • Take extreme care when connecting to unsecured networks.

Cybersecurity expert and futurist Dr Rianne van Vuuren, a PhD Future Studies graduate from the USB, advises that IT managers promote cybersecurity by:

  • Ensuring that a full-service internet security suite is used by all employees.
  • Regular updates of all software, which could save a company from significant future losses if such vulnerabilities are exploited by cyber-criminals.
  • Keeping up to date on major cybersecurity breaches in order to proactively ensure that potential vulnerabilities in their networks are secured.
  • Developing a risk model as well as a disaster recovery plan with the necessary backups – “this would be a lifesaver in case of catastrophe”.

Butler says where corporate IT polices on using company assets off-site used to focus on physically securing devices, and losing a device was a nuisance – “today, losing control over a device and therefore enabling remote access to company systems and data, could be disastrous”.

Supplied by Jigsaw PR

The curse of the office psychopath

The curse of the office psychopath

PSYCHOPATHS are not just found in serial killer films and crime novels. They stalk corporate corridors too, where their trail of destruction might not include murder but can mean a loss of productivity, motivation and profits.

The manipulation, deception, inflated self-opinion and back-stabbing of the corporate psychopath or narcissist can often cause work-related depression, anxiety disorders, burnout and physical illnesses – conditions that cost the South African economy more than R40 billion annually. Corporate Mental Health Week on July 1 to 5 July turned the spotlight on work-related stress that accounts for more than 40% of all workplace-related illnesses in South Africa, with at least one in four employees diagnosed with depression.

Renata Schoeman, a psychiatrist and associate professor in leadership at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, said it is often the leaders – who should be at the forefront of reducing workplace conditions that lead to stress and burnout – who contribute to the problem, rather than the solution. “We are not talking about the ‘difficult’ boss here, but the boss who is a bully – many of who could be defined as corporate psychopaths. “The bullying tactics of corporate psychopaths increase conflict, stress, staff turnover and absenteeism, reduce productivity and collective social responsibility, and erode corporate culture and ethical standards – diminishing shareholder value and returns on investment,” she said. “Bullying can make you ill,” she said.

“In a US survey, 70% or more of bullying victims had experienced stress, anxiety or depression, 55% reported loss of confidence, 39% suffered from lack of sleep, 17% called in sick frequently and 19% had suffered mental breakdown. Emotional stress can also cause or aggravate physical illnesses such as gastrointestinal problems (such as irritable bowel syndrome) and cardiovascular problems (such as hypertension), while victims of workplace bullying had double the risk of considering suicide in the five years following.”

Chief executives have the highest prevalence of psychopathic characteristics of all jobs – a rate second only to prison inmates – and while it is estimated that one in 100 of the general population have psychopathic characteristics, it rises to one in 25 in managers. In what she calls “the curse of confidence”, Schoeman said that many of the traits characteristic of psychopaths – such as charm, fearless dominance, boldness and a “grandiose sense of self” – are also what help people get ahead in business.

However, she pointed out that “not everyone with loads of confidence and who is successful, even if they have a brash approach to people, has a personality disorder”. The workplace bullies to be most concerned about, she advised, are those with narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. She said narcissists can be brilliant strategists, have the courage to take risks and push through massive change and transition, and use their charisma and compelling visions to inspire others – fitting into conventional ideas of leadership.

“These masters of self-image, who take credit but deflect blame, tend to gather a group of co-dependent people around them to support and reinforce their behaviour. They profess loyalty to the organisation, but are only committed to their own agenda, and people may experience them as distant and cold. “Narcissists tend to be oversensitive to criticism, overcompetitive and often engage in counterproductive work behaviour when their self-esteem is threatened. They expect great dedication and may overwork others without any regard for the impact on their lives,” she said. She said narcissists favoured “indirect bullying tactics” such as withholding information, ignoring people or giving them the silent treatment, spreading rumours to discredit other people and inflating their contribution or taking credit for achievements they had little to do with.

Narcissists are also more likely to engage in sexual harassment because of their inflated sense of importance and tendency to exploit other people. The “darker personality”, she said, is the psychopathic character, the boss or colleague with antisocial personality disorder – who replaces the narcissist’s exploitative tactics with predatory drive for strategic conquests, domination and cruelty.

Schoeman said that “successful psychopaths” share the same core characteristics as those who become criminals – such as deceit, manipulation, indifference to the consequences of their actions, superficial charm, lack of empathy and lack of remorse – but tend to come from more privileged backgrounds and have higher IQ. She said the bullying tactics of the “successful psychopath” were based on assessing the usefulness and weaknesses of those around them, manipulating others to bond with them, using their victims’ feedback to build and maintain control, and then abandoning them when they were no longer useful.

“They are extremely efficient at using and manipulating communication networks to enhance their own reputation, while discrediting others and creating and maintaining conflicts and rivalries among colleagues,” she said. “It is important to be equipped to recognise and safeguard oneself against these workplace bullies,” Schoeman said.
How to deal with the office narcissist or psychopath:

Dealing with a narcissist boss:

  1. Avoid contact;
  2. Ignore their actions;
  3. Stay neutral, calm and professional;
    • Resist the urge to challenge or confront them
    • Don’t offer or give any personal information or opinions
  4. Ground yourself
    • Realise it is not personal;
    • Realise their insecurity;
    • Accept that change likely won’t happen;
    • Build a supportive network;
    • Reach out for help;
    • Know your legal rights.
  5. Protect yourself
    • Be assertive, but not aggressive;
    • Have a witness;
    • Get everything in writing;
    • Be alert: When a narcissist can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you.
  6. Disarm the narcissist
    • Always empathise with your boss’s feelings but don’t expect any empathy back;
    • Give your boss ideas, but always let him/her take the credit for it.

Tips for dealing with antisocial bosses:

  1. Keep your emotions in check;
  2. Don’t show you are intimidated;
  3. Stick to the facts – do not get drawn into their victimhood stories;
  4. Ground yourself
    • Accept that some people are bad news;
    • Know your weaknesses – which the psychopath will exploit;
    • Take care of yourself, manage your stress and build your resilience;
    • Build your reputation and relationships.
  5. Protect yourself
  6. Report incidents of bullying and harassment to HR;
  7. Opt for online communication;
  8. Disarm the psychopath
    • Turn the conversation back to them when they blame someone else;
    • Point out their flaws. For example, their reaction in a meeting and asking them if they are feeling stressed.
  9. Safeguard the organisation
    • Have an ombudsman or anonymous tip-off line;
    • Cross-check your impressions with colleagues who know them well;
    • Expect responsibility;
    • Guarantee consequences;
    • Provide predictable punishment promptly;
    • Know the law.

Supplied by Jigsaw PR

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