With the COVID-19 crisis forcing "business as usual" to cease, most nonprofit organizations find themselves in a precarious position of losing revenue sources/funding, not being able to provide services, or a host of other issues that prevents them from fulfilling their mission during the pandemic.
While the situation is dire for most, it is important that you consider all of your options before permanently closing your organization. With careful planning, many organizations will be able to weather this storm by temporarily closing operations without formally dissolving. Please see Considering Temporary Shutdown or Dissolution before deciding which option is best for your organization, personnel, stakeholders, and community.
The information below is to help guide you through the process of a temporary shutdown and not dissolution. If you choose to close the doors and dissolve as an organization permanently, please see [Steps for Dissolution].
It is vitally important that you understand that, in most cases, you cannot simply lock your door and return in a few months to pick up where you left off. There are a number of steps you will need to take to ensure the continuity of the organization even while dark.
Budgeting and finances
Have you considered how the CARES Act may benefit your organization? The different loan/grant programs within the act that may help you negotiate this crisis with more solvency. Read more about the options here.
You must determine your budget for the shutdown period, plus the amount you will need to reopen. We recommend that you consider every current monthly expense of the organization, then take steps necessary to decrease that outlay.
Taxes: Your organization will still be required to pay local, state, and/or federal taxes whether you are temporarily closed or not. Unless the government offers certain tax extensions or breaks that your organization would qualify for, you must consider your tax obligations as firm. Discuss your tax obligations with your finance team.
Rent/mortgage: Will your landlord or bank allow a period of forbearance, reduction, or forgiveness? Try to work with them to reduce this monthly cost as much as you can.
Utilities, security, equipment rental, other facility costs: Do not forget other expenses associated with your physical office. While the usage level may decrease significantly during a temporary closure, you will still need to maintain your power, water, and other utilities. Ask your phone and internet provider if it is possible to put your account on hold since your office will be empty. In addition, do not forget the monthly rental costs of rented equipment if applicable (for example, the rental for the photocopier). Finally, do not forget to maintain any security services you may have in place. Keeping the office secure will be vital if the office will be empty for a period of time (and some landlords require it).
If you reduce your staffing during the temporary shutdown (layoffs or furloughs), you are still required by law to pay earned compensation, payroll taxes, and benefits through the remainder of their active employment.
Be sure to understand how your bylaws and articles stipulate your governance structure and that your organization follows the procedures correctly. The board of directors must continue to hold meetings as required -- monthly, quarterly, etc. Since physical distancing is now the law in the Pacific NW during this crisis, ensure that all board members have the tools necessary to participate in meetings remotely (video conferencing or by phone). The secretary will still need to take minutes and file with the appropriate person.
Create an internal communications plan for staff, volunteers, and other internal audiences, and an external communications plan for funders, community partners, and clients/members.
With the external communications plan, create messaging to post on the website, on social media, etc. You may choose to distribute a press release to help you control your narrative.
During the shutdown, do not forget to monitor the organization's social media channels and keep them secure. Monitor your website periodically to ensure there are no technical errors.