Funders Amp Up Support for Atlanta Nonprofits

Staff Report

Friday, August 7th, 2020

With communities strapped and struggling, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta is renewing its partnership with Catchafire to provide the services of professional, skilled volunteers to 350 organizations in the greater Atlanta region. Through this ongoing partnership, nonprofits in the region have already received the equivalent of nearly $2.5 million dollars in services.

“We’re excited to expand access to professional, skilled virtual volunteers for nonprofits in our region,” said Lita Ugarte Pardi, vice president, community for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. “As the Atlanta region continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, these in-kind services have proven to be as important as monetary grants.”

Every Woman Works in Atlanta is one of the nonprofit organizations that have tapped virtual volunteers to help meet the rising demand for services during the pandemic. It provides support for women in Atlanta who struggle with homelessness, addiction and violence — and now have to cope with the pandemic as well. Every Woman Works was provided with a virtual volunteer to create a remote program strategy that allows the group to deliver even more online coaching and therapy to women who have been forced into risky and sometimes dangerous environments as they shelter at home. 

“When COVID hit, we already had systems in place to help nonprofits adapt to stay-at-home orders and social distancing,” said Catchafire Interim CEO Hefei Li. “Our volunteers were already working virtually, so we not only were able to connect nonprofits with those volunteers, we also were able to share our expertise about distance work to assist nonprofits that needed to work remotely for the first time.”

Through the extended partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, invited nonprofits will have access to skills-based volunteers across the nation on Catchafire’s virtual platform. This support empowers nonprofits to adapt to structural barriers, budget constraints and increased demand for services resulting from the pandemic. For instance, the pandemic is affecting the mental health of Americans everywhere, including the greater Atlanta area. But for those facing unemployment and economic hardship, it can be hard to access mental health care — particularly in a metropolitan area like Atlanta, where the average cost of one counseling session is $180.

Metropolitan Counseling Services is working to provide affordable and quality counseling and psychotherapy in Atlanta. Beyond offering virtual appointments to ensure continuity of care through social distancing, the organization is exploring how it can take support services a step further.

“Once the stay-at-home order was issued, we were able to pivot within 72 hours and put our entire staff on a telehealth platform,” said Shannon Georgecink, Metropolitan Counseling Services executive director. “I think we're concerned that unemployment is going to linger for awhile and we may need to be raising more money to cover the cost of these sessions.” 

While the organization typically asks for $35/session from clients, it is raising money to cover 100% of the fees to anyone who can’t afford them. Shannon worked with a volunteer graphic designer on social media ads to help spread awareness about services. Looking to the future, she’s also working with a human resources volunteer to explore updating the employee handbook, so that mental health practitioners can have more flexibility going forward on providing telehealth services to patients.

“Virtual volunteers open up a world of opportunities for the nonprofits providing essential services to our communities,” said Pardi. “With free access to skilled professionals, nonprofits are able to expand their capacity to serve people who are facing devastating challenges because of the pandemic and the recession and giving them the support they need. You really can’t put a price tag on that.”