Support for Non-profit Organizations Goes Virtual

Dane County Extension has long provided non-profit organizations with strategic planning, program planning, facilitation, and evaluation support. This support has continued through the coronavirus pandemic, with modifications for a virtual environment. Our programs to support non-profits have expanded to address the unique circumstances that organizations are operating under at this time.

When COVID-19 hit, our office responded by increasing access to information and by developing training activities to support operating in a virtual environment. Our first response was to develop an information hub as part of the Dane County Community Development Web-site. The hub provides easy access to resources available to non-profit organizations specifically related to COVID-19, including Federal grant and loan programs, emergency grants, and webinars with information on how to continue non-profit operations in a virtual environment.

We’ve also established an e-newsletter that includes timely information about resources and training programs. Our non-profit organization recipient list was built in 2019, when we held a series of conversations with non-profit executives about capacity building. At that time, we learned about funding, training, and organizational support needs prior to COVID-19. We continue to learn about new capacity building needs that have arisen with change in operations and economic downturn. As we increase our ability to identify relevant resources for the sector, we are also working on growing the audience list. E-newsletters have been going out every 2-3 weeks.

To respond to educational needs of the sector, we’ve recently established ‘pop-up peer learning’ educational events. These sessions are on topics related to operating during the pandemic as well as foundational topics in non-profit management. So far, we’ve held sessions on facilitating virtual meetings and scenario planning (advanced planning for unpredictable futures). Participants in these sessions are invited to request follow-up assistance from Extension educators and session presenters.

Finally, Extension Community Development Educators from across the state are working collaboratively to develop an on-line training platform for non-profit organization staff. The curriculum will include items specific to operating during the pandemic: virtual meetings and facilitation skills; programming in a digital space; scenario planning/action planning; sustainable budgeting and financial planning; fundraising and donor relations; marketing/story telling; and pivoting to address local needs. Once developed, this program will be available through Extension state-wide. The team working on this project hopes to follow up the ‘emergency curriculum’ with development of a foundations in non-profit management course that will be offered both on-line and in-person.

To learn more about Extension’s resources for non-profits contact Sharon Lezberg, Community & Economic Development Educator at

Support Extension