As we enter 2021, one word continues to circle around our collective hope and stress: health.
As a global community, I don’t think we’ve ever truly been this connected by a health crisis before. The last time we dealt with anything of this magnitude was with the 1918 flu pandemic, and certainly the lack of connection between people in different parts of the world and the slow pace of information would have made the experience unrecognizable to us today.
But in 2021, our health matters more than ever. We are facing, still, a global health crisis that, as I write, has taken the lives of more than 350,000 people in the United States and nearly 2 million worldwide. Back in the summer of 2020, the majority of U.S. adults reported their mental health had been negatively affected by the worry and stress of this pandemic. As open beds in hospitals became limited, the demand for psychiatric hospital beds has outpaced their availability. One psychologist recently described our upcoming mental health crisis as a category 4 with a category 5 crisis not far behind. Furthermore, the COVID-19 vaccination distribution has not gone as well as hoped and there is growing concern that while millions of vaccines are being produced every day, their distribution and application is falling short.
And the reality, as we should all know by now, is that the burden and the missteps will affect low-income, rural, Native, Black, Latinx, and other communities of color more than anyone else.
While one can get lost in the dread of these numbers and this reality, we must all understand that we have a role to play in recovering, rebuilding, and renewing our commitment to health and equity moving forward. As nonprofit and foundation leaders, we have the unique honor and expertise to change the course of how this plays out over the next few months and year for our own staff, communities, and the sector. Last year, Independent Sector released its first annual Health of the U.S. Nonprofit Sector report to help guide our work moving forward. The four areas of the framework – Financial Resources, Human Capital, Governance and Trust, and Public Policy and Advocacy – are meant to help us understand not only what the data tells us about our organizations and sector, but also what more we must do to improve these areas, especially as they relate to our ability to recover from COVID-19, advance racial equity, and address our climate crisis.
As much as we’d love to leave 2020 behind, the effects of the pandemic, the economic crisis, racial injustice, and our environmental disasters still very much affect all of us. As such, Independent Sector will remain steadfast in our commitment to advocate for the appropriate relief and future investments for our sector and the communities we all serve. In addition, we are in active conversations with the new Administration and have a survey out now to collect your organizational needs over the next six months. With that feedback, we will develop a rapid snapshot of critical nonprofit needs to help shape policy efforts in the first 100 days of the Biden Administration and the 117th Congress.
Over the course of the next few months, you will learn more about how you and your organization can join us in our collective efforts. We remain hopeful that a healthier and more equitable future is possible, and we look forward to working with you to achieve it.