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COVID-19 Relief Effort for Organizations

Michael Ibrahim, Program Manager

Creating ‘Safe Harbor’ for Massachusetts Cultural Nonprofits


In rapid succession over the last few weeks, the Federal Government passed and signed into law two far-reaching pieces of legislation designed to provide relief to the American people and businesses – including nonprofits.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act created new workplace obligations for employers and expanded support for individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) authorized more than $2 trillion in spending to inject cash into the economy, businesses, and nonprofits.

With these two new laws in place, Mass Cultural Council is providing a three-pronged package of support for our cultural nonprofit sector to not only understand and access assistance offered through these new Federal Acts, but to also deliver broad and high-touch capacity building services to help organizations in understanding their current financial challenges and crafting a strategy forward.

Introducing the Safe Harbors Program

The Safe Harbors Program seeks to provide broad assistance to Massachusetts arts and cultural nonprofit organizations in the form of webinars and online tools, empowering leaders to assess their organization’s current financial situation, create an actionable roadmap for the future, and determine their eligibility and the appropriateness for accessing resources through various COVID-19 funds. To deliver on this work, we are partnering with the Nonprofit Finance Fund to provide a powerful assortment of webinars and online resources, coupled with capacity-building coaching services, to assist leaders in preparing plans and making decisions.

1. Financial Supplement

A financial supplement to operating support grants will be paid to existing Mass Cultural Council CIP Portfolio and Gateway grantees. Safe Harbors is a state-funded program.

2. Instructional Series

The Safe Harbors Webinar Instructional Series, an expansion of the Capacity Accelerator Network, is a series of four individual webinar modules that provide technical training on understanding both the CARES and Family First Acts, using data for day-to-day management, and tools for strategic decision-making in the wake of closures, programming suspensions, and mounting debt/significant liabilities. Each webinar module includes take-home tools that participants can use to help apply concepts to their daily operations, and are designed for specific audiences, including organizations with or without paid staff, facilities, and existing debt/significant liabilities.

Module 1: Reviewing Federal Programs and Eligibility – watch the recording and download session materials

Navigating Policy Change

  • Review the Families First Act and CARES Act
  • Participants receive application overview and links to trusted sources for additional information and to apply

Module 2: Cash Flow Projections – watch the recording, download session materials, and read related blog post

Assessing Immediate and Forthcoming Cash Needs

  • Unlike a budget which summaries revenue and expense for a block of time (typically a year) cash flow plots total cash available, received and spent month by month or week by week
  • Allows organizations to understand the overall cash position, calculate shortfalls the specific need and timing for funds
  • Participants receive Cash Flow Projection Template and instructions

Module 3: Scenarios and Budgets – watch the recording, download session materials, and read related blog post

Adjusting the Operating Plan

  • Scenario planning allows leaders and board members to imagine budget implications of various ‘what ifs’ and create plans of action, allowing for data-informed decision making
  • Allows teams to prioritize based on several factors (fixity, key staff, mission, etc.)
  • Participants receive Scenario Testing Template and instructions

Module 4: Decision Making Amid Crisis – watch the recording and download session materials

Pulling It All Together

  • The decision-making process – who holds which roles
  • Key decisions and how to frame them
  • How to tell your financial and programmatic story to funders, staff, lenders, board and public
  • Participants receive NFF Decision Tool (workbook) and instructions

3. Capacity-Building Coaching Services

In addition to The Safe Harbors Webinar Instructional Series, we are proud to offer a series of capacity building coaching services for our CIP Portfolio and Gateway grantees. This work supports organizations by:

  • Offering a space for community connection and peer exchange, mitigating the effects of isolation.
  • Providing community leadership support, allowing nonprofit decisionmakers to share experiences and lessons learned, and to leverage each other’s expertise.
  • Maximizing the benefits of real-time access to an NFF consultant to deepen learnings.
  • Helping to focus discussions how a given financial strategy can be important within the current operating environment.

In a group or individual setting, organizations will have direct access to a Nonprofit Finance Fund advisor, helping nonprofit leaders who are at critical decision points. These advisors will help organizations develop financial strategies to support programmatic goals, craft financial narratives to support conversations with key stakeholders, ask relevant and timely questions to arrive at critical decisions, set short- and long-term goals, and create consensus among senior leadership, board members, and staff.

CIP Portfolio and Gateway Grantees:

Register for Capacity-Building Coaching Services

Questions? Contact Cultural Investment Portfolio staff.

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