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Nonprofits Discuss Innovating in a Post-Pandemic World

Top row, from left, Heath Bloch, President and CEO of Andrus; Karen Erren, President and CEO of Feeding Westchester, and Jan Fisher, Executive Director of Nonprofit Westchester. Bottom row, from left, Susan Fox, President and CEO of the Westchester Institute on Human Development; Tom Gabriel, President and CEO of the United Way of Westchester and Putnam; and Joseph Kenner, President and CEO of Greyston.

The fourth installment of the State of the Economy series on Wednesday focused on nonprofit organizations and how they are innovating in a post-pandemic environment.

The webinar’s panelists included Heath Bloch, President and CEO of Andrus; Karen Erren, President and CEO of Feeding Westchester; Jan Fisher, Executive Director of Nonprofit Westchester; Susan Fox, President and CEO of the Westchester Institute on Human Development; Tom Gabriel, President and CEO of the United Way of Westchester and Putnam; and Joseph Kenner, President and CEO of Greyston.

BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon kicked off the discussion by asking the executives how the pandemic pushed them to innovate.

Bloch said his organization changed its approach to collaboration. “Prior to the pandemic, the system of care was comfortable, operating in its own lane and skeptical of attempts at collaboration and quietly embracing unspoken turf wars,” said Bloch.

Feeding Westchester doubled its operations during the pandemic to support a greater number of families. The current inflationary cycle is raising the number of families seeking food each month—and it is not only the unemployed seeking help. “Many people have a false picture,” said Erren. “I see people in scrubs. I see people in uniforms. There are hard-working men, women and families in our community that aren’t able to make ends meet.”

Fisher said the pandemic exacerbated inequities. “The pandemic revealed in so many ways that systemic racism has a disproportionate and deadly impact on people of color,” said Fisher.

Fox noted that telehealth flourished during the pandemic, and it significantly improved her agency’s service delivery. “We saw the numbers of people attending trainings skyrocket. We plan to continue with a mix of both in-person and virtual trainings going forward,” said Fox.

Gabriel said that a nonprofit collaboration network vastly expanded during the pandemic. “The nonprofit sector is running as efficiently as possible, and the United Way and indeed all the organizations represented here today are all collaborating,” he said.

Kenner called the pandemic’s labor shortage a false narrative because many of his agency’s clients couldn’t find jobs during the pre-pandemic boom time. “We need to have a Great Reassessment, particularly on the employer side. It’s really about, How do we find our employees? Where are we looking to find our employees? And how are we hiring?” said Kenner.

A recording of the State of the Economy-Nonprofit webinar is posted on the BCW’s Facebook page.

The State of the Economy Series is presented by PCSB Bank.  The event was sponsored by Maier Markey and Justic LLP, Westchester County Office of Economic Development and Nonprofit Westchester.

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