As an arts and cultural organization, you are among the most trusted sources of information in today’s world. So as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and its corresponding infodemic remain top-of-mind and headlines, you are likely preparing to deliver messaging to your staff and your constituents, as well as determining how to mitigate its possible effects on your organization, all while ensuring your staff and visitors stay safe and healthy.
While it’s not our place to predict the outcomes we might see in the wake of this virus, nor can we provide health or legal advice, we hope that offering the following ideas and resources (by no means a comprehensive guide) might help you and your staff approach the COVID-19 situation with a degree of calm and a plan of action. To those who are suffering from the coronavirus, or who have lost loved ones because of it, our hearts are with you.
1. Be a source of truth
There is an overwhelming amount of information about COVID-19 on social media, and not all of it is factual. Take this opportunity to be a source of truth and point your community to the guidance provided by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
By sharing facts about how to lower the risk of contracting or spreading the disease, arts and cultural organizations can help keep their communities healthy and instill a sense of calm.
For more inspiration, read about how The Smithsonian created an exhibition to combat misinformation around outbreaks of this nature.
2. Leaders, find your voice
During this unprecedented time, many people are scared – both your community and your staff. When people are scared, they look to the leaders of their trusted institutions for how to react. The leadership team of your arts or cultural organization can craft messaging around administrative policies, emergency preparedness, staff travel, hygiene and environmental sanitation, work-from-home and sick leave policy, closures, and event cancellations. This may help to ensure that staff members feel supported in dealing with COVID-19 and are prepared to deliver a unified message to the public.
Also, leaders may consider delivering frequent communication to their staff and community to show that they are taking the situation seriously. Even if that message is just to say that you are continuing to monitor the situation and will provide more details as they become available.
For more information, refer to the Centers for Disease Control’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
3. Be transparent about COVID-19’s possible effects on your organization
Arts and cultural organizations rely on people visiting them for much of their income. Talk of “social distancing” alongside announcements about museums and other cultural attractions closing or canceling events or performances may mean that you anticipate a decline in attendance until COVID-19 passes. If this is the case, be honest about it. Along with providing frequent communication, leaders of arts and cultural organizations should be transparent about how this is affecting their organization. Your staff and community members care about your mission and want to help!
Consider employing livestream fundraising to let them continue to support you even if you decide to temporarily close your doors.
4. Consider alternative, digital programming
If quarantines are in effect in your area, consider leveraging digital platforms to stay connected to your community and to continue to provide them with a means for leisure and social connection. Some arts and cultural organizations are launching online “viewing rooms” of collections, virtual reality or 360-degree video tours, and live streams to keep their audience engaged.
Our friends at Cuseum published some ways in which arts and cultural organizations are doing this.
As is true of everything, including pandemics, this too shall pass. In the meantime, it’s important to remain calm and empathetic towards those who are suffering from COVID-19 or have lost loved ones.
Please stay tuned for more information on best practices and actionable tips to deal with COVID-19 and other resources from the Blackbaud Arts & Cultural Solutions Team.
Arts & Cultural Specific Resources
- American Alliance of Museums: COVID-19/coronavirus Resources & Information for the Museum Field
- Americans for the Arts: Arts and Culture Sector Can Prepare for the Coronavirus in the United States
- ArtsReady: Preparing for Potential Impact of the Coronavirus
- Cuseum: Coronavirus Preparedness Community Document
- The International Association of Children in Museums: A curious guide for courageous kids
- TCG: Coronavirus Preparedness for Theatres
To help the social good community prepare for and respond to any impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Blackbaud has also compiled a list of resources from across the sector that may be useful. Visit www.blackbaud.com/covid-19 for more information.