How Should NGOs Respond To COVID-19?

Humanitarian efforts have been greatly affected, with government ordered lockdowns taking precedence. Corona-related disruptions to emergency services around the world are taking its toll on vulnerable populations. From an increase in infectious disease outbreaks to limited reproductive health resources — the ripple effect from COVID-19 has created devastating consequences. 

Still, with so many things out of our control, one of the most important ways NGOs can forge ahead is with their stories. The first question many organizations have begun to ask me is how to get their message across effectively in this new landscape.

I typically start by asking back: 

  • What visuals are you using to promote your stories? 
  • Who are you trying to reach? Has that changed since the pandemic started?
  • How has your audience reacted to what you have put up?
  • Have you changed course at all since the pandemic began?

These are important questions to consider.

But the most essential is:

Can you explain your purpose right now in a single sentence? 

Addressing what we’re going through authentically and concisely will speak to our collective experience. 

NGO Advertising 

I’ve compiled a list of some of the top NGOs around the world to see how they market themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic.


These UNICEF workers tell their personal stories from inside Afghan refugee camps. They explain how they’re teaching families good hygiene practices to combat the coronavirus


These are devastating first-person stories about how women-run businesses are being impacted. It’s an effective video to show how women and girls are some of the pandemic’s hardest-hit populations. 


This short and informative video gives us the stories of young Syrian refugees, and how they were positively affected by a partnership between IRC and Sesame Street. The organizations created an early childhood development program for these kids.


Here’s something different and uplifting: #CoronArtChallenge is a music competition in Mali to bring awareness about the virus.

The American Red Cross

Against the backdrop of engaging images and inspiring music, this video quickly communicates what The Red Cross is doing to aid people during the crisis.

And… here are a couple of resources for NGO comms departments

Julia Campbell, author of Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide For Nonprofits, has complied a Google Drive for communication professionals. It can help inspired ideas for communication strategies around  COVID-19.

The Communications Network has also put out a working doc on how to effectively communicate information during the pandemic with resources, examples, and best practices. 

Tags: Care International, Coronavirus, COVID-19, IRC, NGO, nonprofits, Search For Common Ground, The Red Cross, UNICEF, Visual Storytelling

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