How a nonprofit, a lodging association and a governing council adapted to COVID-19

by: Amy Blasco

Business was anything but usual in 2020. When the pandemic sent the state of California into lockdown in mid-March, businesses and organizations of all kinds had to rethink how they’ve operated for years, at a moment’s notice. Here’s how three of Verdin’s clients have weathered the COVID-19 storm up until now.

The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County

The nonprofit world is undoubtedly one of the sectors hardest hit by the economic downtown caused by the pandemic. Luckily, there’s a nonprofit that dedicates itself to providing financial support to other nonprofits. Earlier this year The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County activated its Disaster Support Fund in response to COVID-19, providing more than $500,000 in grants to local organizations, all without any administrative fees. Grants have gone to organizations that support emergency food pantries, survivors of domestic violence, low-income families, unhoused residents and more.

In addition to the Disaster Relief Fund, The Community Foundation partnered with the City of SLO and SLO Chamber of Commerce to distribute 52 grants of $5,000 each to SLO businesses. The funding has made a significant impact on business owners and their employees.

Verdin President Mary Verdin was honored to be selected to serve on the grant committee, to review applications and select the final recipients.

“This grant gives me more stability and hope that I will be able to rebound from this and grow my business back to where it was,” said Jon Elliott of Mike’s Barber Shop in a press release from the city.

The City and Chamber plan to award 100 businesses $5,000 grants each in another round of funding early this year.

Ventura County Coast

Every month Visit California holds an event called Destination Third Thursday during which a member organization travels to Sacramento to talk to the Visit California team about their city or region. This, of course, came to a halt during the pandemic. After several months Visit California decided to make these meetings virtual. The first destination to sign up was Verdin client Ventura County Coast, which includes Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura and Port Hueneme.

Executive Director Brian Tucker wanted the region’s presentation to be more engaging than the typical PowerPoint. So he worked with his team to develop a Zoom-based newscast highlighting Ventura County Coast’s state-of-the-art trade show booth, recorded field reporter interviews with business owners in each city, and a live question-and-answer session. Viewers got to go soaring over the Camarillo hills with Skyrider Ultralights, kayaking in Channel Islands Harbor with Marine Emporium Landing, kite surfing in Ventura and strolling along the beach in Port Hueneme.

“This might be one of the most memorable projects of my 20-plus-year career,” Tucker said. “Considering the complexity of this program, the many individuals behind the scenes, the seamless deployment in a virtual environment, the interactivity and engagement, all our local VIBE correspondents, destination experts and the timeline we had to pull it all off, this was one monumental program.”

Check out the entire interactive presentation on Ventura County Coast’s Youtube page.

San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG)

At the beginning of 2020, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments (SLOCOG) planned to launch The Coast Rail Corridor Study. This two-pronged effort aimed to assess current commuter and intercity rail service and identify viable future plans for rail travel on the Central Coast. Normally, the study would include a handful of important public meetings but that all changed when COVID-19 hit.

SLOCOG and its partners, including Verdin, shifted the project’s structure to be completely online. All surveys were conducted virtually as well as meetings for the Technical Advisory Committee made up of transportation agencies and a Community Working Group of community organizations interested in the study. SLOCOG also hosted a public town hall during which anyone could give input on the future of rail and bus services in SLO County.

For security reasons, these meetings were held on Webex. Officials used the platform tools to conduct online polling so people could vote during the meetings and then discuss the results. After the meetings slide decks were posted online for the public to access.

Transitioning to an online platform proved successful for the project, which focused on communities from Northern Santa Barbara County to Monterey County. As a result, engagement levels increased because people didn’t have to travel in person to meetings.

Need help adapting your marketing efforts to COVID-19? Contact Verdin at

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