PPP funds help Synergy Services keep doors of domestic violence and childrens shelters open
“Commerce listens to us, asks really great questions and is attentive to our needs. They understand the challenges facing nonprofits and bring us real solutions that solve our problems. The bank is also a big supporter of our community and a strong partner in helping us meet our mission.”
– TARYN WATERS
Director of Finance
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the Midwest this past spring, a perfect storm began to form around Synergy Services, a nonprofit that provides violence prevention, crisis intervention, shelter and other services to the people of Kansas City and the Northlands.
“The pressures of the pandemic put more families in crisis, creating more calls for the services we provide,” recalls Jennifer Hurst, Director of Development. “People were being forced to shelter-in-place with their abusers, and demand for spots at our domestic violence shelter doubled.” The number of available, meanwhile, had to be cut in half to comply with social distancing protocols. School-based programs became virtual, in addition to other services moving to telehealth as well.
“As an essential service, we had to scramble to find ways maintain operations and the safety of our own staff,” explains Hurst. Synergy’s 200-person staff serves 15,000 to 20,000 people each year.
To address the increase in domestic violence, for example, the nonprofit identified a hotel partner that agreed to house survivors who Synergy staff supported with the therapy and case management. “It was a small bright spot in the pandemic,” says Hurst. “The hotel was preparing to lay everyone off when we contacted them. Our partnership enabled hotel staff to keep their jobs, while survivors of domestic abuse got the protection they needed.”
Staying financially afloat
“Financially, it has been a crazy and unprecedented time,” says Taryn Waters, Director of Finance. With dropping revenues made worse by additional unbudgeted expenses, Synergy’s leaders were interested to learn about the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) sponsored by the Small Business Administration as part of Congress’ CARES Act.
“I’m in contact with the finance directors and CEOS of other nonprofits,” says Waters. “They talked about how confusing and vague the application was.”
Synergy’s experience with PPP, however, was different. Commerce Bank, one of several banks that serves Synergy, had offered to walk Waters through the application process.
At the time, Commerce had been working with Synergy on implementing a business credit card program that would make it easier to track spending and code each expense to the appropriate grant in the agency’s complicated funding structure. With the short deadline looming, however, everyone’s attention turned to PPP.
“Commerce was transparent and reassuring, says Waters. “Our bankers told us what we needed to apply and cautioned us that we would need to stay flexible. But they helped us feel comfortable at every step.”
Synergy’s application was ready when the PPP application portal opened for the first round of funding in early April. By April 10, the application was approved and Synergy received the requested funds.
The PPP money was used primarily to paying the salaries of staff, many of whom were working remotely, as well as to provide hazard pay for the front line shelter staff, explains Waters. “Many of our existing funders helped with additional funds or provided flexibility in how we spend current awards to help bridge the financial gap,” she notes. “But PPP really stabilized us.”
“Commerce’s attentiveness and willingness to talk through issues was incredibly helpful,” Waters adds. “As a nonprofit, we’re very stretched administratively, and I wear a lot of different hats in finance and accounting. They understand that and are always eager to help.”