Feature Story

Small businesses and nonprofits evolving their technology for the "new normal”

by Sophia Lin

Volunteer at Second Harvest

See how one nonprofit transformed the way it works with the help of technology.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are now without income and struggling to make ends meet - and Second Harvest of Silicon Valley is responding to an increased level of food insecurity every day. The food bank, which usually serves about 270,000 people each month, reached new heights in April by providing groceries to more than 500,000 people, an 85% increase in those served. Second Harvest is working through this public health crisis with help from the National Guard to produce pre-boxed food, and with the nonprofit’s network of 310 community partners have opened more than 90 drive-thru distributions, which help maintain safe social distancing practices. 

According to a National Small Business Association survey of more than 980 small businesses, between March and April the number of business owners and their employees working remotely has doubled, a trend that is widely expected to continue. That was also the case for Second Harvest. Before the pandemic started, all 200 of the nonprofit’s employees worked at the office. Today, over half of them work remotely from home. Second Harvest’s Director of IT Elizabeth Whamond shared that most employees before the pandemic, herself included, did not believe they could do their jobs from home due to the amount of face-to-face interaction they do. However, over the past two months they have realized their theories were wrong as it became necessary to shift to a remote workforce.   

To keep up with the demand of switching to remote work, Second Harvest’s IT department has had to make sure there are enough resources for its employees, from deploying laptops to upgrading firewalls and VPN licenses. For nonprofits and many other small businesses, a key focus is security. Whamond believes they are subject to the same if not more, security threats. Due to the misconception that nonprofits don’t have strong security protocols, hackers target these organizations thinking it’ll be easier. Since the pandemic started, Second Harvest has seen a significant increase in security threats compared to the previous year at the same time. With smaller companies having to do more in order to move their workforce to the remote environment, perpetrators see that as an opportunity to attack as companies are vulnerable. 

See also: Cisco Designed portfolio expands to focus on empowering small business for the "New Normal"

“Being able to work with Cisco and our partners to easily deploy all of the necessary security solutions we need to mitigate this kind of risk has been invaluable to the team and instead allows us to focus on our mission of ensuring our community has the food they need to thrive,” says Whamond.  

The main takeaway that organizations like Second Harvest are getting from the current pandemic is the ability to bounce back. Whether it’s having an increase in volunteers again or being able to continue the business while remote, SMBs are evolving their technology so that they can continue their work in a “new normal.”  


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