Are you ready for the BIG RESET?

I was on a Zoom call a few weeks ago, and the facilitator said something that stuck with me. She said, “We’re in a pause right now as a community, and the big reset is coming.” I’ve been dwelling on this ever since she said it. And my mind keeps veering off and chewing on what the BIG RESET might look like.

To be clear, I don’t think the “big reset” is the same thing as the “New Normal,” which everyone seems to be talking and worrying about.

When I think of the “big reset,” I think of the weeks and months immediately after your state or local community lifts its coronavirus shelter-in-place order. Whereas, the “New Normal,” in my opinion, describes the changes in our collective behaviors that will have a structural impact on us individually and collectively (e.g. workplace, businesses, transportation systems, recreation, etc).

In the last few weeks, I had speculated on how nonprofits might be impacted in the New Normal. But I haven’t shared any thoughts on the big reset because it was all still too fuzzy for me. However, two recent random encounters during my morning walk provided me with an AH-HA moment.

Twice now I’ve crossed paths with a gentleman from India on my early morning walks. I had never met this man before. He is literally a stranger to me.

The first time we met, we were walking towards each other on the walking path. And as I always do with anyone I come across while out-and-about, I looked up, made eye contact, smiled and wished the stranger a “good morning.” What happened next took me by surprise.

This complete stranger returned my smile with one of his own. He came to a complete full-stop and just started talking at me as if we had known each other for quite some time. The following are just a few snippets from that conversation:

  • Hi, my name is ______________.
  • He was born in India and migrated to Canada as an adult.
  • When he decided to migrate from Canada to the United States, his friends told him that he needed to be OK with two things: 1) women work in America and 2) the weather is cold.
  • He used to drive a cab.

This literally went on and on for 10-minutes. Of course, I did my best to politely nod and grunt acknowledgements when it seemed appropriate to do so.

I chalked the entire experience up to a random chance encounter. But then it happened again approximately a week later.

Apparently, I was now his best friend. This time he simply stopped walking. There was no smile or pleasant social greetings. And he just started talking. It was almost as if the last conversation had never ended. For the next 15-minutes, we stood in drizzling rain and he expressed frustration and political opinions at me. He said things like . . .

  • He is a good citizen. He pays his taxes and doesn’t cheat. He can’t believe what the government is doing to the economy and to good people like him.
  • He’s been good. He is abiding by the shelter-in-place order. But he is a taxpayer. And he feels like a victim.
  • He has been reading about Asian-Americans being victimized because of the misguided belief that their community is to blame for COVID-19. He didn’t think that was right.
  • However, he thinks it is China’s fault and they need to be held accountable.
  • He is concerned about how nuclear powers like India, Pakistan, and Russia will be impacted by COVID-19 ,and what it means for all of our safety and security.
  • I don’t know how he got there, but he ended our conversation with lots of cheerleading for the state of Israel. And he emphatically concluded everything by stating that if George W. Bush were still President of the United States none of this would be happening.

As you can imagine, I was slack-jawed. And the only thing I found myself saying periodically throughout the conversation was, “Well, all we can do right now is practice patience and acceptance.” To which he never really responded and would just dive back into the conversation where he had left off.

Both times I walked away feeling like I had just tumbled down the rabbit hole and found myself in Wonderland.

So, I share these two experiences with you because I think the BIG RESET is going to feel like we’ve tumbled down a rabbit hole and landed in a strange and unfamiliar place.

Human beings are social creatures. And in my opinion, all of this social distancing will have people craving social interaction.

Trauma can take many different forms. And in my opinion, a community trauma is being perpetrated by this pandemic. While everyone reacts differently to trauma, I suspect some people might be heading into the BIG RESET with something similar to PTSD. I hope I am wrong.

But most importantly, I hope each of you take one thing away from this blog post, which is . . .

These people are your board members, volunteers, donors, staff and clients.

Are you ready? And if not, what are you doing to get ready?

Please use the comment box below to weigh-in with your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.

Erik Anderson

The world needs planning now more than ever before

Is this you sitting at home contemplating your organization’s New Normal?

<Yawn> I woke up at an early hour this morning in order to jump into a Zoom meeting with approximately 40 planning consultants and professionals. I think every single continent (except Antarctica) on this planet had representation. It’s hard to impress me, but this group was impressive.

While there were lots of “takeaways” for me over the course of this two hour virtual meeting, this was one of the biggest:

The world needs planning now, more than ever before.

While this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone coming from a group of planners, it was the reasoning that stands behind this statement that I found powerful.

Consider the facts:

  • Right now, the world is on “pause.” Billions of people’s lives have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and many of us are sheltering-in-place and cocooned in our homes.
  • The BIG RESET is coming. Some states are already lifting their stay-at-home orders. You can hear the drumbeat of more and more policymakers weighing in on how to un-pause the world in our daily news coverage.
  • Once the world is taken off of pause, it’s probably not going to look very pretty. In fact, I think it will look like a crowded theater full of people, who are all trying to simultaneously exit through one fire exit while panicking. Think about it for one moment (e.g. re-hiring or unfurloughing staff; rescheduling events; rebooting fundraising campaigns; retooling strategies to comply with continuing social distancing requirements; working with clients’, volunteers’ and donors’ virus fears and traumas; etc, etc, etc).
  • Therefore, the argument ends with this conclusion . . . those organizations who have a plan will do better than those who don’t.

Think about it for just a second. Before the movie begins, the public service announcer instructs you to locate the fire exits. You are essentially being asked to engage in a moment of thoughtful personal planning in case of an emergency.

So, here we are. Things are on fire. And before you mock me for being too dramatic consider the following:

  • Some donors will have less capacity to engage in charitable giving because of the stock market’s reaction to the pandemic.
  • Some volunteers will be fearful about returning to work with your clients because they might be in a high-risk group (e.g. 65-years-old, diabetes, etc) or maybe they are just virus-phobic now.
  • Some donors don’t have the technology to “go digital” and soliciting them the right way once the “new normal” materializes might be challenging and require flexibility/adaptability on your part.
  • Social distancing and public health best practices will stay with us for years according to some reports, and with these new practices come increased organizational and operational costs.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I just don’t want to engage in fear mongering. <yawn> It’s literally too easy to do right now.

So, do you know where your fire exits are? Are your board members and staff ready to run once the world comes off of “pause“?

I think the case for “the world needs planning, now more than ever before” is strong. It is the reason why I developed and rolled out two new services at The Healthy Non-Profit last week: “Coronavirus Coaching” and “Evolving Your 2020 Fundraising Plan To Survive Coronavirus“.

But I don’t want to turn this blog post into a sales pitch and commercial for my consulting practice.

What I’m really interested in hearing from you is . . .

  • What have you specifically done to prepare for the “BIG RESET”?
  • How did you engage your board in those planning discussions while practicing social distancing and complying with stay-at-home orders?
  • What’s the biggest thing weighing on your mind as we inch closer and closer to re-opening our communities?

Please use the comment box below to weigh-in with your thoughts. We can all learn from each other.

Erik Anderson

Donor engagement COVID-19 style

Ever since my state’s coronavirus stay-at-home went into a effect in mid-March, it has been raining webinars in my email inbox. And with time on my hands, I decided to participate in LOTS of them. However, more than a month later, I think I’m finally a little webinar-ed out.

Interestingly, I think almost every webinar presenter drove home the point that regardless of whether your non-profit is on the front-lines or not, you should be “engaging” your donors during this pandemic.

I recently started a side gig working 8-hours/week for an organization doing some resource development work. I thought it might help keep my skills sharp. So, as I started thinking about how to help my organization “engage” its donors more deeply, here is what I cam up with:

  • We’re now sending out a Constant Contact e-update with coronavirus motivated content every Monday using donor-centered verbiage and content
  • We’re now posting every day on our Facebook page and sharing that mission-focused content to other popular community Facebook groups when appropriate
  • We put a script together and asked board members to make “Checking In To Say Hello” phone calls with key donors
  • We recently pushed out a survey asking donors to weigh-in on important questions that will impact how we move forward once the stay-at-home order is lifted (e.g. how likely will they be to attend events, are they comfortable using video conferencing services, what does charitable giving look like for them over the next 12-months, etc)

The response has been good. Donors really seem to appreciate these efforts. And why wouldn’t they? After all, fundraising professionals are always telling donors how they are “part of the family.” And isn’t it a natural inclination for many people to reach out to family during difficult times? I think so.

OK, there are so many rabbit holes I could go down with this blog post, but I am going to stop here. I’m simply going to resist pontificating on the how’s and the why’s associated with this topic.

Instead, I’m inviting all of you to use the comment box to share what other “donor communications strategies” you are employing or see others doing. And how are you personalizing those communications strategies?

We can all learn from each other!

Erik Anderson

Just take that virtual

photo of man using laptop
Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on

“Oh, that’s easy . . . just go virtual.”
It seems like every time I turn around, some non-profit expert is glibly sharing this advice with an executive director or fundraising professional who is experiencing organizational challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are a handful of real life examples I’ve come across in just the last few days:

  • We had to cancel our annual dinner” . . . no worries, just do a virtual event
  • We had to cancel our auction fundraiser” . . . just do an online auction
  • We can’t provide services to our clients during this stay-at-home order” . . . have you heard of Zoom
  • The print shop is closed and I can’t get my newsletter produced” . . . use Constant Contact and turn it into an e-newsletter

If I put a little effort into this crazy coronavirus inspired exercise, I’m sure that I can come up with another five examples in less than five minutes. I’m not kidding.
I don’t mean to suggest anyone should be ungrateful for the advice. But I really wish everyone would stop dispensing this type of sugar-coated advice. It is overly simplistic. And dare I say, it can even feel a little dismissive.
Going “virtual” is simply not as easy as it sounds. Consider the following issues I’ve seen non-profit organization’s grappling with just this week:

  • Employees lack the skills to do what needs to be done to take programming and services virtual
  • Internet bandwidth is challenging
  • Hardware is lacking
  • Software or online services hasn’t been acquired yet
  • The organization’s budget can’t support those tech investments
  • A digital divide in the community means clients don’t have access
  • Not every donor has a Facebook account

My “pandemic wish” for the non-profit thought-leadership community is to stop tossing around nuggets of meaningless advice and let’s start getting specific.
For example, rather than simply saying, “just pivot and take your fundraising event online,” let’s explore the organization’s current state.  What systems do they have in place? What needs to be put in place to support their people? How does going virtual impact their organizational culture and the direction they were heading before the pandemic hit?
Then after getting answers to all of the assessment questions, let’s get specific about live streaming vs. recorded online videos or cross-channel donor communications utilizing email, text, website and social media.
OK, I’m going to get down off my soapbox because this rant is going to get nerdy very quickly.
I’m interested in hearing from you about how “going virtual” (aka your digital strategies) is working for you? What hiccups, if any, are you encountering? How are you solving those challenges?
Please share your experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other!
Be well, stay safe!
Erik Anderson

New Normal in the coronavirus era

Business man pointing the text: EngagementI’ve come to dislike the phrase “New Normal.” I think it is because so-called-experts have overused it. And when they do use it, they normally fail to associate any meaning to it. So, they sound smart without actually being smart.
Unfortunately, I cannot find any good replacements for the phase “New Normal.” If you have suggestions, I encourage you to please share them in the comment box below.
My sneaking suspicion is that all of us have different visions in our heads about what the “New Normal” during the coronavirus era is going to look like. And these various visions are all informed by different data points streaming into our daily digital lives.
For example, I read the following article from USA Today titled “When will a second wave of the coronavirus hit, and what will it look like?” I then had a conversation with a Boys & Girls Club professional friend of mine about how this potential future state might impact how they operate once their state’s stay-at-home order is lifted.
Here is an abbreviated synopsis of what that organization is thinking about:

  • Personal protective equipment for staff and the children they serve
  • Organized hand washing activities
  • Social distancing of 6-feet dictating reconfiguration of spaces
  • Social distancing impacts programs/activities (e.g. no contact sports or large group programming, cancellation of field trips, etc)
  • Social distancing results in fewer youth being allowed in the facility at one-time, which has staff contemplating assigned program shifts
  • Disinfecting/sanitation of spaces in between shifts
  • Fewer youth served has staff looking into taking some programming online
  • Online programming has staff worried about how many of their members are impacted by “digital divide” challenges (e.g. inability to access hardware, lack of home wifi, etc)
  • Reviewing / revising / developing new written plans, policies, and procedures on how to operate in the corona virus era (e.g. what do they do if a child or staff member gets sick? how long do they need to stay home? what proof will be required for them to return? do all families need to be informed? does it trigger a temporary shutdown and period of self-isolation?)

I need to stop here, but this list of considerations and questions went on-and-on for the better part of an hour.
And it became overwhelming very quickly.
As I’ve mulled over this conversation over the last few days, I’ve come to the following conclusions. Hopefully, some of this will help as you contemplate your organization’s “New Normal“:

  • Don’t make assumptions — talk to your clients, staff, board members, volunteers, donors, vendors, etc (e.g. how many of your clients actually have access to tech, etc)
  • Don’t wing it — put everything in writing because organizational structure allows you the ability to assure people (e.g. clients, donors, staff, etc) that you’ve thought things through and can be trusted
  • Be knowledgeable — understand the ins-and-outs of your local and state governmental orders and regulations; engage your insurance provider in what’s covered or excluded in your policies
  • Be a leader — tell people what you’ve learned, offer various options, and share your recommendations because group decision-making right now seems to be an exercise in paralysis by analysis

So, what data points are you seeing in your new virtual world? What ideas are floating through your head regarding your organizations potential “New Normal?” Please share in the comment box below. Because we can all learn from each other.  😉
Erik Anderson

Welcome to the coronavirus era and the New Normal

Has the coronavirus era have you feeling like this person in the picture? The you aren’t alone.

Hello God it is me, Erik.
Sorry to those of you who haven’t seen a blog post from me recently. It has been two-and-a-half-years since my last post. I apologize for dropping off the face of the planet so abruptly. It was rude of me. Please accept my apologies. And I hope those of you still tuned in and subscribed will join me as I try to breath life into my blog.
So, you’re probably wondering a few things:

  • Why is Erik blogging again?
  • What’s the deal with the Judy Blume reference at the beginning of this reboot post?

Well, I am entering my tenth year of business as The Healthy Non-Profit LLC. And the world and our beloved non-profit sector has been turned upside down in recent weeks by the COVID-19 pandemic. I cannot tell you how many phone calls I’ve received from non-profit friends and former clients. At the end of each of those conversations, I found myself thinking . . .

Huh? That was a great question and a good discussion about all of this madness . . . I should really share some of that with others.

It didn’t take long for me to conclude that I needed to fire-up the blog again.
However, if I were being 100% honest with you, I’d confide in you that all of this staying-at-home and sheltering-in-place is a little lonely. The extrovert inside of me craves connection. So, I’ve decided to let my “inner-writer” out of the box. The box that I put him in a few years ago as my workload became too big to sustain my blogging habits.
As for the Judy Blume reference at the beginning of this post, it signals a shift in direction for my blog. In Blume’s book — “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” — the main character is a young teenage girl, who is in search of a single religion, while encountering “firsts” in life as she enters puberty.
As I see our world entering into the coronavirus era, I see non-profit leaders like you also experiencing an explosive series of “firsts.” In the coming weeks and months, I plan on using my blog platform to spotlight those “firsts” and encourage you to share your thoughts in the comment box section (as I always have) about how you plan on moving forward into this “New Normal.”
Speaking of “New Normal,” this brings me to the point I really wanted to make with today’s blog post . . .
I don’t know about you, but if I hear one more “expert” or “thought-leader” toss out the words “New Normal” or “Take it digital” as a trite response to someone’s serious question about “Uh-oh, what should we do now?” I VERY WELL MIGHT JUST SCREAM!
Look . . . I get it . . . we are entering a “new normal.” And uncertainty is always accompanied by fear. But let’s stop tossing words around in an effort to sound smart.
Instead, please join me through this blog, and let’s explore how you and other non-profit leaders are going to define this “New Normal.” I hoping to look more closely at how the virus will impact fundraising, board governance, organizational development, and much more.
Finally, I should also mention one last change to this blog from how I used to do things in the past.
I’m going to be less prescriptive with solutions than I previously had been. My posts will be shorter (I hope). They will simply spotlight things I’m seeing, hearing, reading, etc. I will invite you to weigh-in with your thoughts and experiences. However, I will stop short of using this digital space to conduct free consulting and coaching work.
For those of you looking for help with your coronavirus era issues, I have been and will continue to roll-out new virtual services over at The Healthy Non-Profit’s website. Services such as “Coronavirus Coaching” and “Evolving Your 2020 Fundraising Plan To Survive Coronavirus” are just two examples. Please contact me directly if you want to chat more about these things or if you have services you want me to explore and develop.
So, until the next blog post, please stay healthy and safe!
Erik Anderson

Are you making decisions for your board members' time?

Macro photo of tooth wheel mechanism with PARTICIPATING concept letters

Just the other day I was in a conference room with a non-profit executive director and their board president. I was asking questions such as:

  • why did your board decide to go from meeting every month to every other month?
  • why are we having a hard time getting board members to the table to engage in a little planning work?
  • why is it that getting board members to participate is still difficult even though we keep doing things to make it easier?

You get the idea.
Of course, the answers to these questions aren’t easy and they can vary from organization-to-organization. The following are just a few explanations:

  • they are recruiting volunteers with the wrong traits, skills and experiences to serve on their board
  • they aren’t doing a good job with setting expectations during the recruitment process
  • they might not even have a structured recruitment and onboarding/orientation process in place
  • they might not be using board governance best practices in the boardroom, which results in long, boring “report meetings,” and what busy person has time for that?!?!

However, to my surprise, the answer I heard back on most of these questions was, “I know these are busy people and I’m just trying to be respectful of their time. So, I try not to set up too many meetings or ask them to do too many things.
At face value, this sounds very respectful. Right?
But what if you turn this situation around and look at it from a different perspective? What would you see?
When I did this, I saw a person making decisions about other people’s time. And in all seriousness, what right does anyone have to do that?
Maybe I tend to look at the world too simplistically. But doesn’t it make more sense for . . .

  • non-profit staff to wear the hat that involves identifying all of the work and volunteer opportunities necessary to fulfill the organization’s mission and vision?
  • board members and other volunteers to wear the hat that involves saying “YES” or “NO” to which opportunities they wish to participate?

OK, so I can already hear some of my non-profit friends muttering about scarce resources (e.g. only so many volunteers) and the organizational priorities that must be achieved. To this,I simply say a few things:

  1. Perhaps, your planning processes need to do a better job at prioritizing organizational needs (aka not everything is a high priority)
  2. Perhaps, you should choose a different planning model (e.g. alignment model, search conference, etc)
  3. Perhaps, you should use this paradigm shift to recruit more volunteers and align your recruitment efforts with those projects that need more people power

While this thinking might not be the right answer for you, I urge you to put thought into the following question:

“How can you stop making decisions for your volunteers’ time?”

Why? Because it is presumptuous of you to think it is your right to make those decisions in the first place.
Disagree with me? Agree with me? AwesomeSauce! Please scroll down and tell me why using the comment box below.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Need some input from readers on 'Organizational Best Practices' to use with board members

Good morning, DonorDreams readers!
This is part five in a five part series that I started last week with two posts titled:

If you’ve read the previous two blog posts, you know I’m trying to write an eBook on the topic of “How to Engage Board Volunteers.” So far, I’ve taken my inspiration from an old favorite training curriculum titled “Inspiring & Managing Your Board for Fundraising Success,” and I’ve divided my eBook into the following sections:

  • Setting Expectations
  • Accountability & Urgency
  • Planning
  • Mission-focus
  • Organizational Best Practices

Within these sections, I want to provide samples and explanations of tools and practices that successful non-profit leaders use to keep their board volunteers engaged.*
The following set of tools (probably better characterized as ‘practices’) are ones I’ve identified as being effective in implementing simple “organizational best practices:”

What other tools or practices have you used to keep your organization organized and meetings running efficiently?
Please take a minute out of your busy schedule to provide some feedback. Your suggestions on additional tools is also greatly appreciated.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847
*Note: I would be extremely grateful if you would share your best organization’s resources for possible inclusion as a sample in my eBook. If you are concerned about organizational privacy/confidentiality, I am more than willing to redact your organization’s name from whatever documents you provide if that is what you desire.

Need some input from readers on 'How to Do Planning' with board members

Good morning, DonorDreams readers!
This is part four in a five part series that I started a few weeks with two posts titled:

If you’ve read the previous blog posts, you know I’m trying to write an eBook on the topic of “How to Engage Board Volunteers.” So far, I’ve taken my inspiration from an old favorite training curriculum titled “Inspiring & Managing Your Board for Fundraising Success,” and I’ve divided my eBook into the following sections:

  • Setting Expectations
  • Accountability & Urgency
  • Planning
  • Mission-focus
  • Organizational Best Practices

Within these sections, I want to provide samples and explanations of tools and practices that successful non-profit leaders use to keep their board volunteers engaged.*
The following set of tools (probably better characterized as ‘practices’) are ones I’ve identified as being effective in the area of “Planning:”

I believe it is important to remember how many different plans potentially can exist under your organizational umbrella. The following is an incomplete list of plans I’ve seen throughout my years in the sector:

  • Long range plan
  • Strategic plan
  • Tactical plan
  • Business plan
  • Resource development plan
  • Board development plan
  • Marketing plan
  • Facility maintenance plan
  • Compensation & Benefits plan
  • Annual performance plan
  • Individual development plan
  • Program plan

What other tools or practices have you used to clearly communicate ideas such as:

  • Why board participation in planning important?
  • Why participation from other stakeholder groups in planning important?
  • Why are so many plans important to the success of your non-profit organization?
  • How to align plans for internal efficiency

Please take a minute out of your busy schedule to provide some feedback. Your suggestions on additional tools is also greatly appreciated.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847
*Note: I would be extremely grateful if you would share your best organization’s resources for possible inclusion as a sample in my eBook. If you are concerned about organizational privacy/confidentiality, I am more than willing to redact your organization’s name from whatever documents you provide if that is what you desire.

Are you registered for the 2017 Nonprofit Leadership Summit?

Happy Labor Day to all of my friends in the non-profit sector!
Here are a few fast facts about the non-profit labor force in the United States:

  • The non-profit sector accounts for more than 10% of the United States’ labor force (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Approximately one-quarter of Americans volunteer time via a non-profit organization (Independent Sector)
  • If the non-profit sector were a country, it would rank sixteenth among the 199 nations tracked by the World Bank (Urban Institute)

So, I think it goes without saying that it is important to invest in our sector’s leadership and people development. For this reason, I am proud to share with you that I’m one of this year’s presenters at the 2017 Nonprofit Leadership Summit.
I know what you’re thinking . . .

Ugh, another conference that my resource deprived non-profit organization cannot afford to send me.

But you’d be wrong.
This three day VIRTUAL conference is affordable and time efficient. If you haven’t given this online event any consideration, then I strongly urge you check it out ASAP because you only have a few days remaining to sign up for more expert advice than you can possibly imagine! And did I mention there are 19 CFRE credits available to those fundraising professionals who need continuing education opportunities?
Still not convinced?
OK, then please click-through to YouTube and watch a short (and dare I say FUN) interview Mazarine Treyz did with me a few weeks ago that she titled “Plan B from Outer Space! Interview with Erik Anderson of The Healthy Nonprofit” about my upcoming presentation. You can also find a transcript and more details on the Wild Woman Fundraising website.
Here is one more fast fact on this beautiful Labor Day holiday . . .

The employee turnover rate in the non-profit sector is approaching 20% and it is growing.

Show your employees they are valued by allowing them to participate in things like the 2017 Nonprofit Leadership Summit. Investing in your labor force:

  • helps address turnover
  • addresses leadership succession planning
  • illustrates that you’re a good boss

Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847