“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 https://thehealthynonprofit.com/ https://www.facebook.com/thehealthynonprofit/
I’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 aleader — 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
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 https://thehealthynonprofit.com/ https://www.facebook.com/thehealthynonprofit/