“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!