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5 ways smart nonprofits can soar over COVID-19 and into the future

By Andrea Kihlstedt
May 8, 2020

Photo by Kid Circus on Unsplash

As we start another month of social distancing and working from home, the immediate crisis has begun to feel somewhat routine. For some nonprofits, this is a period of non-stop action serving on the frontlines of the epidemic. For others, it’s a time of enforced idleness.

If your organization falls into the second category, use this time to turn your attention to the future. And not just the short-term future.

Imagine yourself on a magical pogo stick. You are leaping higher and higher until finally, with one big sproing, you’ve soared right over the pandemic and come down two or three years hence, when your organization and your fundraising program are everything you’ve always wanted them to be.

What would your organization look like if, knowing what you know now, you could build it from scratch? What kind of a board would you have? Would you provide services in exactly the same way? How would your fundraising program work? Would you still rely so heavily on fundraising events, or would you really lean in to major gifts?

Let your mind run free. Call into question things you’ve never before considered changing. If you think better in conversation, you might ask some other people from your organization to imagine with you—keeping social distance, of course.

Prepare a path from here to there

Right now, in this time of uncertainty and pause, you have a remarkable opportunity to rethink and reimagine your work.

The world as you knew it has ceased to exist. People are calling into question basic assumptions. What seemed stuck and rigid a few short weeks ago is now open for questioning and redesign.

Some of the changes you are living through are made possible by the technology that enables virtual connection. But the most profound changes are based on the opportunity to reconsider how your organization carries out its mission.

You have a chance while you are going through this time of social distancing and enforced quietness to rethink what really matters. If you wait, it may be too late.

Answer these five questions as a way to kick-start your thinking and get you on that giant pogo stick ride right into a new way of being. Keep in mind as you write your answers that many of them will result from the new opportunities for effective, virtual communication.

  1. Relevance: List three reasons your organization matters. And three ways it might matter more.
  1. Constituency: List three ways your organization could serve more people—and do so more effectively.
  1. Fundraising: List three ways you might expand the number of donors who feel strongly connected to your organization.
  1. Board commitment: List three changes you’d make to increase the commitment of each of your board members.
  1. Work/life: List five ways you’d like to reshape the way you work and live to create a healthy balance.

Don’t worry for the moment about the challenges of changing your organization.

This simple exercise is designed to help you envision the future. That in itself will start to create a path forward. If you find it useful, you might invite some colleagues, donors, and board members to create their versions and then set up a virtual meeting or two to discuss the ideas.

To discuss how to pivot your fundraising or design a capital campaign to pogo stick your organization, visit the Capital Campaign Toolkit and sign up for a free pivot session with one of our campaign experts

Tags: Novel coronavirus (COVID-19); Fundraising