Adaptation. Can we call this the most appropriate word to describe our businesses and lives for the past year? You’ve likely become an expert at change and flexibility. Challenges surrounding the coronavirus pandemic have canceled in-person fundraising campaigns and reduced funds coming in while at the same time increasing the needs of the beneficiaries you serve. You’re probably exhausted and ready for things to get back to “normal.”
The good news is that the availability of vaccines now offers hope for the reopening and reemergence of much of society and the economy. There’s also hope that along the way we’ve gained momentum for positive changes in areas of justice and racial equity. Also, now that we’ve been at this adaptation thing for over a year, organizations have figured out best practices for pivoting the work. Positive changes are being made in every aspect of the business. From donor engagement to the way employees work.
So now that a bit of normalcy is returning, how can your nonprofit prepare to stay on top of the changing society? There are several trends that you’ll want to consider as we move into a vaccinated phase of this pandemic.
Implement Reopening Strategies in the Workplace
If your nonprofit is essential, you’ve likely been running on full speed without a break. Your experience of the next phase may involve a refreshment rather than a reopening. However, for many nonprofits who aren’t labeled “essential,” you’re likely in the phase of returning to a new normal. One transition that may be top of is mind is how to transition employees back to physically working in the office.
When employees return to the office after working remotely for so long, it’s important to remember we’ve all been through change. Whether that means an employee has lost a loved one, battled illness themselves, or is still in the middle of balancing a changed child care situation, life is not the same.
What this means for your office is the value of taking a posture of understanding. Start by keeping discussions real and being willing to offer accommodations and/or support as needed. This might look like offering continued remote work options, access to mental health services, resources for transportation assistance, or simply giving grace when recognizing everyone has something “else” happening in their non-work life.
Of course, your workplace layout needs to be a safe place. It will be important to follow CDC guidelines in regards to physical distancing, cleaning protocols, and mask requirements. Employees who are expected to physically work in the building must have access to a safe workspace and cleaning and sanitizing products. In many ways virus-proofing your workspace will feel similar to child-proofing a home. It requires a keen eye and a specific perspective.
Offsetting the need to implement social distancing requirements, is the reality that an increased workload may mean you need to hire more staff or acquire additional volunteers. Above all as you think about bringing people back into your office environment and assisting people in need, keep in mind the priority is to keep the community safe. For specific guidance and additional resources about COVID and the workplace, see the CDC resource center for small businesses.
Accept Remote Work as a New Normal
While you welcome some employees and volunteers back into the office, it will be vital to also continue supporting remote workers. For many organizations, remote work has become a new normal. In fact, Forbes reported results from a survey by Nonprofit HR indicating that 69% of nonprofits can accommodate working from home for all their staff and the same number said they are considering remote work even after the crisis passes.
If your nonprofit has not already done so, create a remote work policy. In it, clearly outline expectations for the work expected from remote workers and guidelines particularly instructing accessing the organization’s data. You’ve likely already discovered the value in keeping workers accountable through a solid communication schedule. This is a great time to evaluate the communication plan and make changes to adjust to the new working situation.
Build on the Trend of Social Justice Awareness
Nonprofits have long played an important role in solving inequities and bringing about societal change. With the current countrywide conversation taking place specifically around systematic racism, the challenges of marginalized peoples, and understanding the concept of privilege, nonprofits have the opportunity to play a crucial role in social justice.
Your organization can have an impact in a variety of ways, but perhaps the most important one is to continue on with the mission you already have. Revisit the core values and mission statement you’ve operated by in the past and ask questions about what it looks like to carry your specific mission forward in light of the growing understanding of the need for change in communities across the country. For some organizations that already serve less advantaged groups, there may be a clear path for involvement. Now is the time to focus on the work you are doing and facilitate opportunities for others to partner with you.
If the mission of your nonprofit is not necessarily focused on marginalized communities, this is an opportunity to be creative. Brainstorm ways of taking what you do best and apply that toward assisting vulnerable populations. Take the initiative to translate what you are doing into sustained and lasting innovations.
One way to be involved in change is to take advantage of the organizational structures you already have. Use your communication resources and your platform to rally people logistically, physically, and with relevant information. Even the methods you use for fundraising may be valuable if offered to assist in community social justice causes.
Increase Value Added by Providing Vaccine Support
You have a valuable community already built that is trusted and poised to make a difference in your local area. Capitalize on the trust you’ve built by encouraging people to get vaccinated. Messaging from your profit may be the exact encouragement minority groups in your community need to make the decision to be vaccinated. In 2020, nonprofits helped to register millions of voters. In the same way, you also have an important role to play in encouraging people to get a vaccine. The trusted relationships you already have with marginalized communities in your community means your encouragement to get vaccinated may be the message that convinces a hesitant person to protect themselves.
Continue to Leverage Digital Experiences?
Many nonprofits feel the most painful impact from the COVID-19 pandemic relates to fundraising. At this time, when there are increased needs at every turn, fundraising efforts haven’t been able to continue as in the past and many nonprofits have experienced a decline in giving. According to a poll conducted by CAF America, 93.7% of nonprofits surveyed around the world have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Of these organizations, a reduction in contributions received was the area in which the highest percentage reported experiencing a negative change (72.54%). This area of impact is by far the most commonly experienced with the next area negatively impacted being travel restrictions (53.09%).
While it may be true that donations have declined since the start of the pandemic, successful nonprofits have adapted to restrictions by orchestrating digital events. Even as vaccines are available, and people are able to gather more freely, it’s likely that these online fundraisers will continue to be an important way to raise money. In fact, there are countless possibilities to use hybrid fundraising events where donors are able to choose whether to participate online or in person.
Of course, these events can’t replace the benefits of gathering in person, but they do have a few advantages. Holding a fundraiser online creates the opportunity for more people to participate. Rather than being limited by space in a venue, digital events usually have no limits in the number of people who can attend. In addition, potential donors who don’t live nearby can participate online while they may not have been able to drive to attend a physical fundraiser.
Not only is there potential to continue digital fundraising, but successful nonprofits are finding it’s easier to engage with certain donors online and gain valuable information about them and their preferences along the way. Cultivating what works with donors and what doesn’t as well as understanding how donors respond to certain messages will add tons of helpful data going forward.
Understand Local Effects.
Much of the response to the coronavirus pandemic has been fragmented. You’ll find different guidelines and restrictions across the country. Because the response and shut-downs were completely varied, the reopening challenges and opportunities are also varied. Take a look at this state-by-state analysis for information about how the pandemic is affecting nonprofits in your local area. You’ll also find a fantastic analysis for individual sectors regarding specific considerations for your area of focus.
By Angie Reedy