Nonprofits Can Survive and ThriveOur hearts and prayers go out to all who are suffering due to the Coronavirus. This is a challenging time for all Americans. Millions are under lockdown orders to reduce the risk of community spread of the virus.
2020 is a Year of Change
The future for nonprofits will be much more virtual. Nonprofits should use eMarketing tools to create many more welcome, positive contacts with donors. Everyone in philanthropy can now clearly see the future of donor cultivation is a few personal contacts, modest print contacts and many welcome, positive eContacts.
We all are now in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis. What should we do? As was true in 2002 and 2009, successful nonprofits will survive and thrive by taking wise and prudent actions. The keys to success are to change what you can control, focus on your mission, build excellent teams and have great timing.
I. Change What You Can Control
Dr. Henry Cloud is a respected psychologist with extensive experience in business consulting. In Boundaries for Leaders, he describes his 2009 consulting efforts with CEOs and executives from Wall Street companies. Many executives were shocked and devastated by the Great Recession. Some were so stunned they could not respond and take proper actions.
But those who survived and thrived had a simple method. They wrote down what they could not change and what they could change. The “survive and thrive” executives then promptly started to work on the things they could change. There was still a struggle, but the decision to take positive action to make constructive changes assured a successful outcome.
Nonprofit executives cannot change the Coronavirus crisis. However, you can take steps to protect staff, donors and those served in your charitable work. You can continue to communicate a positive message of gratitude to your donors.
In 2009 some nonprofits reduced communication with donors. Other nonprofit leaders increased communication and said, “We know it is a challenging time, but we are faithfully following our mission to make the world a better place. If you can continue to support us, we will be most appreciative!” Nonprofits who continued to reach out and expand their welcome, positive donor contacts during 2009 survived and later thrived.
Each nonprofit has a primary charitable mission. A crisis is a great time to review your structure, communications and operations. You should ask, “Are we properly focused on our primary mission? How can we serve our friends and donors better?”
The Coronavirus crisis is an excellent opportunity to improve all of our programs to fulfill that mission.
Teams that work effectively together are essential for success. In a crisis, your teams create the pathway to survive and thrive.
With the Coronavirus crisis, hospitals, medical research centers, hospices, relief organizations, rescue missions and a thousand other nonprofits have critical missions. Leaders must build strong teams to take effective, positive and daily steps to fulfill the charitable mission. More than ever before, America needs effective nonprofit teams to serve millions in need.
One practical challenge today is staff separation to comply with lockdown orders. We miss the comradery and interaction each day when everyone is in the office. Your teams need to be in regular communication and also maintain a sense of community. Email is not enough. Daily phone calls can foster a spirit of community.
A crisis is the best time to move forward. I survey gift officers and ask for a one-word description of their marketing program. Quite a few gift officers (especially in midsized organizations) use the word “Reactive”.
Our timing is up to us. We have a choice to be proactive or reactive to the Coronavirus crisis. If we hope to survive and thrive, we need to be proactive. A proactive nonprofit is already increasing welcome, positive contacts with donors. As the late Dr. Jerry Panas observed, loyal donors recognize the need and will support nonprofits at the same and even greater levels when there is a crisis.
Many donors are also under lockdown. There is less traveling, they are not going out for dinner and donors have spare time. As a result, many donors are eager to hear news from their favorite nonprofit through enewsletters, webcasts, website updates and other virtual channels.
Plan to Survive and Thrive
In Great By Choice, author Jim Collins describes the 1911 race to the South Pole. Explorers Robert F. Scott and Roald Amundsen had two different strategies. If there was bad weather, Scott stayed in camp. When the weather improved, he tried to travel over 20 miles per day. Good weather or bad, the Norwegian Amundsen traveled 20 miles. He proceeded 20 miles each day and on Dec. 15, 1911, Amundsen planted the Norwegian flag on the South Pole. Scott’s team was second to the South Pole and did not return, but Amundsen and his team returned to a hero’s welcome in Europe.
Collins has studied thousands of for-profits and nonprofits. His research shows the single most important characteristic for success is the 20 miles per day goal. In good weather and bad, you and your team show up and move forward 20 miles per day. You do this for days, weeks, months and years.
What is your decision? Will the Coronavirus crisis cause you to stay in camp? Or will you accept the Coronavirus challenge and continue to move forward 20 miles per day? The “survive and thrive” nonprofits will steadily move forward 20 miles per day. I look forward to seeing them join Roald Amundsen on the top of the winner’s podium.
By Charles Schultz
President/CEO, Crescendo Interactive, Inc.
March 25, 2020 5:21 PM PT
Charles, Thank you for such sage advise and sharing your wisdom. Your message assures us at Cal Poly Pomona that we are doing what we should during this unprecedented time. My sainted brother told me years ago there are three types of people walking on the planet, those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what's happening! While being sensitive to the nature of the times and our donor concerns, we move forward to make things happen. All the best, and again, thanks for showing us how to make things happen.
March 25, 2020 7:51 PM PT
Thanks for your kind words. Yes, it is a good time to make things happen. You are on the right track!
March 26, 2020 8:38 AM PT
Thank you for this article, it is helpful. Have you had a chance to review the new Bill and the changes in charitable giving.
March 26, 2020 1:00 PM PT