While we might not be done with the battle against COVID-19 and not yet ready to do a full analysis of what we’ve learned, we have certainly learned a lot from organizing during the first 18 months of the pandemic. Here are some of the key takeaways we can carry forward when we eventually return to “normal.”
Video/hybrid model events
There will always be people who cannot attend your meeting or event, whether it’s because they are out of town, parenting or caregiving, don’t have transportation, are sick, or are facing inclement weather. Having a virtual option allows people who are unable to attend in-person to still be a part of a meeting or event. The more that people stay involved and connected to your organization, the more effective your organization will be. Allowing folks to not have to choose between caring for their sick child or parent and attending your meeting will strengthen your connection to your members and stakeholders and they likely won’t forget it. We want the folks involved in our mission to be whole and complete people, so we need to allow them the flexibility to do so and still be connected to the mission.
Digital is essential
We have been shouting this from our soapbox for years, but some leaders have been reluctant to embrace digital media. Even when decision makers supported digital organizing, they might not have given it the budget it deserved. Only when many other tools from our organizing toolbox were removed and rendered unusable did the majority of the population see the true value in digital organizing. When we return to a space where we have more tools at our disposal, we need to ensure that digital is still prioritized and budgeted accordingly because it’s vital in all climates, not just during pandemics. We now live in a digital world, so having a digital presence is simply not optional anymore, it’s essential.
Never stop asking for money
Prior to the pandemic, nonprofit leaders would shy away from asking for money in difficult times. This entire year and most of last year were difficult, and if we stopped asking for money when people were struggling or folks were emotionally overwhelmed, we wouldn’t have any nonprofits left. We have instituted best practices around acknowledging how people are doing, and even giving the option to opt-out of certain types of messages. If you are doing good, necessary work, you should always be demonstrating your value and asking for what you need — even in tough times.
Have you heard the phrase “bend so you don’t break?” The organizations that were able to adapt and change course quickly were the ones that have survived this crisis and even thrived. Organizations that didn’t have the budget, the leadership, or the policies in place to easily pivot had a much harder time navigating the pandemic, and many didn’t make it through. If you want your organization to survive, you have to allow for change. This is why it’s so crucial for nonprofits to have unrestricted funds, and for campaigns to have leaders who know when to reallocate budget to digital tactics.
When we return to normal, whatever and whenever that is, it is crucial that we carry on the important lessons we learned during the pandemic. Learning to adapt and adjust to change is key to maintaining and advancing a successful organization.