Former Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, once said "Never waste a good crisis." Coronavirus is definitely a crisis. As well as worrying about family, friends and community, many in the charity sector are focused on the problems being caused by this epidemic including worries about how to keep our important work running when we are facing cancelled events, reduced donor meetings, and challenges getting folks to attend cultivation or stewardship events.
All those things are happening. And your charity still needs to make a difference in the community.
But all those things also create some huge opportunities for success. By working smarter, you can execute new ideas that will pay off now plus set you up for success down the road.
Take advantage of this time
If there are fewer meetings, events and donors are less willing to visit in person, you will have more time. This is a great chance to work ahead, to plan, to try new things. It's also a great chance to eliminate things that have needed to go for a while.
The dwindling event
Got an event past its prime? Maybe it is one that has been going for years. There are a few volunteers who are interested but honestly it is taking more staff time than it is generating. This may be the perfect chance to end this lagging event once and for all. Develop a strategy, make sure that your board, senior leaders are well briefed and that you do a great job of thanking the key volunteers, donors, and supporters. Then, let it go.
The stupid idea
You may have a super keen volunteer who wants to try something new, something that you can tell is going to cause lots of work, take lots of time but not yield results. This is your perfect excuse to suggest that this is not a good time to get meeting regularly with them to develop this idea, particularly if it is an event idea.
This is a prime moment to beef up social media engagement
Have you been trying for years to get your organization to get more active on social media? Here is a chance to get going, particularly if your events are less well attended. This is the chance you have been waiting for to build a social media community. Get that plan off your hard drive and start executing! Not sure where to start? The folks at NTEN are a great first step.
Get creative on contact
It may be hard to get donors out for cultivation or stewardship events. Why not invest in testing new ideas? This is a great chance to pilot new approaches and because people are reluctant to gather, you can use this chance to try new things with less risk associated with failed ideas. The key is to use the words "test" and "pilot" when selling this idea internally.
While these ideas may not fit for you, this is a chance to do something new and different. Even after the crisis is over, you may have found a new idea that you can continue to use.
If you are not in the habit of making regular thank you calls, or sending regular hand written thank you notes, here is a chance for you to get busy. Got some stewardship reports to do? Perfect timing! Never done stewardship reports? This is the perfect moment to start.
Toronto went through SARS in 2003 and both Canada and the charity sector got through it. We will get through this too. You have the chance to create something positive from this crisis that will help your charity be stronger to help the community more.
Hilborn Editor, Ann Rosenfield, has been through an earthquake, fires, bomb threats, and SARS while working in the charity sector. She is sure this will all turn out fine for the vast majority of us.