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Moving Forward

by | Sep 30, 2020

Six months ago, it seemed like just about everyone was discussing how to get through a temporary crisis until returning to normal might be possible. The reality is now setting in that COVID-19 isn’t going away soon.

As the pandemic continues, it’s increasingly important to discover sustainable ways to move forward. The AFP St. Louis Gateway Conference on Philanthropy, aptly titled “Back to the Future: Looking Ahead with 20/20 Vision,” recently took on that challenge.

There were several themes that emerged through the event, and they echo the kinds of conversations M&C is having as we forge ahead in the midst of unknowns. Here are a few points ringing true for a variety of organizations: 

  • Quality communication is more important than ever. Clear communication builds trust, and donors who trust you will stick with you. Tell your story well, use data to personalize messaging, be honest when something has to change–because it will–and celebrate any successes. Good donor stewardship has always involved great communication, but it’s becoming essential to survive.

  • Pivot and don’t allow yourself to get stuck. With so much up in the air, there’s a lot of fear and “analysis paralysis” as one speaker said. You have to be nimble. Get the right people in the right positions to make quick decisions when necessary. Find new ways to work or to hold meetings and events. And be open to the reality that some temporary changes might be good for your organization permanently. This is another reason quality communication is crucial.

  • Build and maintain relationships. Relationships are key and now is a good time to look at how you bring people into your mission, especially with your online presence. Make sure there are multiple options for people, particularly younger people, to connect. For someone who can’t make substantial gifts right now, how can they volunteer, make smaller gifts or contribute in other ways? If you cultivate relationships and appreciate people appropriately, then they’ll be ready to give more when they’re able down the road.

  • Embracing change is a chance to give more people opportunities. In addition to the virus, this year brought attention to racial injustice. Many things are shifting or being questioned in the nonprofit sector and society at large. Where are there openings to change systems and structures in meaningful ways within your organization and your community? This could be a moment to help create a more equitable world.

If you’re not already talking about what you can learn from 2020, start now. Taking time to reflect on experiences and apply the lessons will benefit your organization. Using best practices and the unique ideas working for you will let people know we really are moving forward and in this together–and they’ll continue to support you, whatever the future holds.

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