“Things are tough out there right now and I’m not sure they are going to get easier anytime soon. But I do know we will be able to get through this as long as we support each other and look to each other for solutions.”
- survey respondent
2020 has shown that our country and the charitable community are incredibly resilient. Our ability to function effectively as a charitable sector, tackle our priorities and engage our communities in the new realities of the COVID-19 world is evolving on a weekly basis. Though organizations are at different stages of transition, we are all learning how to best approach these uncertain times. And just like the community-based solutions used to contain the spread of COVID-19, we can tap into the same spirit of cooperation in the Canadian charitable non-profit community to succeed in the ‘new normal.’
In the spirit of cooperation, the Resilience 2020 Project has been created to seek input from Canadian charitable non-profit sector representatives to share their experiences, challenges, perceptions and insights on how to best carry-on in the short term and beyond. We are looking for your input and expertise on this pivotal initiative.
In the months ahead, we will be asking questions, facilitating discussions, and providing feedback on an ongoing basis, to highlight perspectives, best practices, and pitfalls to avoid. Please share your experiences and best practices to help the sector to adapt and prosper.
Our opening query received an amazing response with more than 20 non-profit sector representatives weighing in on three broad open-ended questions.
- What should Canada's charitable non-profit sector be currently doing to adapt to the short-term COVID-19 challenges?
- What should Canada's charitable non-profit sector be doing over the next two to four months to prepare for the new realities as we gradually transition out of the COVID-19 restrictions?
- What should Canada's charitable non-profit sector be doing to prepare for life after concerns about the pandemic have diminished?
A consensus of common themes, issues and ideas emerged with the focus clearly on the following:
- Cooperation and collaboration between organizations is necessary and a new approach (possibly radically different from the past).
- Donor and stakeholder stewardship and support, though taking place in a different way, must be carried out with perhaps even more frequency, with sincerity, sensitivity and demonstrated relevance to the fallout realities of the post COVID-19 world.
Here is a summary of your feedback:
Cooperation & Collaboration:
The public focus should be on organizations that support and advocate for frontline services. Hospitals, community care, food banks and the social service sector should remain the highest priority at this time. Beyond this immediate concern, there is a recognition that the challenging economic prospects brought on by the pandemic may result in the collapse of non-profits that are already struggling. There should be a renewed interest in amalgamation, merger or consolidation of organizations offering similar services or programs.
Communication with donors remains critically important for all non-profit organizations. During the crisis, communication should include reaching out in a sincere and proactive manner to ensure that donors are doing well, and connecting those who are not with the help that they require. A common suggestion is to creatively embrace video conference technology to reach out to donors or to adapt existing campaign events to virtual variations. This can and should be done, but there are two caveats:
First, it is important not to forget about those donors that prefer telephone and mail communications.
Secondly, as the economic realities of post-COVID-19 take hold, the demand for services will likely be far greater than ever before. Organizations must be prepared to effectively communicate their case for support in order to have the resources to meet the demands in a rapidly changing fundraising environment.
Non-profit charitable organizations must renew their strategic plans and adapt as efficiently as possible. Areas such as board governance and operations, potential mergers and organizational amalgamations, realigning donor outreach and stewardship are just some of the important issues raised. The bottom line is that there is likely going to be a large and sustained increase in demand for services with far less funds and resources available. Organizations must be prepared., To do so, critical, carefully thought out and comprehensive strategic planning across the sector will be necessary.
Government Relations and Advocacy:
As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, a critical debate on the role of the government is likely to emerge. This debate will focus on controlling the unprecedented size of the national deficit and debt versus the need to address the cracks and weaknesses in key social services, many of which are now vulnerable. It is important that non-profits have a voice during this debate, because our sector will play a major role in the solution. We must have a strong, united, accountable, and persuasive voice to ensure that charitable non-profits have the government recognition and financial support to make this sector instrumental in moving Canada successfully beyond the crisis.
Over the next while, we will delve further into these issues. Your advice, ideas and voices are needed.