After 10 years in business, we thought we’d seen it all, until COVID-19, that is. But we’ve discovered that some things hold true when you’re going through any change, no matter what caused that change. Even though the fog is still heavy I’m excited to share three key insights to help you navigate what’s ahead (the truth is, you have what you need to get through this.) But first, let’s do some level-setting.
How’s your week going?
If you’re like me, you’re working from home at a makeshift office and juggling the needs of your organization, team and clients, along with your new homeschooling duties. You may be worried about friends who are sick or furloughed, or family members who work in health care settings, or the economy. The conference you planned—or planned to attend—postponed. Your students, what if they can’t come back to campus until 2021? That direct mail campaign targeting lapsed donors needs to be reworked.
And through this thick fog, you’re trying to peer out as far in the future as possible to predict. Predict when things will get back to “normal.” How will the world shift, and in what ways will those shifts impact nonprofit change-making organizations like yours? What will your audiences need from you in a week, three weeks, two months? There are clues, but also, humans have been historically bad at predicting the future.
While much has been written about what WILL change, I thought it would be useful to look at three things we’ve learned from over a decade of helping purpose-driven organizations navigate change.
Get clear on your purpose
Understanding your purpose / your “Why”, will remain key. When you know who you are, you know how to show up when life throws you a curve ball. Here are two examples.
St. Louis Community Foundation
In the months leading up to the current crisis, we worked with the St. Louis Community Foundation to create and launch their new brand. Our process uncovered the Foundation’s true purpose—they stand for the future of St. Louis. And when you put that kind of stake in the ground, in times of crisis you launch two new relief funds with over $2 Million for struggling St. Louis businesses and organizations. To give, go here. To apply for a grant, go here.
Places for People
Our work with Places for People began when the organization was shifting from providing housing for people, into a healthcare organization—St. Louis’ only certified behavioral health clinic, treating both physical and mental health needs. Places for People believes that each life matters and that recovery is real. We summed this belief up into a short descriptor: A Human Approach to Mental Health & Healing.
Much of Places for People’s work is done through physical outreach to get people help and off the streets. This is not the kind of work that easily transitions to Zoom calls. When this crisis hit, the organization took extraordinary measures transition over 70% of those interactions to digital, while simultaneously donning PPE and finding ways to still get out for face-to-face interactions with some of the most vulnerable. It’s about a life, as Executive Director Joe Yancey would say.
You can get a head start on uncovering your purpose by downloading our Impact Brand Assessment.
Be open to not knowing…for a while
This experience takes me back to my conversations with Leslie Peters, in Episode 01 of the Almanac podcast, Heart Move Magic. In the episode we look at the Cynefin framework–a system of problem-solving that helped us get comfortable with the kind of messy, unpredictable, human work that we love doing at Almanac. The basis is: in a complex environment—and hell if we aren’t in one now —answers need space to emerge. You need to keep moving and making decisions, however be careful about throwing simple solutions at complex problems. Yes, you need to get that next fundraising email out, but what is the current state of mind of the recipient? Will your current messages resonate or fall short?
Listen to Leslie’s episode here to learn more about navigating change in your organization.
One of our core values at Almanac is “We Go Boldly.” It exists because we like to challenge the status quo. To get out in front and help our clients try new things. So here’s the thing, all bets are off. Now is the perfect time to use a little design thinking and ask the question, “How might we?” IDEO developed this visioning tool and you can access it here. “How might we hold our annual gala, when our attendees are stuck in quarantine?” “How might we continue to deliver mental health services when our office is closed?” “How might we recreate a learning environment digitally?” By framing your challenge as a How Might We question, you’ll spark some new and innovative solutions.
Because trusting the #@$##@ process is so hard, someone made a kit to help you along! A good friend got this for me when we were moving and I’ve been waiting for just the right time to fire it up. I think now is as good as any.
You can purchase your own kit here. Good luck. Trust the Process. You’ve got this!