The year of 2020 has been all about the pivot. Pivoting our lives and our work places. Shifting our mindset. Changing the way we do most things—socializing, connecting, and learning to name a few.
Nobody would argue that it’s been beyond tough. Change isn’t for wimps, and who are we kidding? Change is challenging enough to do on our own free will, let alone have it forced upon us!
As we near the end of 2020 and look toward 2021 with hope as well as some uncertainty, I’d encourage you to reflect on these 3 things:
1.) Start – what are we going to start doing in 2021 for ourselves as individuals as well as for our nonprofits?
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” ― Brene Brown
2020 has made each of us vulnerable like never before, and perhaps that’s not a bad thing. What can we do to build upon it? Howe can we use it to create new practices that better support us as individuals as well as our organizations? If you’re like most other nonprofits that have great ideas but never get them off the ground, now may be the time to change that– to try something new.
Recently, a client of mine shared that they were going to start connecting with donors as real people rather than just as cogs in a wheel who support their work. Prior to the pandemic, they were very focused on communicating with their donors about their organization’s programs and progress, and like so many, failed to spend the time getting to truly know their donors beyond an occasional email exchange. They have started making it a practice to pick up the phone and call one donor each week to check in and say “hi” with no agenda. No doubt this small step that takes no more than 15 minutes will reap huge, long-term benefits for them.
2.) Stop – What are we going to stop doing in 2021? What is no longer working for us that we are finally going to take the courageous leap to leave behind and let go?
If 2020 gave us any gift, it was being reminded of our deepest values and priorities. Prior to 2020 much of my life and work was on auto-pilot. Same routine, different day. For those who know me and my people pleaser tendencies, my long work days were often a result of my unwillingness to say “no” and to set boundaries. 2020 forced me to stop that unhealthy pattern, and true confession…I LOVE it! Never has setting boundaries felt so good. Many reading this can probably relate, or at the very least, you have your own version of this story. Bottom line: having a list of obligations that don’t light your soul on fire is the quickest way to complacency, boredom, and settling.
I have seen some inspiring examples of nonprofit leaders stopping certain things this past year. One board member who realized she would prefer to be a grassroots volunteer rather than a fiduciary chose to resign. Before doing so, she gave 60 days’ notice and offered to assist in finding a replacement who was a good fit, if the organization chose to take her up on it. They did, and she exited in style.
One mid-level employee realized how unhealthy his work environment was and didn’t support his core values of inclusion. He stopped complaining about it to anyone who would listen and instead put together a plan to leave his nonprofit and find somewhere else that would be a better cultural fit.
One nonprofit stopped their hybrid board meetings where some people joined in person (once the “stay at home” orders were lifted), and instead, required that all attendees join by Zoom. And wow, what a change! Board meetings became much more productive, and everyone can actually see and hear each other now. Imagine that.
One board stopped being wishy washy about its fundraising expectations. It stopped apologizing for having discussions about fundraising and “friend”raising at its board meetings. It offered a graceful way for board members unable to meet the newly created give/get requirements to exit. Was this easy? Heck no! Was it worth it? Absolutely! This nonprofit, like so many, has taken a huge revenue hit this past year. They realized engaged board members who are willing to make their own gifts and play some role in the fundraising process will result in stronger organizations that still exist when this is all behind us. They can’t afford NOT to make that an expectation of board service.
3.) Continue – And last but not least, what are you going to keep doing in 2021? What has been working for you?
Maybe you have been committing to strategic planning every three years with updates annually, and you’ve seen tremendous progress. Perhaps you have incorporated storytelling into all of your communications work and have seen engagement grow as a result. Whatever it is that helped you get through 2020 because it was a sound business practice, keep on keepin’ on!
One of the best ways to grow and learn is to hear what others are doing. I’d love for you to share what you will stop, start, and continue doing in 2021—whether personally, professionally, or organizationally—and I’ll be sure to do a follow-up blog post to share your responses! Until then, please stay safe and sprinkle kindness wherever you go.