Let’s simply skip all of the platitudes about the challenges of COVID and move straight to the learning; what did you learn about your organization during COVID? As we slowly (and perhaps prematurely) start to see the light at the end of the tunnel for COVID, each and every type of organization, and this especially includes non-profits, should take advantage of the opportunity to debrief the COVID chock and what it taught us about each of our organizations.
There are lots of learning opportunities during COVID. Warren Buffett, in an admittedly different context, said that when the tide goes out, you get to see who has been swimming naked. COVID exposed the naked parts (and personnel) of a lot of organizations. However, COVID also exposed a lot of people who were wearing brilliantly and beautifully designed swimwear (to stretch the saying). COVID exposed the fact that organizations had inner strengths that were previously unacknowledged, underappreciated, and likely underutilized.
Take a moment and conduct a thought experiment. Go back to November of 2018, back to before the first whiffs of a pandemic existed. If someone told you that within a period of days that your organization would have to be totally virtual with no face to face interaction, you would have likely said that it was impossible – that your organization would not be able to survive – that your constituents would suffer and your organization would not be able to satisfy its mandate. While it has likely been challenging, and at times extremely so, the reality is that if you are reading this then your organization did survive. Perhaps it might have even thrived if it was one of the fortunate ones. Paradoxically, it might be in an even better position to serve its mandate going forward than it was without the COVID shock. Perhaps.
COVID was undoubtedly cruel and harsh to the majority of non-profits. No one wants to diminish that reality. Another reality though is that many non-profits did survive. The reality is that many non-profits found an inner-strength amongst its executive and management teams, its volunteers, its constituents, that it might not have fully appreciated before COVID. Many organizations were forced to new thinking and new processes, that, much to their surprise, turned out to be superior to their old traditional way of doing things.
Among all of the debriefs about what went wrong during COVID, among all of the risk management preparation meetings to better prepare the organization for the next pandemic (or whatever shock), take a moment to take the learnings of the positive things that COVID taught you about your organization. Take a moment to learn about and celebrate the resilience that your organization displayed. Take a moment to learn about and celebrate the volunteers who created work-arounds that enabled the organization to function even while those same volunteers were dealing with the upheaval in their own personal lives. Take a moment to appreciate the paradigm shifts in not only processes but also long held assumptions about how things had to be done in your organization.
Never waste a crisis. Take (more than) a moment to focus on the positive learnings. We are almost there.