How Nonprofits Can Survive Today’s Health Crisis, Part 1
These are troubled times. The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting the world in ways we could have never imagined. As I write this, the world is in upheaval, fear and uncertainty are swirling, and nonprofit leaders are wondering what to do next.
The truth is that there are no simple answers. We’ve never been through anything quite like this before. Even 9/11 didn’t have the same effect on everyday life for virtually every person we communicate with. That being said, we can do our best to learn from the lessons of past crises, consider today’s social context and take into account what we know about human behavior.
Based on those factors and my 20+ years of experience in nonprofit leadership, I created a “Crisis Survival Guide” for nonprofits, outlining 10 critical communication strategies that can help you weather the storm.
Here are the first five keys to surviving the crisis:
Key No. 1: Don’t Panic
Your plans, budgets and forecasts have been turned completely upside down. When things start shifting, our instinct is to grasp for certainty. But when so much is beyond our control, it’s easy to slip into panic mode.
The problem is that we rarely make sound decisions when we panic. So take a deep breath and use whatever techniques work best for you personally to get a big-picture perspective. Whether you get there through meditation or having a gut-honest conversation, letting go of panic and thinking with a clear and sober mind is essential as you lead your team through this crisis.
Key No. 2: Focus Time and Energy
When we’re leading during a crisis, we tend to expend a ton of energy just on managing stress and putting out fires. The remaining amount of time and energy at our disposal needs to be directed toward the most strategic opportunities. Taking a shotgun approach and chasing a million different ideas will only drain you, confuse your team and hinder your ability to survive.
You have a finite amount of time and energy. Focus it on the real opportunities that have the greatest potential to help your organization raise funds and survive the crisis.
Key No. 3: Stay Agile
The public health and economic situation is changing daily — even hourly. It’s critical to keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening now and make adjustments as necessary.
Here are a few specific things you can do on a daily basis:
- Monitor social media activity and trends.
- Test various social media posts and/or digital ads and gauge response.
- Stay in touch with other nonprofit leaders to share and learn.
Key No. 4: Target Communications
Communication, especially during times of crisis, is not one-size-fits-all. Create a communication plan that is specifically tailored for each segment of your audience. For example, your audience segments might include:
- General supporters
- Monthly donors
- Influencers and media
- Major donors
- Corporate partners
For each of these audiences, create a communication plan that includes:
- Focus and emphasis
- Key messaging points
- Tactics (e.g. videos, landing pages, emails, social posts, etc.)
I believe we’ll survive this crisis, because ultimately, I believe in the goodness and generosity of people. As a fellow nonprofit leader, I’m grateful to be working alongside you. We’re in this thing together.
You can download the full version of the free guide on Leading Good’s website.
Rod Arnold is the founder of Leading Good. As the former chief operating officer of charity: water, Rod helped lead the young organization through a period of tremendous growth. Now he helps other nonprofits grow by applying principles and strategies that are proven to work.