Staying Relevant, Staying Strong: Key Areas of Focus for Nonprofits in a Post-Pandemic World
If the pandemic showed us anything, it’s that despite economic uncertainties, the demand for the valuable services provided by nonprofits has been and will remain strong — especially in times of crisis. Today, as we begin recovery efforts from COVID-19, nonprofits are having to regroup and refocus on what’s most important. Here, we’ll look at three areas of focus for nonprofit organizations as they move beyond the pandemic and continue to stay relevant in meeting the changing needs of the communities they serve.
Crisis services. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of respondents surveyed reported experiencing extreme mental health issues related to the stress of the pandemic. Unfortunately, just because we’re moving into recovery mode doesn’t mean the demand for crisis services will decrease. In fact, the need for supportive services will likely increase.
In the immediate wake of a traumatic crisis, it isn’t uncommon for large numbers of affected people to report distress, including new or worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health(NIMH), “A notable fraction of people [in a crisis] will develop chronic symptoms severe enough to meet criteria for a mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or major depressive disorder. Most people will recover, though that recovery can take some time.” Therefore, the NIMH notes that those impacted to continue to rely on the economic and/or social support and coping strategies needed to help lower long-term risks and to maximize their chances for recovery.
Fundraising. In a fundraising update by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a point was made that under the old rules of fundraising, organizations wouldn’t come out and ask for money during an initial conversation, but would wait until a relationship had been established. According to the update, the old rules no longer apply, and organizations have learned to be bolder and more comfortable in asking new donors for larger gifts to support their mission and vision. Virtual technology has also propelled interest in hosting events and fundraising efforts online as organizations have discovered that these methods aren’t just cost-effective, but they also allow for greater reach in the community and around the world to put more funds where they are needed most.
The authors of the Chronicle update noted that in the past, many organizations wouldn’t have ever thought of using text messages, cellphone videos or Zoom meetings when soliciting a major gift, relying instead on in-person meetings. What organizations have discovered is that in a post-pandemic world, donors are appreciating more time-efficient modes of communication from the nonprofits they wish to support. “As we look ahead to some degree of normalcy in the coming year, fundraisers should think twice before stepping back into the old ways,” said Lisa Hartsock and Kate Fassett in an essay for the Chronicle. “Instead, we should embrace and improve upon what we’ve learned during the pandemic.”
Data management. At the height of the pandemic, nonprofits had to suddenly figure out how to pivot in a number of key areas ranging from fundraising to grant efforts to outreach programs and managing staff and volunteers. In addition, management had to keep governing boards and constituents informed. At the heart of it all, stretching across all lines of communication was the ability to connect the organization, manage and share information. The need for a more centralized data management system is predicted to continue as many employees continue to work remotely and donors seek transparency in how their gifts are being utilized. According to Salesforce.org, “Creating a centralized source of data enables cross-department collaboration, advanced audience segmentation for marketing, more efficient reporting and effective forecasting.” Moreover, “[it allows] nonprofit staff to focus on driving their mission forward and build stronger relationships with the community.”
COVID-19 may soon be a thing of the past, but in its wake, it has changed how many nonprofits operate and serve their communities, including how they communicate with each other and supporters, fundraise and leverage technology — all for the greater good.
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