Well that was quite a year. And with that first sentence, I’ve fallen prey to clichés worldwide. Please forgive me. Clichés aside, (or perhaps in allegiance with – HA!) it really was quite a year for myself and, of course, for you.
For me, the year started with signing on a house. After years of reestablishing my career, I was able to buy a home for myself and my son; a reestablishment required after leaving my career behind to be a stay-at-home Mom to my boy for 6 years. I was so very proud and elated to have scraped together savings as a single Mom and worked very long hours to bring my career back on track and actually buy a home BY MYSELF! I couldn’t wait to have friends over, make wonderful food, and have so many laughs together – the thing that brings me pure joy. Then, Covid. My house deal closed not long after the start of this global pandemic and so I packed, moved and unpacked, did all the curbside pickups, put together all the Ikea things, slogged all the boxes, painted all the walls, and, finally, had our home pulled together. No friends to help with the move or cook for. Just me and my son. And, for the record, my biceps have never looked better.
For months, I took my new little house and made it a home. I stayed grounded in that and worked full time and held my breath, like all of you, when hearing the Covid numbers. I forged ahead, took joy in planting a little garden, taking solo walks, and occasionally, exhaling. I was tired from doing it all. And, working full time. And staying optimistic.
Then. Then. Then came the advice. So much of it. So much advice for businesses. So much advice for nonprofits. So much advice to stay mentally well. So much advice to get funding. So much advice to cope. I found myself frozen in the midst of it all. I found myself overwhelmed. So I focused on what I could – my son, my home, my health, and my job – blessings all.
I decided to retreat from the melee. What more could I offer you when there was just so much coming at all of us? To me, some days my social feeds were just, in the words of Dr. Seuss “noise, noise, noise.” So I focused on staying grounded.
And, if you know me, you know I had so much to say. HA! So, this blog is perhaps late to the party; though, isn’t the late-night dancing always the best? Irreverence aside, this is what I would have said.
The souls of nonprofits are fed by the inspired employees who work their butts off for them, the eager volunteers who offer their time and energy, the boards who strive to do the right thing, and the program participants, members, and recipients of the good work that keep them going. Keep those humans close. Keep them grounded with reminders of all the good work that’s been done and will be done. Connect. Often.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE SUCK
This Covid nightmare sucks. There is no win-win in this pandemic. It’s just a slog. Funding cuts. Zooms for days. Programs on hold. Making do with less. Making do without staff. Making do. Making do. Denial is naïve. Acknowledge the suck. Stay focused and positive AND get real about how much this sucks.
Years ago I went to a nonprofit tradeshow where local nonprofits had little booths/tables telling all of us nonprofit groupies what they did and how they did it. About 2 aisles in, I found myself perplexed; how could so many nonprofits be doing the same programming, providing the same services, targeting the same end users? So I asked one of the sweet humans at a booth: “Don’t you do what LMNOP does?” “Yes, we both do ~wonderful things~ but we do it a little bit differently.” “I see.” (insert blink blink)
And, so, I invite you to align. In times of a global pandemic, and otherwise. Align so you can do more. Align so you can forge relationships and forge positive outcomes. Align because you can.
Who in your nonprofit wheelhouse is doing similar good work? Can you share workspaces? Can you share ideas/projects/fundraising events? Can you share contractors? I have been witness to 3 nonprofits aligning to do great work together for a collaborative project. It CAN be done. Think about it and align.
REMEMBER YOUR ‘WHY’
Simon Sinek writes about ‘knowing your why’ and his message is so poignant and important EVERY SINGLE DAY. Why does your nonprofit do what it does? I know it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae; the mundane administration, grant writing, phone call answering, refund requesting, and on and on – AND, take an exhale, then, remember your why. The work you do is important. Do not get lost in the drama and the nonsense and the silliness. When all feels super sucky, remember your why.
FOCUS ON WHAT’S STRONG
An inspiring leader in Asset-Based Community Development, Cormac Russell, one of my heroes, encourages us to focus on what’s strong instead of what’s wrong. In the context of ABCD, this makes such good sense. And I’m here to tell you that beyond ABCD, Cormac’s brilliant words know no bounds. Focus on what’s strong, friends. And strengthen those strong relationships, programs, funding allies, volunteers, members, friends – keep what is strong, STRONG. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, for the love of all that’s good, focus on what’s strong. Do not stick your head in the sand and deny the wrong, AND, focus on what’s strong.
That’s what I would have said.
So what now? We keep going. At some point, the sun will set on this season and we will all collectively exhale. So keep going.
If you have read thus far, you’re a CHAMPION. I thank you. Stay calm, well, informed, and focused. Warmest blessings.