The events of this year have forced all of us to examine this country’s history of racial injustice and to grapple with how we can play a part in solving this glaring systemic problem in our society. We have seen significant efforts from virtually every sector, as companies commit to be a part of the solution and tackle diversity, equity, and inclusion in a more deliberate and comprehensive way. The social sector has been a leader in this issue area for some time, but this year has shown a concerted effort unlike anything we have seen before as existing players take a larger role or offer a new approach to tackle these long-standing issues. In addition, it has been inspiring to see new players enter the sector, and take an active role in helping to drive positive change in this area. We have also seen an increased openness and appreciation for diversity metrics tracking and reporting with the ultimate goal to move the needle and drive greater impact.
The concept of digital transformation is not new in philanthropy. It is necessary to have a digital strategy to meet stakeholder expectations (and often requirements) around data collection and reporting. What we saw in 2020 was a shift in how we view this data. It is no longer enough to simply track and evaluate one’s data once or twice a year. This year demanded that impact organizations take an active stance to collecting and analyzing data, pivoting as events trigger unexpected areas of need or when data has identified areas of optimization for existing programs.
In the future, when reflecting on the activities of all types of impact organizations in 2020, it will be impossible to understand decision-making and impact through numbers alone. Without the context of the events this year, including the Australian bushfires, COVID-19, the stock market crash in March, the US election, the many instances of social injustice and resulting Black Lives Matter protests, the West Coast wildfires and more events on a global and localized scale, how can future audiences understand the shift in resources or the new found urgency towards new areas of focus?
Major events cause significant stress to the community and can often trigger multi-sectoral collaboration work. Why? The work to provide the necessary services and relief to constituents in need is too great for a single person or organization to solve. We have seen a range of events in recent years, with the pandemic in 2020 and record-breaking natural disasters affecting the West with wildfires and the Southeast with hurricanes.
2020 saw a lot of unexpected circumstances that impact organizations could not anticipate, and for which there was no baseline or best practice to follow as the public looked for leadership from many of these organizations.
As we approach the end of 2020, many of us are eager to “turn the page” on an obviously challenging year, and look forward to a fresh start. And yet, for the nonprofit sector in particular, this is a crucial time when leadership must focus on the present moment. As is the case in any other “normal” year, the holidays present fundraising opportunities, but this year, taking advantage of these opportunities is even more crucial for many nonprofits who have not been able to rely on traditional fundraising avenues (galas, in person events, etc.). Unique to 2020 also, is that this time will necessitate reflection and strategic planning, as many nonprofits confront the realities of this year - limited fundraising channels and budget cuts as the demand for services rises - and how they will continue to serve their communities in spite of these challenges. With this in mind, for many nonprofit staff, leadership, and board members, it will be “all hands on deck” and require a lot of collaboration for the remaining weeks this year.
It’s the time of year for lists. Whether it be a grocery list for a (smaller than usual) holiday dinner, a shopping list for gifts for your family, or simply a lengthy to-do list for the week, there are a lot of items competing for your attention as we reach the end of 2020. For most working in social good, that list also extends to two crucial items: end-of-year fundraising and board meeting prep. It can be challenging to find the time needed to truly dive into the data that drives the development of donor outreach materials and presentations, but without that information it can be difficult to speak to the current landscape and the strategic direction for next year. Both of these items are areas where insight can lead to stronger donor conversion rates.
Data helps to answer our questions. Often we look at it fondly because it reinforces a decision we have made, or it helps us to course correct when distracted by something new and shiny. We are in a tricky time where the story that data tells us might not be what everyone wants to hear. More importantly, it is impossible to predict the ending and the narrative to get there will likely change quite a bit.
As we head into Thanksgiving we’re receiving constant reminders from virtually every channel that we’re nearing the end of the year. Whether it be Black Friday discounts, cold weather or holiday plans, you can’t ignore the fact that we’re creeping towards the end of the year that was 2020. For the social sector, that also means a heightened period of fundraising, both around #GivingTuesday and general year-end appeals.
Teamwork is not a new concept. Whether it be in business, sports, or politics, what can be achieved with the help of many almost always surpasses the work of one. This is for two reasons. One, each contributor offers different skills, resources, and perspective, fostering an environment that encourages new ideas and solutions to old problems. Two, working as a team ensures that all players are bought-in to what you’re trying to achieve - each person has a stake in the game.