2020 was a lot of things: heartbreaking, devastating, frustrating, exhausting and seemingly never-ending. However, it was also a year of breaking barriers. As we all sit behind our computers, physically separated yet more connected than ever, for the first time in years I see us truly examining our nonprofit machine and how it works. Even if you are in the same position, we are all working a different job than we were in March of 2020. We are actually stronger than we were one year ago; using new tools, working in new environments, tackling unparalleled shifts in resources and fueled by continued injustice. This must be a time of rebirth for our sector, and I know we can rise to the occasion. It’s not easy to hold an umbrella up during a hurricane, but we have never been defined by what is easy.
For many of us, the pandemic has caused us to revert back to the basics of our missions. We have been challenged to deliver that mission with a new sense of urgency. I hope you will hold on to this mindset and continue to innovate as we move into the new year. The calendar doesn’t drive change, you do. Using what we’ve learned, we have the tools to ensure that 2021 can be the year of change.
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward
Here’s a few lessons that I learned in 2020.
- Nonprofits are now on the digital frontier. Congratulations are in order if you’ve become your team’s unofficial Zoom expert.
- We cannot merely talk about dismantling systematic racism and structured inequality in our organizations; we must demand it. I appreciate this list of our members’ favorite DEI resources.
- More nonprofits are embracing collaboration as the way forward. I was interested to learn in our recent survey that 77% of organizations said they plan to seek shared services.
- The stigma of attending webinars and talking to a screen is over. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with nonprofit friends in our virtual discussion series.
- Children and pets are now our coworkers, whether their help is needed or not.
- Foundations are listening and learning like the rest of us in this ‘new normal’. Reach out and start a conversation.
- Events have changed forever, and that may not be such a bad thing. Our team embraced virtual accessibility last year for our Philanthropy Awards Luncheon and Philly Awards events.
- The excuse “we’ve always done it that way” has officially expired.
- Business attire can now mean a nice shirt, stretchy pants and fuzzy slippers.
- Everyone is human, and mental health must now be a priority in the workplace. Your colleagues need understanding and a listening ear just as much as a client might.
As we work for a healthier and more equitable future, remember that you are not alone. I’ve spent the last 12 years signing off with “we are better together” and I’ve meant it every time I’ve said it. I’m better because of each and every one of you. Thank you for your courage, your perseverance, your humility and your company. Every day I wake up and find joy that I work in the nonprofit sector. I hope you do too.
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