Learning from Lockdown
Recently, I listened to an episode of Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast, this one with Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering. In this episode, Ms. Brown and Ms. Parker explore what it means to gather together in a post-lockdown world. The conversation is wide-ranging and surely pertinent to all aspects of post-pandemic life. Of the many thought-provoking questions asked, one has stuck with me: “What will we do with what we learned during lockdown?” Ms. Parker asserts that we must pause, think about all we’ve learned, and make appropriate changes.
I couldn’t agree more.
As I think about this from a fundraising perspective, I consider special events. Like all nonprofits, my client is grappling with future of its events. Truth be told, pre-pandemic, my client had said for several years “we really need to reimagine our events, breathe new life into them,” but there never seemed to be the time nor the needed appetite for risk-taking. Now, we’re forced to ask: should we simply bring back the in-person events exactly as they were? Will people want to come to crowded in-person events? Will it be safe? What, in this new reality, will people want?
During the pandemic, my client was fortunate. Thanks to a creative special events team and a generous community, its reinvented events were quite successful! Looking ahead, my client’s events team has made two decisions regarding future events:
1)Some of the future events will offer a virtual component. Going virtual opened us up to a large new audience. Our annual gala, for example, which usually drew 500 in-person attendees, brought thousands of participants, literally from around the country. Many of those newcomers attended additional virtual events and have become engaged in our community — albeit virtually — and as donors. We don’t want to lose them.
2)At least some of the future events will include a specific beneficiary. Prior to the pandemic, funds raised from special events typically supported a broad, somewhat vague purpose. During the pandemic, in recognition of the suffering of so many in our community, each event focused on a specific cause, e.g. the St. Patrick’s Day event featured a virtual cooking demonstration by Chicago chefs. Funds raised were used to purchase meals from local restaurants to be distributed to homeless shelters throughout Chicago, thus helping local businesses and feeding the hungry. Donors were moved by the mission focus of each event, and were incredibly generous.
Like Bene Brown and Priya Parker, I encourage you to take the time to think about all your organization learned by the forced lockdown and resultant shift. Like my client, I think you’ll find some change will be most welcome.
STOP. START. CONTINUE.
I recently had the privilege of working with a client that was preparing for a Board retreat. While the retreat focused on some heftier goals related to the organization’s newly minted strategic plan as well as creating a culture of diversity and inclusion, another important goal was to allow for some time for the Board to reconnect with one another. The Board retreat is usually an annual event, held in-person, for half a day on a Saturday. This year, because so many of us are zoomed out, it was a virtual retreat for a few hours on a Saturday morning. The planning committee did an excellent job ensuring that the agenda was tight, the content was important and relevant so that the Board felt it was a good use of their time, and yet, it didn’t tap into too much weekend time.
Across the pandemic, we’ve all learned to become much more adept at using technology to stay connected in our work and in our personal lives (Even my 87-year-old parents have become pros at Facetime and Zoom!). While it’s been crucial to have these tools to work and connect, we now find that the world is beginning to open up again and we can begin to get back to business as usual. But what is business as usual anymore? How has the pandemic changed the way we look at things and showed us how to operate differently?
At the retreat, the Board spent some time getting reacquainted in smaller groups in several virtual breakout rooms. We started the conversation with…
During the pandemic - what have you STOPPED, STARTED and WILL CONTINUE doing?
It was a really great conversation amongst the members and not only did they learn more about each other but there were many thought-provoking takeaways as well. In my opinion, this portion of the retreat was as important as the other meatier agenda items. It helped strengthen the cohesiveness of the Board and was a great reminder to each of them of who they are working alongside of to support such an important mission.
After this retreat, it also got me thinking…what do I want to START, STOP and CONTINUE doing in my personal life and in my work? I found this exercise to be very helpful in holding up the mirror and taking a good hard look at what is working, what hasn’t been so successful and what new things do I need to learn, introduce or be open to? I identified a few things…
Join me in this activity! I promise you will find it useful for both your work and personal journeys. So, I ask you…what do you want to STOP, START and CONTINUE?