With 2020 finally behind us and many people now getting their COVID-19 vaccine shots, dare we even think we are nearing a return to some sense of normality? And, if we are on the back end of the pandemic, what will that “normal” look like for nonprofit agencies? What nonprofit changes should you look out for moving forward?

I’ve been in touch with several colleagues as well as clients and friends throughout the year. In that time, I have kept my ears open on their experiences and nonprofit changes. I also took note of the lessons they have learned and adjustments they made as a result of COVID-19.

A common theme that I’m hearing is that there will probably be fewer, yet stronger nonprofit agencies in as soon as three years. Several say up to one-third of all nonprofit agencies may either close or merge with another one to improve their financial and missional stability. 

I wanted to share with you some of the key things agencies have run into as they struggled to get through this challenging season. My hope is that a few of these nonprofit changes may provide some insight and may spark action on your part. So what did nonprofit leaders tell me?

10 Lessons Nonprofits Learned During the Pandemic… 

1. Some organizations felt a need to build a highly adaptive culture. So, in case something like this pandemic hits again, they can “change on the fly.” Likewise, other agencies fear we are not out of this yet so now is not the time to just return to the old way of operating.

2. Strategic planning without knowing what the “new normal” will be like can’t be done. Basic blocking and tackling with no long-term planning seems prudent for now.

3. One agency found they were forced to simplify their operations because so many staff and volunteers worked from home or were on alternating days, which is a solid long term benefit.

4. The general consensus is that those who are waiting for everything to get back to normal will end up in trouble. That old normal is probably gone. Funding, governmental programs, key partners, everything is up in the air for now.

5. Many agencies learned the hard way that having cash reserves, quick ways to generate cash, and careful spending are critical to surviving significant economic changes. In other words, maintain a strong balance sheet.

6. Those who were diligent in their efforts during the COVID crisis used the time for capacity building activities of their board, staff and funders. They took an opportunity to use the time wisely.

7. Others directed their attention to the basics: why did they exist, and for whom; how do they best serve that group; how to measure success, etc.

8. Some found their relationships with key constituents weren’t stable enough to withstand the economic climate of the times, so they suffered more than necessary. On the flip side, others hosted periodic video conference calls with key partners to maintain relationships, share updates and keep them informed.

9. The mental health of staff and leaders were pushed to their limits, which created issues.

10. In one instance, a board that had been experiencing needless interpersonal drama due to infighting and an unhealthy environment pre-Covid. This agency actually saw its board culture improve once they started hosting meetings via video conferences. For whatever reason, that tool helped everyone focus on their business at hand and keep the drama out of the equation.

Those are ten nonprofit changes for you to consider as your agency comes out of its COVID-19 world. I welcome any and all feedback, so if I missed anything you may have noticed feel free to let me know.

If you’re struggling to get your agency back on track, Calibrate could help. Learn more