Skip to main content

Normal Is As Normal Does

“Prophecy was given to fools” (Jewish saying)

One of my favorite all time movies is 1963’s “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” With an all-star cast, it’s a hilarious movie which has provided me with 40+ years of laughs ever since I first saw it at age six.

Truth is, the movie title was perfect for 2020.

“This is just not normal” became a very popular 2020 phrase. Everyone had to change how they went about their daily routines, some of us more dramatically than others.

The nonprofit sector - all parts of it - went through tectonic shifts, leading people to wonder if the “new normal” would remain even after Coronaworld has passed from our lives. It’ll be awhile before the dust settles, but there are a number of areas where I’m willing to say change is coming. The future will look different and in many cases, thankfully so.


Remote Work

No boss I ever worked for allowed me to work remotely. The belief was: You get more done in the office and would just goof off at home. Clearly my bosses never spent time in the break room.

Know what? Turns out we CAN work from home and surprise, we CAN be productive! Some people do hate working from home but others thrive under those conditions.

How will remote work change nonprofit life?

  1.  Remote work will become standard. Employees will demand it in contract negotiations and employers will have to allow it for new (and current) hires. Does that mean full-time? Not necessarily. My guess is employees will ask and be allowed 2-3 days per week of homework.
  2.  Bosses will learn to live with distractions. Say hi to my kid who’s home with me! As long as the work is getting done, bosses will deal. (It also means that some micro-managing-always-looking-over-your-shoulder-second-guessing-every-decision-you-make bosses will have to change or be changed!)
  3.  This one I like: Welcome to t-shirt and shorts- the new dress code!

 

Budget

Your organization’s 2021 budget may look very different than the 2020 version. The “new normal” means budgets have to be changed in a number of ways.

  1.  As some staff members work from home, organizations will begin searching for smaller offices (assuming the 6-foot, social distancing rule is no longer necessary). That means lower rent costs. CEOs everywhere rejoice.
  2.  Balancing declining rent costs will be a rise in equipment costs, as remote workers require computers and other devices. This also means a rise in security costs, as data security becomes critical for those accessing sensitive personal information (donors, volunteers, etc.) while working on home networks.
  3.  New York wages are X, while Iowa is Y. If the job is in N.Y. but I’m in Iowa, would I accept a drop in salary? If yes, that could help NPOs save money.

 

Staff

2020 meant massive layoffs and furloughs in the nonprofit sector. Not great at all. Remote work added a challenge but also an opportunity for sector workers.

  1.  Can employees separate personal and work life? Either everyone is working 24/7 (like they claim on LinkedIn 😊 ) OR people make a hard stop at 5pm to spend time with family, friends etc. Work? Not on my free time. Managers will have to learn to deal with staff that doesn’t pull away from the dinner table to answer an email which is REALLY REALLY URGENT.
  2.  Geography matters for programming staff, local volunteers and possibly fundraisers. For communications and marketing personnel? Not so much. I believe this means a win for staff (they can choose jobs anywhere) and a win for CEO’s (a wider pool of candidates to choose from). The big losers? HR personnel, who will have to deal with a larger flood than usual of resumes for open positions.

 

Oh God - Not Another Meeting

Yup, meetings are going to change and I’m hoping for the better.

  1.  Virtual staff meetings will become more of a norm. That means some of the formality will disappear, meetings will go quicker, and occur less often. OK, that last sentence was more of a prayer than something I believe will happen.
  2.  Donor meetings can be done virtually. Sure, face-to-face is great but both donors and organizations learned in 2020 that asks can be done via  phone, email or a video chat. Some of you might not like this one (since travel was a perk of your job) but you may be traveling much less. CEOs will be happy because the travel budget line will be reduced.

 

Professional Development

I know, I know. You can’t stop laughing because your organization never had a professional development budget. But in fairy tale land, where that budget line item exists, your boss may cut down on travel costs (to conferences for example) and Zoobinars will take over.

Here’s the opportunity: Convince your boss to reroute some of the travel/conference expenses to online professional development courses.


 
Working With Consultants

Before Coronaworld, your organization may have worked with consultants who came to the office once a week for meetings and strategy sessions. After Coronaworld, you realize that’s not necessary. Location is not an issue; your nonprofit can choose a consultant located anywhere and everywhere. However, if consultants continue to work from home, their working hours may change and you’ll have to go with the flow. There’s that “new normal” again!

I’ve seen a lot of changes during my two decades in our sector. Some good, some bad. But I do believe that Coronaworld affords nonprofits more opportunities than threats. Now to make sure we take advantage of them.

Will we? Only a fool would predict that!

 


Connect with Ephraim Gopin of 1832 Communications through his Twitter, LinkedIn, daily nonprofit newsletter, and weekly podcast for more content like this!

About the Author

Ephraim is the founder of 1832 Communications, an agency which helps nonprofits build more relationships so they can raise more money, serve more people and have more impact in the community. Ephraim crafts strategies which help nonprofits successfully upgrade their online presence, boost their email fundraising and marketing and improve their marketing collateral. Ephraim is always happy to connect with nonprofit pros on Twitter: @EphraimGopin and on LinkedIn: @EphraimGopin. Use this link to read Ephraim's nonprofit newsletter - 1832communications.com/nonprofit-newsletter - and this link to dive in to his weekly podcast - 1832communications.com/nonprofit-podcast.

Profile Photo of Ephraim Gopin