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By Jeff Tucker

There’s growing public dialogue about what the future may look like once the COVID-19 pandemic bottoms out. Absent a sense of when that might be, it still may not be too soon to think about what the “new normal” could look like.

While for-profit businesses large and small are rightly focused on supporting their employees, customers, and suppliers, the world of nonprofits may need to add to that list some additional stakeholders. Outreach to donors, patrons, partners, and underwriters will need to be rethought.  And marketing playbooks will need adjusting to accommodate big and unexpected changes in business models which suddenly seem out-of-date. 

We also know that the for-profit businesses and nonprofits that came through past recessions relatively unharmed were those that never stopped communicating with consumers, embraced a proactive posture throughout, and rethought marketing strategies and community outreach as circumstances impacted end-user behavior.

If you’re a nonprofit in this downturn, you’re likely shut down, cash-strapped, and facing the hard choices of furloughing or dismissing staff. Have you focused at all on considering what tools and strategies you’ll need to have in place to get ready for a turnaround when it finally arrives?

The Council of Nonprofits, a national association of nonprofit organizations,  has told members to focus on securing and maintaining adequate financing as priority #1.  That means tapping into every possible financial stream available, via banks and community foundations and other grant-making partners, as well as any avenues for local, state, and federal assistance. 

All businesses, nonprofits included, should also become familiar with the levels of assistance that might be available to employees and families through the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Paid family leave and emergency paid sick leave are available to large sectors of the nation’s workforce. Small businesses can apply for payroll tax deferrals during the pandemic. 

For nonprofits, that list should also include focusing on tools and strategies that will be vital in a recovery.  Older nonprofit business models once focused about 80% of all marketing on print collateral to reach members, patrons and donors.  In more recent years, the toolkit added emails, social media, and web-based video to position the organization.     

But what tools will be most useful after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides?  Certainly, more nimble tools such as podcasts, webinars, blog posts, online interviews on social media platforms –and surveys — all will continue to grow in importance.  

The shift to online commerce and interface with end-users is expected to continue to thrive once the pandemic ends. Creative use of digital platforms and channels will be a catalyst for those organizations that not only survive but thrive in the ‘new normal.’

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