As a crazy year ends, many of us are ready to draw a line in the sand, say adios to 2020 and let bygones be bygones. However, we’d be missing a great opportunity at our organizations if we simply walked away from 2020 without looking back and intentionally extracting nuggets of insight and possibility.
And since we don’t exactly know what 2021 is going to bring us, we might as well take this time, and this chance to grow and evolve into the leaders that our society needs right now. The calendar is not going to change to a new year and everything go back to pre-pandemic. We’ve still got some serious work to do, and inevitably some wonderful possibilities to step into.
As I wrap up 2020 and move into ‘21, I’m committed to slowing down and reflecting on where we are. That, in fact, is my most important takeaway from the pandemic. Slow down.
1. Slow down. In fact, stop. Reflect and learn from what happened in the last 12 months (this will give you 20:20 vision). Spend a few minutes with a pen and some paper (really stop reading right now and get a pen and a pad or perhaps a journal and answer the following questions):
- What are you most proud of in 2020? Where did you step up, reach out, connect, contribute, or adapt by learning something new?
- What are some of the best things that came out of 2020? Remember David Byrne, from Talking Heads? His blog is one of my favorites. It’s called Reasons to Be Cheerful. Check it out and smile. Then, when you are in a good space, move forward with the actions, below.
- What is the narrative that you want to adopt about 2020? Even though it doesn’t always seem this way, our narratives are made up. Choose one that empowers you.
- Of the things you took on in 2020, what do you want to be sure to continue to do in 2021?
- What lessons did you learn from other people’s behaviors that you want to embrace? Avoid?
- What new habits do you want to continue? What will you do to establish a new practice?
- What new habits (or old ones) do you want to discontinue? What will you do to support your new behaviors?
2. Reach out, don’t go silent: Communicate with all stakeholders. Organizations that we worked with who were proficient in engaging their community prior to the pandemic, did exceptionally well with fundraising. Those who hadn’t engaged with their communities well prior to the pandemic but started a new communication practice during the pandemic also did well. They started by reaching out and checking in. Neither of these groups started by asking for money. They simply asked how people were doing, and gave them updates on the agency.
This practice is important all of the time and adopting a habit of checking in with people will serve you always. Be interested in them.
3. Listen. Be sure that your communications go two ways. Don’t talk AT people, find a way to hear from them. For the closest circle, it means picking up the phone, maybe going for a walk, and chatting. It might be hard work, but it’s truly worth it. As you go outward in your concentric circles, (which have larger numbers of individuals), find creative ways to be able to listen to your stakeholders. Remember that they care about your organization. I’ve seen ‘town hall’ type meetings on Zoom, intimate on-line concerts, meaningful organizational FaceBook discussions, and focus groups. These tools bring your outer circles inward.
4. Ask for help. You can’t do it alone. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need. Your organization likely needs money, of course. But not only money. Do you need advice? Connections? Help making donor calls? Someone to support you in your job? What else? Allow people to contribute. They truly want to feel useful.
5. Thank people for ALL their contributions. Be sure that all types contributions are readily acknowledged. Track ‘non-monetary’ gifts. Push beyond the thank you that looks like an invoice… go further and personalize your thank you notes. Go even further, and demonstrate to your donor that their gift makes a difference. Send a video, a photo, or something that connects your funder to the impact of their support.
6. Take care. Take care of yourself. You are doing really important work in the field. We need you. Do what you need to do to be your most powerful self. Exercise, eat well, cry when you need to, take on a centering practice like meditation/prayer/journaling/doing yoga and adopt an empowering narrative that works for you. Fill your mind with good things. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. When you mess up, acknowledge it and move on. Get support or coaching if you need it.
Take care of your family and friends. Give them the benefit of the doubt, as well. 2020 has been difficult for all of us. It has also been ridiculously, obscenely more difficult for some of us. Spread the kindness.
7. Prepare, in a good way, for whatever is next. As I said in the beginning of this, we don’t know what is coming. Even if we manage the virus well in this coming year, 2020 has revealed that some serious recreating and healing needs to be done. As 2021 unfolds, we need leaders like you and me to take those lessons and generate a more just, safe, and equitable world. Do what you need to do to be grounded and in great shape to be the change that 2021 brings.