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5-Keys to Rapidly Adapt and Thrive in a COVID World

Guest blog by Teri Beckman

How do you adapt and thrive in a COVID-19 world?

Massive disruptions can be huge opportunities in disguise.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a chance to get very clear about what is most important to you and your organization now.

Then, lean into it.

Let’s Get Real

Economists don’t have consensus about the economic future due to high levels of uncertainty and our somewhat chaotic response to the virus to date.

Some are forecasting a major contraction of the US economy ranging as high as a 25% reduction in GDP.  Such a contraction has not seen in since the Great Depression.  Even if ‘relatively’ short lived (one to two years) there will be massive economic restructuring as a result.

I am already seeing this in the nonprofit sector on the NC Center for Nonprofits membership chat area where a good number of nonprofits have simply laid off their entire staff.  These organizations may never reappear on the landscape.

People who have studied pandemics for years and directly involved in vaccine research like Bill Gates are clearly signaling (i.e. listen carefully) we will be in this for the long haul… possibly two years.  Enough time to find a vaccine and then get everyone vaccinated.

This ‘new normal’ is not going away.  You cannot wave a magic wand and bring back life as it was in December.

Your Main Question as a Leader

How can you adapt and thrive in a COVID-19 world, enabling your organization to thrive and be even stronger coming out of this?

As an Executive Director, a CEO, a leader – you are, by definition, a creator.

Get busy.  Stand up into this new reality.  You still have clients, constituents, members, and customers who desperately need your services.  That part is NOT changing.  They need you more than ever.

You can do this.

One thing you cannot do and survive, is to wait this out, and hope things will go back ‘to normal’.  No more normal… not for a long time.

Get Started

Wherever the cracks were in your organization before the pandemic, you are feeling them now.  (Same in your personal life.)

We have taken the 5Rs to successfully adapt and thrive in a COVID-19 world from McKinsey, an international business consultancy, and adapted them for mission driven nonprofit organizations.

These are organized into five areas of focus.

The 5 Rs to adapt and thrive in the COVID-19 world are:

1. Resolve:

Quickly address immediate challenges COVID represents to your workforce, partners, clients, customers.  There are MANY issues here.

You have, no doubt, begun to tackle some of these, but are you seeing them through the lens of 18 to 24 months of social distancing?

We have found five areas here that are critical for every nonprofit to address.  Too long for this post, but we will share them in our upcoming Executive Round Table.

2. Resilience: 

Resilience means being able to see a pattern that does not serve us and gaining freedom from it so we can make the best decisions possible about the future. It means:

  • being flexible and meeting immediate needs with creativity and swift decisions.  It seeds the potential to not only to ‘bounce-back’, but to truly thrive.

  • seeing a chaotic situation, not getting ‘pulled into it’, and creating a process that works better for all involved.

We have identified six processes where resilience is critical in this time of quickly changing circumstances.

Think cash flow management, time management, performance management COVID-style – i.e. getting really clear on short term objectives with a team aligned behind them, self-care for yourself and your team  (this is REAL now – not just a nice to have), resolving issues that keep employees from focusing like home schooling, and communication within and outside the organization.

Hint: Micro-managing your way through this is not going to work.

3. Re-imaging the new normal:

If social distancing will be around in some form for the next 18 months, how will that impact your business model?

I asked that recently to an accomplished Executive Director and her answer was “We will be out of business.”

NO!  Wrong answer.

Clearly some organizations will be much more impacted than others, but I firmly believe in the creativity and resilience of the human spirit and of nonprofit leaders.

I can think of no circumstance where a nonprofit with a critical mission could not successfully pivot in this period.

It is time to get flexible and creative.   Leave the limited thinking behind.

4. Returning to off-line business: 

What is the plan to be sure your customers, clients, and employees feel safe?

This is a big question and will make or break mission driven organizations.

There is a lot of discussion and resources emerging on this.

It is important to think through these issues for your specific circumstances and have a well communicated plan in place for your own organization before you head back to the ‘real’ world.

No one will be exempt from this.

5. Reform: 

This period is helping all of us realize what is most important to us as people, communities and society.  As result, there is likely to be both significant cultural and regulatory shifts in how we operate.

Organizations that stay on the leading edge of these changes will thrive in this new environment.

Becoming a member of the NC Center for Nonprofits is a great way to help you stay on top of regulatory changes and even influence them.   You may belong to other trade organizations as well.  At some point, becoming more active in these groups could be a very strategic move.

When Executive Directors are looking to boost revenue, community impact and the strategic execution of their executive team, they call Teri Beckman CEO of HIGOL.  HIGOL routinely helps nonprofits boost revenue and impact by up to 50% in twelve months.  These days she and her team are helping organizations make strong pivots and thrive in the Corona age.  Teri’s first job was as a community organizer at the Sanders B. Moon Community Action Agency.  She has been connected to the movement for over thirty years.

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