In most of the US, life is slowly, SLOWLY, creeping back towards some sense of normalcy. At the beginning of summer 2021, COVID-19 and its ravenous impacts still are with us, but many people, companies, and organizations are re-initiating travel, in-person gatherings, plans for more than 3 months in the future… signs of getting back to what was. But, do we want to get back to what was? Do we want all of it? At least on an organizational level, many nonprofits might be better served by a new normal, not the normal we all experienced in the Before Times.

As we begin to wake our bodies and brains from a collective haze, we have to remember that many people still are reeling, and almost all of us have experienced some level of trauma. Our country has experienced the “twin pandemics” of COVID-19 and a national reckoning with systemic racism – a reckoning that is difficult, ongoing, and very long overdue. We have experienced a tumultuous election and a deadly attack on the seat of our nation’s democracy, and we have adjusted to new leaders in our government. Is it any wonder that so many of us feel tired, confused, and overwhelmed?

I observe many nonprofits that are anxious to get back into their familiar grooves. When it comes to fundraising, organizations are planning their annual campaigns, writing grant proposals, meeting with major donors, conducting prospect research, planning for in-person or hybrid fundraising events… in short, doing all the regular things. Perhaps we should pause to ask a few questions:

How are our staff and volunteers doing? Many staff and volunteers have dealt with tragedies great and small, all while adjusting to a totally new way of working. Are they really ready to go back to the old ways of doing things? What supports do they need in order to be and do their best? What can our organizations do to ease their transition? Do they have ideas for how our organizations should get back to business — has anyone asked them?

How are our board members doing? Sometimes, we forget that our board members have their own challenges and vulnerabilities. Are there new ways we can serve them? What are they observing in the community and in their networks? Can their board service still be effective and joyful?

How are our donors doing? Whether they are donors who have “hung in there” with organizations through the pandemic, or previous donors who have shifted or ended their gifts over the past year, do we know how they have fared during this difficult time? Can we support them, brighten their days, or invite them to be part of organizational initiatives that are launching or relaunching? Do they have different expectations in terms of outreach, engagement, and recognition?

How are our partner organizations doing? Are there opportunities to collaborate on funding, programs, or new approaches to service?

Are we checking in with ourselves? Do we have the courage to ask for help when we need it, question the status quo, and dream of a more vibrant future?

We can rush our organizations towards a post-pandemic “old normal” or pause to ask questions and build a more meaningful post-pandemic present and future.

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