I am paraphrasing a quote by Niccolò Machiavelli, often called the father of political philosophy and political science, who said: “Never waste the opportunities offered by a good crisis.” You may be thinking, “How does that relate to my nonprofit during these critical times?” My last article advised on how to best utilize your board and its leadership to get through this crisis with minimal damage. If you’re succeeding, which may be the best you can do at this time, you’re not thinking about “What should we do when it’s over?” Machiavelli’s advice has shown to be profitable and successful during past crises. Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, wrote a popular article about it after the 2008 recession.
He points out that 18 of the 30 firms on the Dow Jones Index at the time were founded during economic downturns, and that “moments of crisis have historically served as a powerful impetus for innovation.” What does that mean for you and your nonprofit? It means you must look at your traditional programs and constituencies and find areas for change or innovation. What can you do differently, based upon what you’ve learned through this crisis, what opportunities can you and your board leadership create and launch to meet a new need that has arisen for your constituents? Or, are you going to return to “business as usual?” If you do, there’s a good chance your nonprofit may not continue to be relevant and will be perceived as out of touch with the new reality.
Chakravorti shares four opportunities to identify:
1: Match Unneeded Resources to Unmet Needs—adversity gives rise to unmet need and releases resources that become redundant. Perhaps one or more of your programs or services will become redundant after the crisis. Repurpose those dedicated resources to fill an unmet need.
2: Round Up Unusual Suspects—perhaps some of your usual partners will not be available after the crises. If you can identify unlikely, alternative partners, you will not be hampered going forward.
3: Find Small Solutions to Big Problems—Chakravorti points out “the more severe the adversity, the harder it is to change the status quo.” But small innovations can be monumental for you and can be more affordable. They will also be easier to meld into your existing programs.
4: Think Platform, Not Just Product—the crisis may affect your nonprofit in more than one way, making it difficult or impossible to continue delivering your mission through your previous model or platform.
Are you and your board leadership prepared to identify and embrace any of these nontraditional opportunities? Or, will you breathe a huge sigh of relief when things have gone back to “normal” and return to business as usual, totally oblivious to the “new normal”? Because, our “normal” as we knew it, will most likely be gone. Only those who can think, and act creatively and decisively will be able to create their nonprofit’s “new normal.”
Mirenda & Associates is prepared to give you sage counsel assisting you and your board to navigate safe passage through these current, turbulent waters, into a pool of calmness and a bright future. Call or write us for a free discussion of your needs.