The ‘Pandemic Effect’ on Social Good

by Josh Jacobson

I’m fired up!

During the May 22 session of The New Normal, I had a chance to chat with three staff leaders of local nonprofit organizations about their major gift campaigns:

  • Jenni Gaisbauer outlined the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library Foundation‘s Common Spark campaign, which aims to raise substantial funding to open a “knowledge center for the future” on the site of today’s uptown branch.
  • John Searby discussed Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation‘s Vision 2025 capacity-building campaign which aims to engage across North Carolina and South Carolina, recing in to 26 counties of the Catawba river basin.
  • Banu Valladares walked through efforts by Charlotte Bilingual Preschool to raise funding to fuel the organization’s new strategic plan, which calls a dramatic increase in the number of children and families served over the next ten years.

Did you miss this awesome session? Stream it on-demand now.

Hearing them discuss such exciting visions for the future, it wasn’t hard to get excited about where our community is going. Up until a few months ago, the Charlotte region’s social good sector was cranking along at a pretty good clip. Buoyed by a strong economy, nonprofits were planting flags of ambition and setting out to generate the resources needed to make them a reality. And then, in what felt like only a few short weeks, it all came to a grinding halt.

Or did it? ‘Full-stop’ is certainly the perception at this time of economic (and societal) uncertainty. From the outside looking in, it appears that the health crisis repositioned our region’s narrative. Strategic efforts to advance our goals across everything from arts and culture to economic mobility seem to have been replaced by bail-the-boat activities meant to simply keep the community afloat.

And yet, because we work with nonprofit organizations for a living, we know that nothing just stops.

While our panelists last week acknolwedged that their major gift campaigns were modified by the realities of COVID-19, each spoke to a deep commitment to seeing their organization’s overarching visions realized. For most, that is likely going to mean changing the timeline, and for some, potentially the degree of ambition. But halting entirely? Not a chance.

The reason is simple – we need forward-looking inspiration. It is a resource on which a growing community like ours thrives. A natural disaster like COVID-19 demands a response, much like a hurricane to the Florida coastline or a tornado to the farmhouses of Kansas. It requires our community leaders to assess the damage done and determine a pathway forward. It justifies an outpouring of resources to combat its impact, as much an emotional reaction as a reasoned one.

But this response (we call it the ‘pandemic effect’ on social good) can also lead to the absence of inspiration that drives our community forward. It can result in a numbness to the damage done because it penetrates so completely our societal narrative. Inside each of us is an ache not just for things to ‘get back to normal,’ but for hopefulness and expectation. It is the human condition to seek inspiration; it fuels the sort of risk-taking that leads to all the best things in life. Love, marriage, career fulfillment, starting a family, launching a business – all require the sort of risk-taking that is fed by inspiration and hopefulness for a bright future.

That does not simply go away. It may become muted, but it is still alive in all of us. Smart nonprofit leaders know this, because it is ingrained into every grant application and request for support.

While everyone else is talking about getting back to normal, nonprofits need to be brave enough to talk about not accepting ‘normal,’ because the way things were before COVID-19 were not good enough. This requires risk-taking by social good organizations when conventional wisdom about ‘being out-of-step’ suggests otherwise.

Nonprofits are uniquely capable of inspiring others – it is a part of the social good DNA. Covering that up to attend to immediate needs makes sense when the crisis first strikes, but letting loose that inspiration at the appropriate time is the only way we can hope to move our community forward.

Back during the Great Recession, nonprofits sat on their ambition, not for months, but for years. Not this time. We’re a different Charlotte now – wiser for the road we’ve been on.

Like I said, I’m fired up. It is time to get back to building our city.

A Checklist for Corporate Sponsorships during COVID-19

By Caylin Haldeman

We’ll say it over and over: few elements of the nonprofit business model are more misunderstood than corporate sponsorship. Unlike grants, sponsorships are built upon a fundamental assumption that there is a return on investment (usually through marketing and public relations or employee engagement and talent retention). Over on the CULTIVATE blog, where we write about best practices for emerging organizations, we shared some tips for building “win-win” corporate partnerships back in January – combining social impact for the nonprofit with marketing, public relations and employee engagement returns for the company.

Just five months have passed since we posted that article, but it feels like years. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted the landscape for nonprofits: in-person programs have been postponed or altered to align with social distancing guidelines, spring fundraising events have gone virtual or been cancelled, and employees are carefully operating on the front lines or working from home. These changes have impacted how nonprofits can “fulfill” their existing corporate sponsorships, too, and many are now left without their usual case for support.

On Friday, May 15, Next Stage hosted a roundtable discussion about creative approaches to corporate sponsorship fulfillment on The New Normal. More than 150 nonprofit and corporate social responsibility leaders joined us to hear from panelists Dominique Johnson, Community Affairs Manager at Duke Energy, Natalie Brown, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Ally Financial, and Blair Primis, Senior VP of Marketing & Talent at OrthoCarolina. If you weren’t able to join us last week and want to hear from our panelists, you can find a full recording of the roundtable here.

The conversation was full of nuggets of wisdom – the kind of insight into cross-sector partnership development and communication that you can only accumulate by spending years with a foot in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. We’ve highlighted some of the big takeaways on Twitter, but be sure to read through our Corporate Sponsorships and COVID-19 Checklist for more guidance below.

Corporate Sponsorships and COVID-19: A Checklist for Moving Forward

Existing Sponsorships

  • Reach out to your sponsors to update them on what COVID-19 means for your organization. What has changed, and how will it impact your ability to fulfill sponsorship expectations (e.g. program cancellations, virtual events, employee engagement or volunteer opportunities)?
  • Get creative! If an event has been cancelled, suggest alternative projects or opportunities that provide a similar benefit to the company. A co-branded blog series highlighting the increased need your organization is working to meet during the pandemic, or a virtual event meant to engage the company’s employees in your mission, are just a couple of ideas to get you started.
  • Honesty is the best policy. If need outweighs capacity to create a new strategy to fulfill the sponsorship expectations, share that. Many sponsors are loosening restrictions on sponsorships and some are even increasing their financial commitments due to growing need right now.
  • Don’t overpromise. And try to execute quickly on your new pathway forward. Corporate sponsors understand that this is an unprecedented time – but they want you to be successful. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen relationships and build trust between your organization and theirs.

New Sponsorships

  • Consider building new partnerships around marketing benefits. Digital communications are an increasingly important aspect of nonprofit sustainability for all organizations. Find prospective partners relevant to your mission and pitch them on creative brand alignment strategies.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of virtual events. Nonprofits are pulling off virtual fundraisers and events that engage more people than they could reach in a single in-person gala.
  • Integrate digital communications and virtual events into your sponsorship strategy not just during this crisis, but as an ongoing area of growth. The most successful organizations will use this time to build new muscles in marketing and online communications, ultimately growing their brand’s reach in the community and their ability to secure larger sponsorships.
  • Transparency and relationship development are key. Don’t make blind pitches to companies with a menu of sponsorship levels. They have likely realized some revenue shortfalls and operations challenges during this crisis, too. Approach new sponsorship asks as an opportunity to co-create strategies that are true win-win partnerships, solving core business challenges and providing benefit to all at the table.

Let us know how you’ve stayed in touch with your corporate sponsors during COVID-19 and if you are thinking differently about how to build future partnerships through social media using #NewNormalCLT.

Four Questions to Guide Your Crisis Fundraising Plan

by Janet Ervin

From a social good perspective, one of the most disruptive aspects of the COVID-19 crisis has been the impact on spring fundraising. Not only has the pandemic cancelled key events, it has increased the demand for services and shifted the case for funds. Several organizations responded to these changes by the quick development of crisis response or critical need funds.

This isn’t the right answer for everyone and is heavily dependent on the needs of your community, demand for your services and changes to your fundraising strategy. Messaging and goals will be significantly different for everyone, but one thing is very clear – the plans you carefully crafted months ago will have to evolve and change with the changing landscape.

On Friday, May 8, Next Stage hosted a roundtable discussion on Starting a Crisis Response Fund on The New Normal – you can find the recording of that conversation here. The discussion featured three nonprofit leaders sharing the experience of launching a critical needs fund and what is working for them.

Friday’s panelists – Katy Ryan, Executive Director of 24 Foundation; Randall Hitt, Chief Engagement Officer at Men’s Shelter of Charlotte; and Sam Smith, Director of External Affairs at United Way of Central Carolinas – each shared key points and questions that guided their thinking as they made quick decisions about their crisis fundraising strategies.

Whether you opt to develop a crisis fund, or are simply adapting your existing plan, these four questions and tips will help guide your decision-making process:

1 – Is it true to your mission?

Remember who you are and what is most important to your constituents. The temptation to shift your messaging and focus during a crisis can be very real. “You can leverage a crisis, but don’t shift what is at your core,” said Randall Hitt, Chief Engagement Officer at the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte.

The most powerful thing you can do is to be authentic and explain how the crisis is impacting the people you serve. If you’re raising money in relation to the crisis, make sure it stays true to your core services.

2 – Is your plan clear?

Sam Smith, Director of External Affairs for the United Way Central Carolinas identifies this as a key driver of success for organizations receiving United Way funding. “Be clear about the work you want to do and very specific about how you’re going to execute that plan,” he advised.

This can be challenging. Both demand for services and the way organizations deliver those services look drastically different than they did just months ago. Funders – both individuals and foundations – are looking for leaders who have clear visions and plans for how to manage this crisis. The most successful organizations will be the ones that can think fast, then clearly articulate and make those ideas happen.

 3 – Can you execute it quickly?

Now is not the time for complicated plans that require you to build new resources. “Focus on what you can do right now,” said Katy Ryan, Executive Director of 24 Foundation. “Fundraising is going to look different this year,” she continued. “It’s probably going to be a tough year, but a lot of that is out of my control. What I can do is focus everything we have on serving the needs of the cancer community that exist right now. If it feels right and your stakeholders support it, then now is the time to move.”

Trust your gut. You know what your organization is capable of and what you have the ability to execute, so make a plan and go for it.

4 – Do your stakeholders back it?  

As you adapt plans, make sure you’re bringing along your supporters and stakeholders.  Many will appreciate the opportunity to be included in conversations and will be supportive of efforts to continue providing services and keeping your organization on track.

Learn more about our panelists and how they are generating revenue throughout this crisis by listening to the full conversation here.

Position Announcement: Preschool Principal/Site Administrator, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool

Charlotte Bilingual Preschool
Preschool Principal/Site Administrator – Position Description

Position: Preschool Principal/Site Administrator
Organization: Charlotte Bilingual Preschool
Location: 6300 Highland Ave, Charlotte, NC 28215
Reports To: Executive Director

Organization Overview

Mission
To prepare Spanish-speaking children for success in school and life by providing superior dual language early childhood education.

Enduring Vision
Mecklenburg County is a place where differences in language and culture are mutually enriching rather than impediments to education and fulfilment.

Overview
As one of the fastest emerging Latinx markets in the country, the Charlotte region has experienced significant change over the last two decades. Latinx individuals now make up nearly 15% of the Charlotte population, and that number continues to climb. Immigrants to the Charlotte region encounter a number of obstacles to success, which is particularly true for children entering the public school system. Without a quality preschool education, children enter Kindergarten 12-14 months behind, are half as likely to read proficiently in third grade, and are four times as likely to drop out of high school on average.

Charlotte Bilingual Preschool (CltBP) has dedicated 20 years to providing innovative, two-generation solutions for preparing Spanish-speaking children for success. Core services include the 5-star licensed dual language Preschool Program for children 3-5 and the Family Programs, which empower families as partners in their children’s education.

CltBP has also been committed to adapting its services to meet the needs of the community. In 2018, the organization launched an extension of the Preschool Program called the Green Room, a three-year pilot integrating students and families from diverse cultural backgrounds to facilitate the flow of social capital. In 2019, CltBP began a partnership with ParentChild+ as a pilot site for this nationally-recognized home visiting program.

Opportunity
Building on this momentum, CltBP’s board of directors approved a game-changing strategic plan in early 2020 that includes dramatic expansion over the next ten years, growing its impact to meet the needs of ten times as many children and their families annually. This plan calls for expanding reach through partnerships with other preschools, evolving the current preschool into a full-day early learning center, and developing a dual-education early learning workforce.

It is an ambitious plan and it begins with sourcing exceptional talent to serve in new Preschool positions. As CltBP enters its 20th school year of service, this newly created role will oversee Assistant Principals and teaching staff in different areas of programming such as operations management, curriculum and instruction, expansion, and talent development.

The Role

Reporting to the Executive Director, the Preschool Principal/Site Administrator oversees the preschool’s daily operations and administration. This includes successfully managing Charlotte Bilingual Preschool program delivery in preschool and early education classrooms, wraparound programs, decentralized preschool delivery expansion, and talent development. Assistant Principals focused in different programming areas report directly to the Principal. The Principal ensures that CltBP delivers a high-quality, dual language preschool program that supports students’ school readiness in a supportive school culture in collaboration with teachers, staff, and parents. Position responsibilities include:

School Leadership

  • Support expansion of Pre-K classrooms and expanded age 3 classrooms, evolution to a zero-to-5 early learning center, and talent development to meet growing community needs
  • With staff, lead the daily effort to ensure core services encourage family participation and empower families to support their children’s education at home
  • Implement best practices in dual language education to deliver superior preschool education
  • Lead a data-driven environment that ensures use of data and assessment tools for planning, decision making, and differentiated instruction to support student success
  • Establish and maintain ongoing open communication with families, therapists, and Family Educators regarding each child’s needs
  • Represent CltBP as a leader in early education and create a welcoming environment for visitors
  • Promote a strong and intentional organizational culture in which teaching staff are empowered, feel valued, and are regularly recognized for their contributions
  • Work with Assistant Principals to develop, implement, and coordinate year-round school curriculum and training, and conduct ongoing assessment to ensure curriculum efficacy

Program Oversight

  • Utilizing knowledge and experience in early childhood development and school administration, work with teaching staff to create long-term plans for children’s academic success
  • Manage people, data processes, and assessments
  • Ensure cultural, linguistic, and familial values and beliefs are incorporated into a positive and welcoming school culture, classroom culture, and lesson plans
  • Create systematic, integrated opportunities across whole school
  • Oversee wraparound programming and curriculum delivery to ensure each child meets learning expectations that prepare them for success in school
  • Use data to drive instructional practices and differentiate instruction based on students’ needs
  • Help families understand the curriculum and ways they can support their child’s education at home
  • Conduct home visits and family conferences
  • Actively participate in Advisory process of referral and student support
  • Regularly meet with faculty and staff as a whole to discuss and review curriculum

Talent Development

  • Provide consistent and systematic professional development opportunities for teaching staff
  • Cultivate leadership in others and encourage implementation of best practices and opportunities to remain a reflective practitioner
  • Recruit, supervise, develop, evaluate, and retain high-quality teaching staff

Required Qualifications & Competencies

The ideal candidate would have the following capabilities and qualities:

  • Has a track record of leading and supporting education teams to improve outcomes for youth
  • Commits to fully integrate school with groundbreaking early childhood program
  • Displays a passion for dual language learners and their families and commitment to building a collaborative culture
  • Demonstrates flexibility and resourcefulness
  • Is a critical thinker and a problem solver with a track record of utilizing data to improve outcomes
  • Demonstrates ability to recruit and hire top performing teaching staff
  • Brings 5 years’ experience working with preschool-aged children and 4 years in a school administration role
  • Values diversity, equity, and cultural differences, bringing cultural competency to daily work
  • Is bilingual and bicultural English/Spanish with proficient fluency in oral and written communication in both languages (required)
  • Holds a Master’s degree in early childhood education or education-related field and/or ECE credential (required), Birth-Kindergarten teaching license and/NC Administrative Credential (preferred)

Compensation

Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience. Health and retirement benefits offered.

To Apply

All inquiries, nominations and applications should be directed via email to Next Stage at: search@nextstage-consulting.com. To be considered for the role, applications must include a CV and compelling one-page cover letter explaining your interest and why you believe you are a good fit. Please also indicate where you learned of the opportunity.

NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE.  Please note that only those candidates invited for screening will be contacted.

As an equal opportunity employer, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified individuals and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, or any other basis prohibited by applicable law.

Budget Shortfalls & Bold Leadership: Follow-up from #NewNormalCLT

Our online nonprofit roundtable that takes place each Friday at noon is called The New Normal. A promise we make is that it will only last 30 minutes, making it easily digestable as a “can’t miss” weekly activity. That also means we can’t always get to everything we plan to cover.

Luckily, we have our Monday morning wrap-up to capture everything we were unable to cover on Friday. Did you miss it? Check out the recording here.

Additional Panelist Questions

Chris, can you speak to scenario planning? Specifically, how various timelines or sets of conditions have factored in to the decisions you’ve made and will make moving forward?

Chris Jackson: I have found scenario planning to be helpful even in the best of times.  It helps our organization be prepared to adjust to various factors and be in a better position to ensure positive outcomes.  This type of planning has been even more important given the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 Pandemic. We have been running scenario analysis from the early stages of the pandemic affecting our region.  This has included, but not limited to various stay at home orders at the local, regional, state and national level, possible COVID related events effecting our facilities, and other factors affecting our team members and others we serve.

This planning has helped us understand when we might need to make different decisions based on changing external factors and provided us with clarity about the impact these decisions would have on our team, program participants, customers, and the financial stability of the organization.  It has also helped us communicate our actions with transparency.  Both what we know for sure and what is not clear yet.

Michelle, on the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra Facebook page, there was a post that started “There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you experience the beauty of live music with your friends and loved ones.” And while I agree, #CSOatHome is such a bold and innovative platform. Do you think this pandemic will accelerate the rate at which arts organizations embrace the digital medium?

Michelle Hamilton: The ban on mass gatherings has surely catapulted performing arts groups like the CSO forward in our use of technology. As Basil and Chris mentioned on the panel, many of us are now doing things to innovate that we may have had on the shelf waiting for the “right time” in the future.  Much of what the CSO is doing today to engage audiences, both publicly through our website and social platforms and privately with donors and subscribers, will remain part of our toolkit after the crisis abates.

What will never change is the thrill of live performance.  For years we’ve been able to stream orchestras from around the world, yet people continue to come to concert halls to hear their local orchestras perform.  Live performances engage the senses in a way a recorded or streamed performance never will.  I spoke with a donor today who said the concert is the centerpiece but the complete experience, the people she is with and the energy in the concert hall on a night at the Symphony, can never be replaced by a recorded or streamed experience.  I see most of our concerts more than once, even three days in a row, and I come away with three completely different, and remarkable, experiences.  I so look forward to the day when it’s again safe to gather for the exhilarating experience of a live performance of the full orchestra.

Basil, hands-on, service-based leadership training is how the brothers of Pi Kappa Phi learn and channel servant leadership. How will learnings from this pandemic potentially change how you think about the mix of those experiences into the future?

Basil Lyberg: As college students return to school this fall, they will be returning to a campus community that will be forced to change. Football games, lecture classrooms and residence life will all look different. As a result, we will have to change as well to serve our mission until threat of COVID-19 is greatly reduced and we have a vaccine in hand. For The Ability Experience, this will mean finding ways to foster relationships between students and people with disabilities when they may not be able to walk down the street for an event. Innovations like inclusive gaming will be critical in providing opportunities that can’t be impacted by the reach of this virus.

We also are going to have to do more work to educate students on how to be servant leaders and work to encourage their heart. Just last week we had a Zoom call with our chapter philanthropy chairs. It felt more like an AFP Charlotte luncheon with topics on how fundraise in a crisis and breaking down preconceived notions that students have about fundraising and service. Students want to give back and sometimes just need the tools and encouragement to go for it. There has been no time in their lives that servant leadership has been more critical or needed to meet the needs of our communities.

Bonus Content: How to Write a Compelling ‘State of the Organization’ Update

This week we add a new feature to #TheNewNormal – bonus content! We were so impressed by Chris Jackson’s first-person statement on LinkedIn entitled Leadership in the Era of Coronavirus that we dedicated a whole post to it. Specifically, we believe nonprofit Executive Directors and CEOs should consider being more vulnerable and reflective in their communication to the public during the current public health crisis.

In this post, we outline six steps to writing (or recording) a compelling statement about the state of your nonprofit. We also urge you to make it public. Why is that important? Click above to learn more.

Announcing: Crisis Planning Services

Are you on Zoom a lot these days? We are too. Our area nonprofits are struggling to determine a pathway forward during COVID-19 and Next Stage is rising to the call.

This month, we are formalizing a service line we have already deployed for multiple organizations. Read more here about how we can help your nonprofit navigate near-term challenges and emerge on the other side of this in a better position to meet your mission.

How to Write a Compelling ‘State of the Organization’ Update

by Josh Jacobson

On Friday, May 1, Next Stage hosted an accomplished panel of social good leaders for The New Normal, the firm’s digital nonprofit roundtable that takes place each Friday at noon. The topic was Budget Shortfall and Bold Leadership, and the conversation was outstanding. I encourage you to check it out.

Panelist Chris Jackson from Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont recently published an excellent first-person statement on LinkedIn entitled Leadership in the Era of Coronavirus. In it, he not only lays out a strong, matter-of-fact update on the impact of COVID-19 on the local Goodwill affiliate, but also offers his views on how to lead a large nonprofit during a time of great change.

As he noted during The New Normal, he never thought he would need to temporarily close all of the organization’s 26 retail stores or furlough more than 750 employees. These were significant decisions that needed to be made quickly and courageously. By outlining how these decisions were made and offering insider insights, Chris took control of his agency’s narrative and set a positive, hopeful vision for the future.

Many nonprofits have posted some sort of COVID-19 statement on their websites – typically a short, formal statement using organizational voice. Next Stage believes the leaders of area nonprofits should follow this high-quality example and consider drafting their own “from the desk of leadership” statements.

Interested in writing your own? Here are some tips:

  1. Use First-Person Voice – There is a time for writing in the ‘grantspeak’ of third-person, but this isn’t it. You want your audience to feel your presence through this communication, and that is best done when it is clear who is doing the speaking. Using “I” and “me” makes it clear that the nonprofit leader is communicating personally.
  2. State the Facts – A ‘State of the Organization’ requires a forthright update on current conditions. That means outlining how programs have been disrupted, staffing impacted and finances analyzed. While this may mean sharing less than favorable news, it is also a time to outline the positives – how innovation has overcome obstacles and how human and financial resources have been mobilized. Your constituents want to know what is happening and it is important to provide a meaningful, data-driven update.
  3. Be Vulnerable – These are unprecedented times and no one is expected to be infallible. Everyone is still making sense of the long-term impact of this public health crisis. Be truthful with what you know and what you do not. This can be difficult for leaders who are more accustomed to projecting a positive image at all times. Vulnerability is a trait we seek when times are tough as it suggests our own fears and concerns are appropriate.
  4. Include a Story – Understanding how the last two months have transformed your nonprofit may be difficult for people without a lens on the nonprofit business model. Telling a story about a constituent served, a staff member impacted or a board member leaning in can help to illuminate current conditions for those reading it. This update is meant to be human-centered and emotionally evocative, and storytelling can be a very effective communication tool.
  5. Share Your Vision – The era of COVID-19 will end (at some point, right?) and your organization will still be here (we certainly hope). What are you hopeful to achieve? Three months ago, we all had ambition and strategic plans we were eager to implement against the backdrop of a strong economy. While the conditions may have changed, one hopes your desire to advance your mission has not. Your constituents want to know that you have the will to succeed. Your hopeful view of the future is needed now more than ever.
  6. Publish It Publicly – It may seem counterintuitive to air vulnerability and less-then-positive news in the bright light of day, but this is perhaps the most important feature of a strong leader statement. Your 501c3 is a publicly-held nonprofit, which means that everyone is a stakeholder whether an active donor/volunteer or not. Having the confidence to lower the barriers to access for this messaging demonstrates bold leadership and the courage of one’s convictions.

Need help conceptualizing this leader statement? Still trying to figure out how your organization will overcome the challenges of COVID-19? We’re here to help. Reach out today to schedule a chat.

Staying Engaged While Staying at Home: Takeaways from #NewNormalCLT

By Caylin Haldeman

Thank you to everyone who joined us last Friday for The New Normal. Don’t forget to sign up for next week’s roundtable, Budget Shortfalls and Bold Leadership, and check out our May #NewNormalCLT series on Revenue Development to register for upcoming events here!

While we intentionally keep these roundtables short, we know there is so much more to explore within each topic. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from our time with Tina Postel, Executive Director of Loaves & Fishes, Michael DeVaul, Chief Social Responsibility Officer at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and Amy Jacobs, Executive Director of SHARE Charlotte.

Embracing Creativity

Last week was Do Good Week (HOME Edition!) here in Charlotte, and nonprofits all over the city were busy creating fun and engaging ways for volunteers to support them from home. Amy Jacobs shared that generating unique opportunities for engagement is an effective way to get in front of new audiences during the Stay at Home Order. While it’s important to continue to lean on your existing network, reaching out to new volunteers expands your reach and grows your brand in the community. She suggested designing both hands-on and skill-based volunteer opportunities for individuals and families to support your work. While Do Good Week wrapped up over the weekend, our city’s desire to support local nonprofits has not. Connect with SHARE Charlotte to learn more about creating compelling volunteer opportunities for your nonprofit.

Operationalizing Remote Opportunities

Loaves & Fishes has transformed its operating model over the last month — moving to a mobile pantry-based distribution strategy and vastly growing its output to serve the increased demand for access to food in our region. With these shifts came changes to their need for volunteers: no availability for volunteers in the warehouse, limited opportunities at the mobile pantry sites but significant need for volunteers to support their call center from home. Tina Postel shared that the call center was once a happening spot within their HQ, but due to the Stay at Home Order it has shifted to a virtual model that volunteers can participate in remotely. She suggested cloud-based platforms as key to managing security risks — all volunteers sign robust confidentiality agreements, and have individual log-ins that allow them to do data entry. One local resource that can help nonprofits leverage IT systems to withstand the demands of remote work is Apparo — check out their Navigating the Crisis webinar series to learn more about setting up effective remote workspaces, using technology to connect virtually and more. 

Improving Cultural Competency

While we are all navigating waves of change due to COVID-19 and the Stay at Home Order, Michael DeVaul reminded us not to let go of our commitment to increasing cultural competency in volunteer engagement. Now more than ever, there is a need to provide equity-focused and/or trauma-informed training to volunteers before placing them in people-facing roles. Informative trainings have the power to transform one-off volunteer opportunities into relational activities that strengthen the social fabric of our community as a whole. Using resources — like the Racial Equity Insitute’s Groundwater Approach Report, for example — to design virtual training webinars creates opportunities for deeper impact on program participants and volunteers alike. We’ll circle back to this topic in a future roundtable, exploring strategies to help nonprofits ensure their program shifts and crisis response are culturally competent and strategic. 

If you weren’t able to join us on Friday, please check out the recording of the webinar here and let us know what you think on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn using #NewNormalCLT.

Tina Postel Cares About Food Access

by Josh Jacobson

Originally published in ‘The Biscuit,’ Charlotte is Creative’s digital news magazine.

Tina Postel is up early. Really. early.

As Executive Director of Loaves & Fishes, a food access nonprofit for people experiencing a short-term crisis, Postel has been working overtime to meet an explosion of need.

This week marks one month since Mecklenburg County issued the ‘stay at home’ order to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Statewide, more than 630,000 unemployment claims have been filed in the past month. The ripple effects of the pandemic have hit the hardest for those who have always been just a paycheck away from financial distress.

“Our mission is to provide a week’s worth of nutritious groceries to people facing economic hardships,” Postel said. “And ‘economic hardship’ is a massive understatement for what our community is currently experiencing.”

Going Mobile

Like most nonprofits, Loaves & Fishes was challenged by COVID-19 to rethink the delivery of services.  The organization’s Client Choice model typically allows clients to select groceries that their family is most likely to eat at a network of more than 40 emergency food pantries located through Mecklenburg County. But, with the onset of the pandemic, the organization made the hard decision to close its full-size pantry locations to prevent further spread of coronavirus.

Instead, the organization kicked off mobile pantry operations two weeks ago, switching to a drive-thru style approach that serves clients while reducing personal contact.

According to Sue Bruce, Marketing and Events Director for Loaves & Fishes, the decision was one of many Postel has handled with integrity and determination.

“From the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Tina has been thinking two steps ahead,” Bruce said. “With the safety of our clients and volunteers at risk, she did not hesitate to make the bold and difficult decision to close down our ‘brick and mortar’ pantries and completely switch our operation to ‘drive-through’ style mobile pantry distribution sites.”

The decision came with some downside. Referred clients would not be able to choose their own food items. Instead, they receive a prepacked box with a seven-day supply of food.

“This was a painful pivot,” Postel said. “Client choice is at the heart of our organization but we have to play the hand we’re dealt and making sure we serve the public in a safe and effective way means making these types of tough calls.”

“Lovingly Disruptive”

Transitioning to an all-mobile distribution model may have been difficult for Loaves & Fishes over the last month, but it likely would have been impossible when Postel first came to the organization in 2016.

Over the last four years, she has helped Loaves & Fishes embrace technology including the migration to a cloud database system, adoption of a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system and deployment of a digital referral platform. The switch to mobile operations has relied heavily on the ability of staff and volunteers to be in touch remotely.

These modifications to standard operating procedures were not easy changes to make in a nonprofit that had been ‘doing it our way’ for a long time, particularly one that relies heavily on older volunteers. However, this digitization looks downright prescient given the challenges the community is facing with COVID-19.

“I guess you can say that I am a ‘lovingly disruptive’ leader,” Postel said. “But every time we considered a new way of doing things, if we could justify that it would help us feed more people in need, our staff and volunteers got behind it because we are all incredibly client-first minded.”

Due in part to the organization’s rapid deployment of its all-mobile distribution system, Loaves & Fishes has been the beneficiary of two rounds of support totaling $400,000 from the COVID-19 Response Fund, a critical needs fund administered through a partnership between Foundation For The Carolinas and United Way of Central Carolinas, in close coordination with the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

Leadership

According to Loaves & Fishes board member Kathleen Kaney, Postel is the right person to be leading the organization during this time of increased community need.

“Tina’s talents are many and we were so fortunate to add her leadership to an already strong organization,” Kaney said. “Tina’s ability to connect to other organizations fighting hunger so our work is aligned, contemporary, multiplied and not duplicative has really served not only Loaves & Fishes, but our entire community.”

Postel joined Loaves and Fishes from United Way of Central Carolinas where she worked in major gift fundraising. Prior to relocating to Charlotte, she served as CEO of the Billings Montana Family YMCA. Throughout her career, a commitment to ‘walking the walk’ has earned her the respect of those she manages.

“Tina’s leadership style is very hands-on,” Bruce said. “She has been out there on the front lines, working each and every mobile pantry to make sure they worked smoothly so that as many people could receive food as safely and efficiently as possible.” She concludes: “She isn’t asking her staff or volunteers to do something she hasn’t already done herself.”

Taking a Leap of Faith

Postel acknowledges that working in the trenches of a human services nonprofit is not for everyone, but suggests the following for those who feel a longing to live a life of purpose:

  1. Consider the “emotional paycheck” a job in social good can provide; often it’s the most important fringe benefit.
  2. Find a nonprofit that speaks to you personally, one that makes you want to ‘show up’ every day.
  3. Assess your skills and capacities to find alignment with a position that is a good fit, and keep in mind that a nonprofit mission is only successful when everyone works collaboratively. There are no ‘small roles’ in the nonprofit model.
  4. If a job in a nonprofit is not a good fit for you, do volunteer work instead – find a way to give back.

In his “Cares About” series, guest contributor Josh Jacobson highlights staff leaders in Charlotte’s nonprofit sector who are shaking things up and making an impact. Josh is the founder and managing director of Next Stage, a Charlotte company that works with nonprofit organizations to develop game-changing strategies and strengthened operations in service to mission and long-range vision. 

Register for The New Normal: Keeping Your Volunteers Engaged

By Caylin Haldeman

Volunteers. They can be our biggest advocates, most dedicated ambassadors and most engaged donors. For many of our region’s largest nonprofits, they are a support system that can be mobilized to bring programs to life. For smaller, grassroots groups, they might be the entire engine of the organization. So, what happens when volunteers are asked to stay at home? 

This week is Do Good Week in Charlotte. Every year around this time, thousands of Charlotteans get their hands dirty by donating their time and talents to organizations serving any number of missions. But Do Good Week looks… well, different this year. The COVID-19 crisis has shut down many organizations, and has dramatically altered program delivery models for others — from food banks that are serving multiple times the normal number of families to arts organizations who have shuttered in an attempt to wait out the pandemic. 

On this Friday’s New Normal, we’ll hear from three local leaders who have experienced significant shifts in their volunteer engagement strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic and NC’s Stay at Home Order. Our panelists are Tina Postel, Executive Director of Loaves & Fishes, Michael DeVaul, Chief Social Responsibility Officer at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and Amy Jacobs, Executive Director of Share Charlotte. They will share how they are continuing to engage and communicate with volunteers, with examples ranging from strict social distancing guidelines to strategies for staying in touch even when they can’t see each other. 

Each of these organizations depend on volunteers — to serve in their programs, to spread the word to their friends and, often, to participate as donors in their fundraising efforts. So when a crisis like this pandemic happens, forcing volunteers to stay at home for weeks on end, nonprofits must shift their engagement strategies and find new ways to get the support they need while providing opportunities for the “warm fuzzy” of volunteering. The front-line organizations that provide essential services and programs must create new policies and procedures that keep volunteers and staff safe and healthy. And all must work to keep their missions front-of-mind and continue, as possible, to serve the neighbors who depend on them.

Here at Next Stage, we are inspired by the speed, commitment and dedication with which our nonprofit sector has adapted to our “New Normal.” From virtual engagement opportunities held over Facebook Live, to social media campaigns that encourage people to volunteer safely while social distancing, to endless opportunities to gather critical supplies at home and spread awareness online, organizations are quickly adjusting to CDC recommendations and giving charitable Charlotteans plenty of ways to safely stay engaged. To see some of the volunteer opportunities being promoted by local nonprofits this week, check out the Do Good Week homepage or follow #DoGoodCLT and #SHAREFromHome on social media. 

Join us on Friday by registering for free here.

Plus, if you missed last week’s roundtable discussion exploring Digital Outreach in the Time of Covid with Angela Woods, CEO of the Girl Scouts, Hornets Nest Council, Jimmy McQuilkin, Executive Director of UrbanPromise Charlotte and Becky Santoro, Founder of Foster Village Charlotte, download that episode here.

Register for The New Normal: Digital Outreach in the Time of COVID

 

Thanks again for everyone who joined us on The New Normal on Friday to talk about finding narrative traction in a crisis. Panelists Erin Santos of The Isabella Santos Foundation, Witnie Martinez of The Harvey B. Gantt Center (check out their event tomorrow!) and Kris Reid of The Piedmont Culinary Guild shared how they are each crafting messaging that is both sensitive to the current crisis, but also driving their mission forward and preparing for what comes next. View the full discussion here

You’ll also notice that The New Normal got a new look – huge thank you to Jordan Stevens, founder of Empathegy for so beautifully designing our new graphics. 

This week, we will talk to three very different organizations about the ways they are adapting their outreach to volunteers, donors and clients. You’ll hear from Angela Woods, CEO of the Girl Scouts, Hornets Nest Council, Jimmy McQuilkin, Executive Director of UrbanPromise Charlotte and Becky Santoro, Founder of Foster Village Charlotte. They will share which digital channels they are using to communicate with their communities, what to do when access is limited, how they quickly galvanized their supporters to meet needs and where they are finding success. 

Register now for The New Normal: Digital Outreach in the Time of COVID.

Finally, we want your feedback on The New Normal! Take this 5-minute survey to help us identify what topics you’d like to cover and let us know if your organization is finding success as you adapt to changes.