Every industry has been hard hit by the demands for social distancing and sheltering in place that have evolved as the Covid-19 pandemic has continued to have its impact around the world and here at home in New Jersey.

But the nonprofit community is one that has especially suffered from these challenges.

Every aspect of a nonprofit has always depended on personal interaction. From the services offered to the fundraising events to volunteer engagement, human connection is the basis for every activity. But how do you maintain that high level of bonding in a safe way?

At a recent SobelCo Executive Directors’ Roundtable, several of the leaders shared new ideas for new circumstances!

Staff

With many employees working remotely, or in a drastically altered office environment, there are some effective ways for helping keep people’s spirits up.:

  • Host weekly group get-togethers (maybe at lunch time or happy hour!) using Zoom or other meeting platforms. Encourage everyone to keep their cameras on so they can really connect. Share interesting details – such as hobbies, collections, recently read books. If there are pets – or children –in the home, ask to see them on screen. These are the components of the staff’s lives that almost always remain private but that be shared proudly now that so many are at home!
  • Have a reward program. Mail or email Amazon cards or other gift cards that can be used for groceries and other delivered necessities. What a nice surprise to open the mail and find $25!
  • Work with a local bakery and have cookies delivered to your employees homes for a sweet treat.
  • The same can be done with edible fruit for fun as well.
  • Start an internal blog and ask people to post pictures or thoughts throughout the week. Keep participation just for the office staff.
  • Start a book or podcast club. Share favorites and discuss them virtually one afternoon.
  • Offer 15 minutes of a virtual meditation class. This can help get everyone off to a good start on Monday mornings!
  • To keep fit and alert, start a walking club. Those who want to participate can link through their Fitbit or other device. Ratchet up the competitive spirit by giving small prizes to the most steps/miles walked each week.

Donors

Even during Covid it is important to maintain ties and nurture relationships in order to preserve them and to continue building momentum. After the crisis has passed it will be too late to resume contact if it has faltered over the last six months or more.

  • Personal hand written notes are appreciated now more than ever. With most individuals separated from each other, a kind note or card in the mailbox is welcome.
  • Create a video message right from your laptop. Tell donors how valued they are as you share outcomes with them.
  • Continue to recognize donors on the website, LinkedIn page, Facebook and Instagram – to name a few ways to publically acknowledge all of their efforts.
  • If there are clients of the nonprofit who wish to also video a personal message, this is a great time for doing so. If they prefer, a thank you email or text for donors is also effective.    

Volunteer leaders

Board members and other volunteers may feel isolated and perhaps even less relevant during the pandemic. The lack of interaction with the organization, the staff and the clients, may have a negative impact on volunteers. They need to feel relevant even while social distancing.

  • Hold regularly scheduled Zoom or Teams-type meetings. Share new business, good news, industry challenges, and updates on changes taking place at the local, state or national level.
  • Offer some training programs. What better time to get volunteers the technical experience needed to work with clients or to offer programs such as boot camp for board members to enhance their leadership skills.   
  • Conduct a strategic planning meeting. This is a great opportunity for everyone with a vested interest in the organization to come together and look ahead to the coming year while considering how to establish new ideas, guidelines, and fundraising ideas. This can be conducted as a series of meetings or as a one-time meeting. 
  • Create a COVID response volunteer committee to enhance connections and communications with the staff and clients 

These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg! By coming together with the intent to brainstorm further suggestions, the organization can continue to nurture its key influencers while maintaining a strong influence and presence in the community it serves.