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A Step-by-Step Approach to Help Nonprofits With Challenges During Covid-19

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During a recent nonprofit webinar hosted by SobelCo, Jonathan Pearson, the Executive Director and Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of New Jersey, generously shared the step-by-step innovative approach they adopted in response to the challenges of the 2020 global Covid-19 pandemic. As he spoke, Jonathan touched on many critical topics that are applicable to every nonprofit organization today.

One of the key pillars that supported Horizon’s distinctive approach was its commitment to maintaining high stakeholder engagement.

Knowing your stakeholders is step one 

In order to maintain the trust and confidence of the supporters of Horizon, the leadership first had to identify the key players. They knew that to build credibility for the critical changes they were proposing they had to connect in a relevant way with their members, employees, employers, influencers in the community, policy makers and healthcare professionals. They instituted a ‘high touch process’ by using a wide range of informational channels that included traditional media through the local press, social media posts, the Horizon newsletter, and through personal outreach including phone calls and emails. They were careful to provide the same message regardless of the platform used. This allowed them to control the communication process and ensure consistency.

What you say matters most

While connecting with the stakeholders was the primary goal, it was also important to guarantee that the communication was meaningful and timely. In order to achieve this, they set about engaging with the community by:

  • Providing regular, dependable updates to all stakeholders; this helped prevent any unnecessary and unpleasant surprises
  • Quickly reassuring the organizations that they would be funded; this helped to reduce anxiety and stress
  • Educating and informing the nonprofit community of the way the pandemic and its challenges were being handled; this helped to manage expectations more realistically
  • Offering information about available state and federal resources; this helped nonprofits by providing alternative funding avenues

The benefits of effective communication and engagement

Adopting this disciplined and focused communication protocol gave Horizon the unique opportunity to assure the nonprofits that funding would be maintained; that additional resources would be developed; that a change in the way some of the funds would be applied was anticipated; that they would pursue an early renewal policy; and that they would seek out new opportunities based on the changing circumstances in the community. In this way Horizon was able to assure the nonprofit community that they could depend on their funding, no matter what the circumstances.

As the basic needs in the communities shifted, so did Horizon’s strategy as they sought to help nonprofits establish new and more efficient food distribution methods, offer greater access to medical and mental health support, and ramp up childcare and family services.  Horizon was prepared to redefine their approach, embrace new challenges, and seek ways to address new hurdles facing the community.

By keeping their employees involved (offering volunteer opportunities, matching gifts and other encouragements) as well as engaging with the external community, Horizon was able to rapidly adjust, reposition its strategy, pivot in a new direction, and efficiently and effectively offer new solutions as they navigated through unchartered territory.