By Angela Joens
How many times have you been asked this question in the past months, weeks, days, minutes? For me – I can say I am asked this question in some iteration at least 4-5 times a day from my colleagues, employees, leaders, family members, and friends. I have presented on many webinars and conferences during the past 5 months and the question pops up again and again. It is safe to say we are wondering, hoping, and some of us are praying that life could just go back to normal again.
The reality is that I do not believe life is going to go back to how it was – ever. And before you stop reading – hear me out. Most that know me know that I am a glass half full girl – a real Pollyanna if you will. I believe everyone is good until they prove me otherwise. In every dark situation, I know there is a lesson for me. Sometimes it is easy to see and sometimes it takes me years to see the answer.
This pandemic is awful – of that we can all agree. People are sick and dying. People are frightened. We are working at home. Parents are being asked to work, care for their children, and teach them. Anxiety levels are at an all-time high. So is depression – isolation from those we love is unbearable. People are losing their jobs. We are fighting over wearing masks. Our health systems are working overtime to care for us. We are not traveling. Our legislatures are trying to make difficult decisions about how best to protect us knowing there is no one right way to do this for every city, town, and state. This idea of sheltering in place – feels as though we are being sent to our room.
Yet – despite all of this fear, confusion and negativity – I keep seeing so much light breaking through the cracks. I see creativity bursting forth. Old fashioned ingenuity is present, and we are finding new ways to do old things. We are not letting a pandemic stop us from our important work of raising money for our important missions. We are just discovering new ways to do work we have been doing one way for years and guess what – it is working! People are responding to us. They are giving.
One of my fundraisers is using Google Earth to take alumni on campus tours. The alumni have not been back to campus for years and they love to see how much the campus has changed. Our donors are open to in-person meetings so we are doing their calls in backyards, on porches, and in driveways. Our events have moved to virtual and we are reaching larger audiences who participate the day of the event but even more who are viewing the event in their own timeframe. We do not have to worry about catering or finding the perfect location – we have to focus more on the subject matter and how this event will progress a relationship with a donor or prospect. We are redefining events that had become stale. We are eliminating events and communications that do not work now. We are finding unique ways to communicate with our donors and prospects – using video and social media. We are sending our endowment reports digitally using ODDER (a new product developed by Lynne Wester, aka the Donor Relations Guru, and our friends at ThankView and MSP Digital). Heck – some of us are nuts enough to even launch a campaign (or close one) during all of this uncertainty. We are being encouraged to take risks. Our leaders are open to new ideas and saying yes to things they would have said no to six months ago.
I hope by now you see why I do not believe things are going to go back to normal. During this hectic dark time, we are finding solutions to problems we didn’t even know were problems. We are reaching people in new ways. Virtual events are here to stay – even when we can get back together. They are effective and help us reach people we have been leaving out for years. Zoom has become part of our work culture and it is here to stay - it is cost effective and efficient. We learned that there are many ways for our fundraisers to do donor calls. We have become better story tellers. We learned the valuable lesson that people need other people – we need to connect. I think we forgot that while we had our heads down looking at our phones and computers.
People, we are doing great! We are not just surviving this pandemic – we are thriving. We are not just resilient – we are smarter, more strategic, creative, and intentional in all we are doing. I hope and pray we continue to embrace all that we are learning and that these lessons become our new normal.