On March 11, 2020, the Novel Coronavirus Disease, COVID-19, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. On March 13, 2020, a national emergency was declared in the United States concerning the COVID-19 Outbreak. That week, we decided to cancel two major events and asked our staff to work from the safety of their homes, where we are still working today.
Once we settled into real or make-shift home offices, we began to take in the gravity of the situation for our state and the tsunami of change ahead for the nonprofit sector. We are familiar with the chaos recessions cause, especially for businesses needed more in crisis and recovery and also dependent on donors and grants to serve their missions. But we had never experienced a worldwide health emergency that would take the lives of more than 100,000 people in less than three months. All we knew was that we had to quickly mobilize our resources to respond in the most meaningful ways we could.
In that context, we launched a multifaceted-approach to meet and serve nonprofit professionals wherever they were, as they navigated the unknown, regardless of their membership status. This new effort was known as the Community-Powered Response Training Series.
We did it like this: 1) maintained the already-scheduled in-person training sessions and roundtables but changed them to virtual; 2) opened up all programming free to members and nonmembers, alike; 3) built-out education sessions, led by trusted subject matter experts to specifically focus on the rapidly changing dynamics of the pandemic; 4) hosted sector support groups to listen and share; 5) strategically partnered with expert coaches, consultants, and civic organizations to provide CEOs, EDs and board members with coaching and connection opportunities; 6) invited other capacity-building organizations, foundation leaders and policymakers to join us for state-of-the-sector updates as part of the weekly Assemble Colorado series.
Alongside, the Association's leadership worked tirelessly across the state and nationally (virtually, of course) on public policy initiatives and managing our own internal operations, fundraising and finances.
The membership department made hundreds of phone calls to members and postponed renewals. They worked with lawyers from We The Action and banks to provide no-cost assistance for CARES Act Loan Application Assistance and answers to FAQs. Our communications department was unfaltering in their response. They implemented social media, email marketing, and messaging strategies that garnered national attention for their efficacy, breadth, timeliness, and reliability.
All the while, evaluation was occurring like an undercurrent. We evolved knowing what was effective and what wasn't, adopting new ways of doing our work, and letting go of the things that did not serve us. I found myself saying multiple times a day, "we're building the new best practices as we go."
We are just beginning to analyze the data from the last ten weeks. The anecdotal observation shows: our crisis response offered timely information and counsel while retaining human connection and a sense of community at the heart of everything we did. We are providing much-needed comfort in these harrowing times.
We couldn't have adapted so skillfully without every single one of our staff members, board of directors, trainers, coaches, partners, and supporters. We are grateful for the countless ways our team and stakeholders shared time, expertise, guidance, and camaraderie.
Most importantly, we couldn't have done it without you, the social-change-superheroes working for the health and wellbeing of your communities throughout Colorado. Your trust and willingness to lean into some significant discomfort with us made it happen. And for that and every other way, you're still showing up every day - we thank you, and we're here for you.
These are profoundly distressing and heartbreaking times. The pandemic is hardly over, and we are now in the midst of a historical revolution that is 400 years in the making. We can't fix those things with a membership, education, public policy, or networking opportunity. We can keep listening, responding, and powering our work through the community to consistently be there for all of you, whatever shall come.
Written by Amber Coté, Director of Education and Service Enterprise at Colorado Nonprofit Association