I’ve spent some time this Easter weekend away from my screen, spending quality time with family and trying to stay centred. It’s given me some perspective, and some time to properly reflect on the last month.
My overriding feeling right now is how proud I am of the sector. Yes, we are struggling. Yes, the government needs to do more. Yes, we’ve had to furlough staff. Yes, there are enormous challenges going forward, but the overarching feeling for me is one of pride.
I’m also aware how up and down we all are emotionally, myself included. How our feelings are changing hour by hour. How days seem extraordinarily long on one hand, and on the other how there isn’t enough time to get everything done. Focusing on the positives has (all of a sudden) become really important to me, so I thought I’d write down the things that have inspired me, just in case this blog catches you during one of those low hours. Full disclosure, this blog was written during one of my up hours, to be reread by me during one of my low ones.
10 things the charity sector should be proud of right now:
- Adaptability. Remote working! How the heck did that happen so quickly, and so smoothly? If we can completely flip our entire working methodology in a few shorts days, imagine what else we can do if we put our minds to it.
- Pulling together, not apart. Distance. Remote working. Less staff. Confusion. No off the shelf solutions. All of this a perfect recipe for paralysis, for retreat, for doing less. What I have seen is the exact opposite. Charities, teams and individuals are pulling together in ways I have never seen before. I for one feel more connected to colleagues, causes and conversations than ever. Far away. So close. At the same time. It’s infectious.
- Ramping up/adopting digital. For some, it was the first big leap for digital. For many it was the first time that digital really took centre stage for comms and fundraising. (Because it had to…) On the whole it has been an enormous success, and has forged a new path for all going forward. Digital transformation is no longer a luxury. It’s a necessity.
- Generosity with time and knowledge. Like many, when things started to get a bit heightened and bewildering, first thing I did was pick up the phone. Not just to clients, colleagues and friends, but to anyone who needed help and advice. Many, many others did the same. As well as focusing on their own cause, and their own internal issues, people reached out and connected, cross-sector. People have been so free and generous with time, knowledge and support, forging new relationships that will continue long after this crisis.
- Small acts of individual humanity. I’ve been inspired by the community I work for, but also my geographical community. Even the road I live in has astonished me with its humanity. The street ringing to the sound of clapping every Thursday. The trips to the shops for those in lock-down. The hand drawn messages of encouragement and support in windows. Certainly where I live there has been a real demonstration of not only what community is, but also what charity means.
- Humans. Not hierarchy. I was on a call the other day that was overrunning, the person I was speaking to said. “Oh, I’ve got to go. I just need to call my boss and check in on his wellbeing, he’s juggling a lot at the moment.” Historically, hierarchy was the glue that held charities together. Now it’s humanity.
- Innovation. I never really believed in ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.” I do now. Look at the way events have pivoted to work online. Look at the way we have adapted the channels we can use to get comms out. Look at the way we have wrestled with technology to connect to our jobs, and to those we love. I’d never heard of an online pub quiz until 2 weeks ago. Now I’m addicted, and so is my Nan.
- New roles. Common goals. Humans are extraordinary, adaptable and surprising. On Monday you are an in-house face-to-face fundraiser. On Wednesday you are helping run your organisations social media channels. Redeployment has shown us who we really are, which is way beyond the confines of our individual job descriptions. We care. We are part of something bigger. We want our charities to do well. We will do whatever it takes. We pull together. We lean in.
- Leadership. I’ve spent a good part of my career over the last *coughs* few years pushing against a lot of the outdated fundamentals of the sector. Challenging, talking about bravery, trying new things and focussing on what genuine leadership is. I have seen more leadership in the sector in the last month, than I have in the last decade. Charity leaders doing incredible things, in completely turbulent times. We have some amazing leadership in our sector. Crisis has shone a spotlight on where it is, what it looks like, and how effective it is.
- Kindness. What the crisis has shown most is that in a crisis, kindness rises to the top. We’ve all seen this. It’s always been there, it’s just been enormously magnified. My hope is that this kindness, empathy and shared humanity continues. That there is a residue of compassion that permeates into the future. That the bar for humanity has been raised, for all of us. Forever.
I watched Jojo Rabbit over the weekend too. It’s beautiful. There was a quote in the end credits by Rainer Maria Rilke that really resonated for me in these times:
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final.”
Hope helpful. Here on Zoom in the spare room if you’d like to add to the list.