Article by Mel Ulle

When the need for something becomes imperative, you are forced to find ways of getting or achieving it. Hence the saying: ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’

I am so impressed with private industry’s responsiveness to this pandemic crisis with quick innovations and pivots. Distilleries making hand sanitizing spray, fashion houses making face masks, a hotel becoming a sanitarium… On a three-hour call with a number of for-profit leaders yesterday, it was inspiring to hear the solution-oriented approaches that small business owners were quickly making to save their companies and help society writ large. My takeaways from that call were the following gems:

1) Prepare. Use this time to get ready for the future. Retool, reconfigure and create strategies that will be beneficial for the long-term. Triage the immediate crises quickly, but stay focused on the big picture.

2) Watch. Like the protagonists in the documentary, “The Biggest Little Farm,” taking the time to get quiet, and observe where the greatest need is now, and might be in the future, and what logical solutions emerge are likely our smartest strategies as we watch our old reality disappear. This is extremely hard to do. This is where I am challenging myself the most right now.

3) Fail. I am going to try a lot of new tactics that may fall flat over the next few months. I am comfortable knowing that I might fail, but if I find success in opening up new verticals in my company, I will be ecstatic to have taken some risks. And I’ll enjoy the new revenue if any of them actually stick.

4) Collaborate. I have spent a lot of time riffing with my peers in the nonprofit and foundation world this week. There are some really fun possibilities for collaboration that we never would have had the time, or bandwidth to consider three months ago. Again, these might not have legs, but there’s no harm in trying new initiatives within reason.

This was the hardest day of this crisis for me thus far. I am worried about my cousins and friends who are on the front lines of this pandemic. I am worried about my business and my team…my husband and my kids. But reading my notes from the three hours of strategic discussion with other business owners made me feel like I will come out of this with a better arsenal than I had before.

Nonprofit brothers and sisters, let’s learn from the resourcefulness we’re seeing from commercial endeavors and really envision where this calamity might yield future opportunity for our programs and our revenue streams. Onward!

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