More often than not, the time for change in business (as in life) comes at an unexpected turn, and it’s true that not everything can be planned for. However, when it comes to the approach of companies in need of updating, what the arrival of a global pandemic has done is accelerate the clear desire for change, which was there to begin with. Whether by accident or design, the choices become clear from this point forward; A) Adapt, while continuing to grow and evolve as an organisation, or B) stay on the same course and be left in the dust as the rest of the business world changes without your company’s input.
This is a strong message, but one that has to be delivered and understood. There are of course many steps that can be taken to keep in line with all of the changes, and to ensure survival in a world that is changing by the day. In many ways, this worldwide event has been an opportunity for businesses to get going, and is an opportunity that cannot afford to be wasted.
Indicate a change from business as usual, particularly in a time of crisis
This is vital to make sure grantees and communities are aware of the changes, and in turn will mitigate the stress that clients will feel in such a time of uncertainty. The first proactive step is that of transparency and accuracy, to explain the situation and what can be expected, and this is something that will be incredibly difficult if a functioning system is not available at a pace that is somewhat proactive with changing events.
Flexibility is essential. Companies which are not set-up for this would do well to think about the opportunities provided to grantees, where they can revisit grant objectives, timelines and terms. In addition to this, there is the possibility of accelerating payments or adjusting deadlines and automatic grant reporting extensions. This freedom to move and change suddenly and where necessary is paying all kinds of dividends currently to companies who have made this necessary
switch to digital platforms.
Keep up with the competition, or be left behind as they move ahead
Always remember that there is no room for sentimentality in what is ultimately still a competitive business. With the forced changes that are occurring on the landscape, the opportunity has never been so clear cut in terms of moving forward.
From the alterations of creating digital tools to analyse and digitise all paper records, to purchasing methods for installations or adjusting budgets rapidly, the non-profits can continue to bring help and change for the clients that need it most. Making a difference has rarely been so vital in an age of changing routines, with everyone from school children, ranging all the way to professionals now all operating at home, often under the same roof!
The businesses that have already made the change are seeing an increase in revenue making programs, addressing all the issues required in helping to serve vulnerable communities, and making vital contributions to those on the frontline. While the likes of conferences and seminars have come to a sudden halt, many institutions are already adapting to the next stage which is the necessary substitute. The immediacy is crucial, as there needs to be something to fill the gap as soon as possible, and the non-profit organisations which have prepared (in as much time as was feasible) now have a clear advantage when looking towards the future.
Making facts and information easily accessible, and ready to share
This transparency is also necessary to show a level of understanding and empathy, as grantee partners will have understandable reservations. Making sure messages are concise, and constantly up to date in the system, will show that at the very least.
The organisations who are prepared for this stage could, for example, have a range of events and conferences that were initially planned for that now need to be cancelled. Therefore, plans to minimise financial loss would be the main policy. The organisations could then keep these fees or transfer them as a kind of donation, which is a level of preparation that companies who have not yet digitized simply cannot be ready for yet.
The loss of revenue in that case would be one thing, the organisations would also fall back in terms of getting the message out, or having the trust of the members. A written letter or delayed email would be scant use once the entire event has fallen apart, and having this information prepared in advance gives so much more room to manoeuvre.
Flexibility of messaging and direct contact
The flexibility aspect makes the platforms used in grant management systems more direct. The ideas themselves can often come directly from a foundation president or CEO, replying to grantees who have contacted in order to voice questions or any concerns. It is understood that any given clients’ specific needs and requirements will be ever changing in relation to the COVID-19 response, so the immediacy of addressing these concerns head on is vital.
Where in the past these kinds of suggestions or comments would have been merely standard, often unchecked emails, now they can be monitored to include personal comments from organisers an management to show the strength of the foundation’s response.
The aspect of community sharing also means that the involvement of these communities is an
important message in discussing the age of social distancing.
Flexibility in applying for grants, moving deadlines and funds… or sending a letter?
The message needs to be as clear as before as mentioned above, but another important aspect is how fast that message gets sent out. Time sharing and saving is vital, and the organisations must be flexible in order to be effective in getting their message across, and updated when required.
Grantmaking is flexible in making a straight correlation between a company’s practice and its values, without the need to sacrifice either. This will reduce the pressure on grantees, as the system is efficient and responsible in catering for the necessary changes.
This transformation allows a data-driven approach to performance levels, where particular attention
is required, and also how to optimise efficiency and save more time. The employees within the organisations can then focus on higher-level tasks as the manual work is taken care of with automation.
As well as this potential to ease restrictions, timelines, and reporting burdens on grantees, it’s also possible to re-think payment schedules and timing, grant agreements and the reports.
Those grant reports can also be awkwardly long and time consuming, which is something that could be scaled down in requirements and direct contact.
If this all sounds like it saves a lot of time and effort, that is exactly where the non-profit organisations need to be right now in order to persevere in the current climate.
Online focus looking towards the future, and contingent planning
Looking online specifically at grants and what has been done with a number of clients so far, we have mentioned the sharing of information. As well as the flexibility, the technology would enable further development for converting projects easily, and Submit is working with clients directly to ensure this progress continues at such a pace.
The foundations which specialise in health, education, and working with specific areas and populations will have an advantage with all the resources and information now at their disposal. Foundations of this kind are now making special presentations in their responding messages based around COVID-19 updates.
Going paperless for all meetings will also help non-profit organisations to deliver on tactical matters of protecting the environment and using innovation, technology and new ways of working to improve both efficiency and value for money in its services.
From previous times in the past, many companies in the non-profit sector adapted, one example being the 2008 financial crash. Of course, many of these companies simply didn’t survive. It is a similar situation with the pandemic COVID-19 in adapting to increase the support for grantees.
This is why it is so essential in responding in turn to these new found opportunities. Better planning and advance preparation, obviously no one for sure can know what is around the corner, but facing another crisis could mitigate potential loss. The Emergency related support that the organisations offer would hugely benefit and protect those in communities that require help and those who are vulnerable, so it is also a massive ethical question.
It is worth noting in summary that not all foundations have all the answers, but at the same time many are making space and changes so that stakeholders can deliver thoughts and ideas to consider.
Encouraging positive participation from different parts of the community is an important way to manage an effective response, and submit is happy to be involved in this commitment.
Sustainability and transparency about funding in an age where there is no clear path is vital. The commitment to meeting and achieving grants in the present and for years to come, while offering consistent support is the only decision to make!