COVID-19 has hit and organizations are suddenly working remotely amidst requirements to social distance. But that doesn’t mean the work stops. At a time when people are all separated by physical distance, staying connected is more important than ever to effectively achieve your nonprofit’s mission.
Fortunately, defining workflow with your teammates and keeping all interested parties in the loop – including your Board members, volunteers, donors, sponsors and constituents – has never been easier. This is thanks to a variety of strategies and tools (including Teams, Trello, Zoom and more) that will help your organization stay connected through social distancing.
Table of Contents
- Communicating Internally with Your Team
- Communicating with Your Community
- Apparo is Here to Help
- Other Related Links
As your team shifts into remote work, it’s important to first connect on logistical and emotional matters, as well as approach the team dynamic with a new sense of grace.
These are confusing times, especially if your team is not at all used to remote work. There’s a lack of structure, we’re isolated from personal contact, and we’re sitting more than ever before. Further, people with families at home are having to juggle a work schedule in a home environment – and the distractions that come with it.
We’re stressed and anxious.
Bring your team together by scheduling weekly check-ins. Create a space where people are comfortable opening up about their concerns. Allow for flexible work schedules, and where work hours cannot be flexible, make that clear. Having your team mark on their virtual calendars when they are and are not working will enhance communication and productivity.
You can also use this time to sprinkle fun into the work day. At Apparo, we’ve been enjoying daily “Hallway Hello’s”, where the team joins a 15-minute video conference at the beginning and end of each day to talk about fun, non-work related topics. It’s a great way to stay connected emotionally, and regain some of the face-to-face time that’s been lost being out of the office.
As your team develops its remote culture, it’s also time to jump into the logistics of remote work. Process mapping is an important place to start. This is the act of examining and defining your organization’s workflow from a high-level, overarching goal, all the way down to the specific details of each employee’s role. In addition to providing a clear “how-to manual” for your organization, process mapping mitigates the effects of absent employees (think sick individuals and those on PTO) and enhances the on-boarding of new employees. You can map processes by having all team members write detailed job descriptions in a shared, living document (something created in SharePoint or GoogleDocs is great), or record themselves explaining their roles and capturing their processes in a screen recording (both of which also get uploaded to a shared drive, such as SharePoint or a Google Drive).
With your processes clearly mapped out, you are ready to prioritize the team’s work, map out projects that need to happen, and continue your efforts in mission achievement. As you go from mapping processes to outlining projects, more tools come into play. If your organization is using Office 365 (or even if you’re not), Teams is a great hub from which to work. This platform enables file sharing, chatting, video conferencing, a Planner app (which enables you to bucket the tasks that make up a completed project by owner, timeline, team, etc.) and more.
If you’re not on Teams, other tools enable similar actions, just across different platforms. For example, Slack is great for communicating with teammates via chat in an efficient manner, leveraging functions that enable you to tag specific teammates in a message, break up messaging into channels, and even utilize hashtags to later view related messages in one place.
Beyond Slack, Trello is great for optimizing project management, with a bulletin-board-type set-up that allows you to assign deadline-oriented tasks to specific teammates and check them off upon completion (much like the Planner app in Teams). Add Zoom into the mix for video conferencing and webinars, and you are good to go.
Pro Tip: If you’re already on separate apps, such as Slack, Trello or Zoom, but transitioning to Teams, you can bring those apps over with you. Just click on the “…” button on the left-handed menu in teams to integrate your other apps.
Communicating with Your Community
With your team on the same page and your mission still in motion, it is time to communicate with the other parties in your organization’s community. Fortunately, many of the tools we’ve covered above are just as useful when communicating with your Board of Directors, donors, volunteers, sponsors, and the people you serve.
When communicating to certain groups about the status of your work, a Zoom meeting or webinar could be the right solution. Two advantages to video conferencing are that you can share your screen if going through a presentation, and your audience can ask questions live. Of course, traditional email and phone calls can be just as effective, depending on how much information you need to communicate and how specific the information is to each recipient. Whether you are communicating with the individuals you serve, your Board, or your other supporters, it’s important to have a 30-60-90-day plan in place to prepare people for the changes ahead.
If your mission is something you can continue doing virtually (for example, teaching specific knowledge and skills or providing remote therapy), Facebook Live and webinars might be useful channels. Take, for example, Matthews-based nonprofit ZABS Place. This organization provides training and employment opportunities to young adults with special talents. Since their thrift shop where they employ their young adults has had to temporarily close due to COVID-19, they’ve started using Facebook Live and Zoom to continue supporting their employees and teaching them life skills.
If this crisis is bringing as much anxiety and unanswered questions to the individuals you serve as it’s bringing to your team, try setting up a virtual Q+A via Zoom or Teams. Not only will your constituents receive answers they’ve been looking for related to the services they receive from you, but they will also feel heard and valued.
If your mission can be advanced virtually, perhaps this means you can engage your volunteers virtually as well. At Apparo, we engage IT Coaching volunteers virtually using Zoom and the screen sharing function to help our nonprofit partners improve their use of basic technology techniques.
If your mission depends on in-person interactions between the people you serve and volunteers, but stay at home orders are putting that on pause, it’s possible your volunteers will want to stay engaged in a different capacity. Consider starting an online Peer-to-Peer fundraising campaign in which volunteers can take part. You can also ask volunteers for support with administrative and marketing tasks that can be done remotely, such as data entry and social media. This will help keep your volunteers engaged, as well as help your organization get ahead and be prepared to jump straight back into the mission critical work as soon as circumstances allow.
As we mention above, just because your team is out of office does not mean the work stops. And that means the funding must not stop, as well. This is an important time to keep donors and sponsors informed on the work your organization is continuing to do in the community, steps you have taken to adapt to the circumstances, and what your next steps entail.
Emails and Impact Magazines (this one was created in Canva, a free, easy-to-use graphic design program for people with little to no design background) are an effective method for reaching your organization’s donors at once. However, it’s also important to engage your supporters in a more personal manner. People are isolated at home, and a phone call thanking them for their support can be just the thing to make a supporter’s day (this also goes for volunteers). Personalized videos can also deliver a powerful punch – as Charity:Water demonstrates.
Apparo is Here to Help
There are many strategies and tools your organization can implement to ensure you remain connected despite physical isolation and social distancing. This post is meant to provide a high-level overview of some of the best options for staying connected through COVID-19. If your nonprofit could use personalized help in navigating this crisis, Apparo is here to help. Drop us a line and we’ll get a conversation started.
Other Related Links
Interested in learning more about tools that facilitate remote work? Here are additional great resources!