Nonprofits offer teachable moments for economic recovery during COVID-19

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“Disruption” and “disruptive technologies” have become popular terms in recent years to describe the application of new models to long-established business methods.  Think Uber and Lyft and the rise of the ride-sharing culture, Airbnb and the vacation rental marketplace, or how e-commerce turned brick-and-mortar retailing into rubble.

Ironically, it is the COVID-19 pandemic that has left business and industry reeling across entire sectors and altered the definition of disruption once again. In recent months, from my vantage point as executive vice president of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation), I have watched the region’s nonprofit organizations nimbly adapt to these adverse conditions – even while confronting stiff headwinds that include surging demand for services and severe funding shortfalls.

Not only is their resiliency inspiring, our local nonprofits offer some important lessons for businesses navigating these challenging times. These include:

Listening…and then listening some more.  What I have observed is that our most dynamic nonprofits have their proverbial fingers on the pulses of key constituents – their stakeholders, the communities where they operate, local government, funders and others.  In fact, we apply this same principle at The Foundation, which recently announced it was re-directing the entirety of its 2020 institutional grantmaking for COVID-19 relief – $8.5 million in total and the most we have ever directed to one cause.  Initial recipients are 22 local nonprofits including the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, L.A. Family Housing, Venice Family Clinic, Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, and Jewish Family Service.  In developing the plan for its COVID-19 Response Grants, The Foundation conducted research with more than 100 local nonprofits about their needs, as well as held extensive conversations with Los Angeles-area funding peers.  The importance of that ear to the ground cannot be overstated.

Identifying your markets’ needs.  There is an old adage that says sales is the art of persuasion, while marketing is the science of understanding your customers’ and clients’ needs.  Marketing requires using the full repertoire of tools at your disposal.  Increasingly, this means analyzing data for metrics that can assist in recalibrating and directing resources in the most effective fashion.  Over the past decade, successful nonprofits have used data mining to cultivate funders, evaluate the efficacy of program and service offerings, and support other key functions.  During these difficult times, moving quickly is important, but not at the expense of missteps and misfires. Trust your instincts and experts, but rely on hard data, too.

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Being bold and embracing change. In even the best of times, institutional change is often accompanied by great resistance. During the current global pandemic upheaval, transformation may not be elective but instead essential to survival.  I continue to marvel at many Los Angeles nonprofits providing critical human and social services – addressing housing, food and financial insecurity, as well as ensuring access to adequate healthcare for the most vulnerable among us.  On a daily basis, despite unprecedented demand on their resources, these nonprofits are finding new ways to meet critical needs. In many cases, it is innovation born …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News


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