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The most crucial scenario for nonprofits to consider right now

After all we’ve been through during the past 13 months, it’s understandable why some nonprofits don’t want to jinx things by thinking about what happens if COVID-19 is in the rearview window come September. But this is the single most crucial scenario you should game out right now.

Here’s an exercise to do with your staff and your board. (Do the exercise separately with these two groups because they have very different perspectives.)

Propose the following scenario:

It’s September 2021, and for whatever reason (the vaccines have worked, herd immunity has been achieved, etc.), COVID-19 is gone as a threat that prevents all the activities we took for granted before the pandemic. Schools are back in session, football is on, and people are pushing to do all they have missed for the last year and a half.

Now, ask three questions about that scenario:

  1. How likely is the scenario? (You ask this to find out participants’ key assumptions and potential issues you may want to research and seek consensus on.)
  2. If the scenario comes true this September, what would you want to be prepared to do at that time? (This is a chance for you to think about fundraisers, friend raisers, celebrations, new service offerings, un-mothballing, full staffing, and choices about work-at-home policies when they are no longer necessary for health reasons.)
  3. In light of our answers to the first two questions, what should we do right now to address the uncertainties we face? If we want to be prepared to provide full services as we did before the pandemic, what staffing would need to be in place, and how do we know that staffing is available? If we want a fundraiser in the fall, what needs to be happening now?

Here’s the kicker: if this scenario shows any prospect of becoming true, question #3 has special significance: whatever you plan to do in September, you had better have it well underway before about June 15. Why? Because everyone – and I mean everyone – is going to want to take a vacation this summer. It will be their first chance in 15 months. It will be tough to plan, convene, hire, etc., if people are distracted by getting a chance to live again.

The process I’ve described above follows a method we call Lean Scenario Planning. To download our Lean Scenario Planning template for free, click the link below.

Resources like the Lean Scenario Planning template are available all the time for members of our online group, called Nonprofits Build Strength Together (BeST). To learn more about BeST, click the link below.

Nonprofits Build Strength Together (BeST)

Risk Alternatives sponsors and curates an online group for nonprofit leaders who want to build resilient organizations.

To stay informed about this group, called Nonprofits Build Strength Together (BeST), click this button.