Rising to the COVID-19 Crisis Challenge

It is hard to imagine that “the world as we know it” turned upside down just six weeks ago (at least in the Bay Area), and things will never be the same again.  During these past six weeks, COVID-19 has upended the social impact space – like a surprise punch in the gut – creating havoc on existing models of delivery, unpredictable demand curves, and almost ubiquitously, loss of funding. What are some of my specific observations from my seat?

First, I am so impressed with the deep compassion and humanitarian instinct of our HBS alumni, combined with the desire for action.  I was flooded with messages and calls during the first few weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown by alumni who wanted to find a way to help the community in this time of crisis.  “I feel powerless – what can I do to help?” is a sentiment I have heard expressed over and over again.  How can business management skills, assets we offer, be meaningful during this time when clearly, the frontlines need to be staffed by healthcare workers?  This is why we created a COVID-19 page on our website, where community-serving organizations with needs for management skills can request help for their COVID-19-driven challenges.  Alumni can “sign up” to help using their skills from home.  Unlike our traditional pro bono consulting and brainstorming engagements where we curate volunteer experiences that undergo a process of screening and vetting, this new approach enables us to move quickly to get help to those who need it quickly.

Second, I am hearing that scenario planning, digitizing programming and assets, and developing alternative funding strategies are common challenges most nonprofits are facing.  With fundraising galas and donor parties cancelled, in-school support services eliminated, and arts and cultural events prohibited, how can community-serving organizations operate?  How can they stay afloat and plan for the future when the future is so uncertain?  To address these pressing questions, we hosted a webinar called Emerging from the Crisis-Planning for Next Year as a Nonprofit last week to help nonprofits and their advisors think about how to play defense and offense, as well as how to think about raising funds in an uncertain market.  Led by Scott Garell, MBA 1991 and Seth Schalet, this complimentary webinar provides some concrete frameworks, action plans, and ideas for how to move forward in the near-term.

Third, staying connected is more important than ever.  Every week brings new updates on the healthcare battleground, new policy statements from lawmakers, and new community needs.  We need to stay in touch – with whatever means we can – and find ways to help.  We’ve been ramping up our social media presence and are kicking off this blog as a start.  We are staying in contact with our nonprofit clients to see where we can help, and are monitoring sector developments closely.  As the community’s needs change, we may need to adapt and offer services that may look different from our former programming.

Amid the ground-breaking paradigm shifts nonprofits are dealing with, I am energized to take on a fresh new lens to look at the world, and explore how we at HBS Community Partners can rise to meet this unprecedented challenge.  Nonprofits need us more than ever before to help with re-examining and re-inventing ways to create social good.  I hope all HBS alumni will join our movement. Together we can deliver expert goodness and make an impact!