Resilience: Tips to Start a New Year

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Yuval Noah Harari, the Israeli historian and author, says that for humans to make it into the next chapter of our story, we need two things: resilience and the capacity to embrace and survive the big changes we will face. How about the 22 million humans who work for nonprofits in the U.S.? What are the applications of this diagnosis in the daily lives of the sector?


Resilience isn’t a dreamy concept, it’s a real thing. It’s the ability to “bounce back” after an injury or accident or catastrophe. It’s no secret that thousands of nonprofits have taken a beating during the pandemic. Donations are down, demands are up, staff members are stressed, and a million nonprofit workers have lost their jobs and probably won’t get them back.


Here are some ways to help people, and nonprofits, get back up after the knockdown blows of 2020:


Find out what makes your organization special. Identify the characteristics, strengths and abilities that set your nonprofit apart. Share them with each other, talk about them to funders, make them fuel for your journey.


Write your own “Gene Kranz” moment. In the movie “Apollo 13,” when the spaceship is in trouble, Kranz asks his team to stop, take a deep breath and identify “what’s good on the ship”—what still works that we can use to help get the astronauts home. Maybe you can do the same kind of inventory within your own organization,


Refresh the rhythms of your work. Consider new communications channels; make a weekly check-in into an online “suggestion box;” offer staff members a chance to take a weekday off and do their work on a weekend day; make sure everybody is doing the kinds of self-care they need to stay healthy and energetic.


Borrow from each other. Maybe your nonprofit is a housing rights organization-see what the local museum is doing to come back stronger. Maybe you offer job counseling to low-income students—look closer at how environmental protection groups are getting it done. This is a time to come out of our silos and make common cause with nonprofits facing the same pandemic-related fog.


We will make it to the next chapter of our stories if we take care of ourselves and each other.


Thomas Boyd is Chief Editorial Consultant for The Grantsmanship Center

and an independent consultant to nonprofit organizations.



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