As I reflect back on the last year, I’m so very proud of the work, the service, and the assistance provided by our nonprofit community. Over the last 18 months, through quarantine and isolation, the work of our community was critical for relief and survival for so many people. I’ve been involved in this industry for many years and never have I been as proud, humbled, and rewarded as I felt to play a part supporting these organizations and their missions.
My work has always given me support and strength. During COVID-19, I missed the in-person conferences, seminars, and business meetings with clients and colleagues. It was yet another form of isolation, so I looked for opportunities to reengage with my clients and with other industry members.
In February, I had the opportunity to join The Nonprofit Alliance’s (TNPA) Essential Leadership Lab as a member and co-facilitator. This group includes senior leaders in nonprofit organizations, agencies, and service providers. The Lab is a sustained, virtual program that runs in four-month cycles across the year. Both in the larger Lab Forum and in smaller Lab Cohorts, members engage in real-time thinking and discussions about the topics, issues, and opportunities that impact the health of nonprofits in today’s social, economic, and political climate.
I facilitated smaller group discussions around our first topic, Putting Words Into Action | Accountability for DEI Excellence in the Nonprofit Sector. Not only was the subject matter incredibly complicated and engaging, but the organization of the forums, the thoughtful preplanning, and the engagement methods developed by the TNPA leadership resulted in one of the best industry experiences I have had. As a Zoom event, these regular meetings could conveniently take place from my desktop and fit into an otherwise busy work week.
And with the guardrails down, no sales agendas, and no fear of competition, we met honestly and transparently to discuss these important issues that confront our industry. We shared challenges, experiences, and failures, and we participated equally. We honored confidentiality.
I was able to take the topical information back to my coworkers, our leadership team, and even my friends. It was the impetus for new initiatives at my organization. I also gained personally and professionally. The liberating structure and my role as a facilitator made me acutely aware of how best to lead conversation, allowing every member in the group to participate. I highly recommend you read The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures: Simple Rules to Unleash a Culture of Innovation by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless.
Currently, we are on to the second topic for the Lab, Three Left Turns That Went Right | Resiliency Through Change. And in fact, the Lab itself may be the best case study for that subject. While face-to-face networking and educational events remain effective and will always be important, this unique format — created by necessity in the midst of the quarantine — created new levels of productive, beneficial, and worthwhile engagement.
Nonprofit fundraising and marketing is a terrific industry with many smart and accomplished leaders willing to share their experience. I encourage my staff, my peers, my clients, and others new to this business, to get involved. There are plenty of trade organizations, like TNPA, ANA Nonprofit Federation, DMAW, DMFA, The Giving Institute, AFP, and more, to take advantage of. Many, like TNPA, adopted new event and meeting procedures by necessity. Happily, as the pandemic recedes, we are left with even better opportunities to strengthen our careers and the philanthropy and essential missions they support.
Mimi Natz is the Executive Vice President at TrueSense Marketing.