THE IMPACT LEAK – Can working remotely be sustained in the nonprofit sector?
- What impacts the good we do?
Photo by Bench Accounting via UnSplash
The nonprofit sector is under stress but that would be our norm outside of a global pandemic. What isn’t normal is that an entire sector based on relationships and connection is DISCONNECTED.
According to Buffer’s “State of Remote Work Report 2019,” 99% of (U.S.) respondents would like to work remotely for at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.” While this may be true for individuals, as a sector that normally delivers MOST of its services and events in a face-to-face format, it’s going to take a lot of juggling to make this our new normal.
While some organizations adjusted delivery and ran online events, 20% quietly ceased operations due to covid. in 2019. Revenues are down, staffing is down and so are volunteers. While innovation is up and most organizations efforts have been admirable, can this be sustained?
What would it take for Canada’s nonprofit sector to continue operating remotely? Probably, we should recognize that many staff have been working remotely or the semblance of remotely, since the introduction of the smartphone. We’ve taken our work home with us, on vacation, to school plays, grandmothers’ birthdays and the odd political event, not thinking about how we are not supposed to be letting our charity be political. What we haven’t done, until covid, is figure out service delivery without the human touch because we really didn’t want to.
Photo by Toa Heftiba via UnSplash
The charitable sector is made up of caring individuals. Most of us could be characterized as a ‘soft touch’. The idea of not touching the shoulder of someone we are helping is anathema to what we do. But many of us have been forced to do it and we may need to continue to deliver services in these new and strange ways because lost revenue, lost staff, lost facilities, means many organizations will not be able to return to service delivery the way we did pre-covid. So can we maintain working remotely?
Cathy Taylor, executive director of the Ontario Nonprofit Network indicates that we can, at least with the innovations that have been working so far. “organizations that help immigrants quickly turned their English as a second language classes to virtual cafés, and food banks started shipping boxes instead of having volunteers on-site to hand out groceries.” So if we can continue to work remotely, and many organizations must, can we accept these changes for the valuable additions they are and graft them onto prior service delivery? Can we let the good adaptations continue and transition our services to a broader set of delivery modes?
Covid may or may not go away. It could be here forever, like measles, but we’ll adapt because the charitable sector definitely won’t go away. We’ll be part of this clean-up effort because humanity has been plagued by divisiveness and fear and stay-at-home orders. And because the inequities showed up in real and stark ways telling us that the work we do is paramount to reinstating ‘care’ in our world.
So we will work remotely and we will work together and we will meet in-person to care for each other and improve people’s lives. We will combine our efforts because in the blink of an eye, we already have, so sustaining remote work is just one more thing that we’ll do, “because we can”: the mantra of the nonprofit sector.