As I sit here and reflect back upon the last nearly 365 days, I confess that it feels like the longest/quickest year of my career. Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20 and if I’m being honest I find it ironic that the year we’ve all learned the most is, in fact, 2020.
I remember in the final hours of 2019 thinking with absolute unbridled optimism and enthusiasm about all the blessings to come in the new year. Unfortunately, our year started off poorly, even before COVID hit our communities. We were informed early on that not only would we not receive a multi-year grant that we had been expecting, but our payment for 2020 left us with a $25,000 hole to fill.
Less than a month later the first case of coronavirus was announced in Idaho and the train, as they say, was officially derailed.
I’ve told this story before, but I’ll tell it again for good measure. When I went home in the evening of Friday, March 13 (another irony that will never be lost on me) I felt such weight, a heaviness that I could not lose. I knew, without a doubt, the challenges that would befall our nonprofit sector and I also knew that not only were their worries my own, but I also had the weight of my own organization’s future to bear.
After a couple of glasses of red wine and a bar of deep, dark chocolate, I went to bed and hoped that I would wake up with more clarity in the morning. I did, and the rest is history.
My first lesson learned was that it’s OK to not be OK. Sometimes allowing ourselves the space to process the challenge in front of us can help us with greater clarity in decision making moving forward.
The second lesson that was both re-learned and reinforced is that partnerships and collaboration move at the speed of trust, and how fortunate I am to have some of the best partners and collaborators in Idaho within my network. Good people who are smart, who care and who want to make a difference. I’ll always be grateful for the 48 hours it took in partnership with Karen Bilowith at the Idaho Community Foundation and Nora Carpenter with the United Way of Treasure Valley to pull together the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund.
Early on our team made a strong commitment to put those we serve first. This meant every decision we made gave no consideration to our own needs, we intentionally chose to double down on our mission and worry about our own financial health and well-being once those we were serving were taken care of.
I am continually amazed at how much easier and more rewarding those decisions are when we think of ourselves last. This way of thinking has dramatically shifted how we think about programs and services moving into 2021 and beyond. Another great blessing.
I reassured my staff and our board that when we put others first, good things would come. I’m pleased to report that I was right. And who doesn’t love saying, “I told you so”? The back half of 2020 was filled with so many blessings that I’m unable to count them all, but most importantly our belief in caring for others first was well-rewarded. That’s a lesson we will all always remember.
I am still a bit awe-struck at the speed with which we made program and delivery mechanism changes to meet the needs of those we served. Our team clearly demonstrated an ability to pivot quickly, to communicate seamlessly and built an innate sense of what comes next.
Their creativity and their own resiliency is a thing of beauty. All of us had challenges of epic proportions: remote work, isolation, homeschooling our children, spouses, roommates and partners also sharing our in home work spaces, new health issues and all while navigating, at times, a paralyzing fear of not only getting sick but of passing on COVID-19.
As they say, change is the only constant. Nothing is, or ever will be, the same again. And if I’m being honest, while 2020 was certainly the most challenging year of my life, both personally and professionally, I will carry forward so many lessons and blessings beyond just 2021 that I’ll always be grateful for.
Here at the Idaho Nonprofit Center, we wish all of you a very Happy New Year, blessings upon you and those you serve, and we raise our glasses up to toast a difficult but growth-filled 2020. We hope you join us for Nonprofit New Year on Thursday January 8th as we collectively look forward to a future we cannot yet see, but can certainly look to with hope.
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