Friday Roundup: Redeploying your Team & Operating Virtually

by Victoria Jones


Posted May 1, 2020

Our weekly round-up of how the pandemic is impacting nonprofit management, fundraising, and recruitment – and what your organization can do in response…


1. Now may be the time to redeploy your team

Re-assigning your team in the midst of a pandemic may seem counter-intuitive, but many of our clients are doing just that. Nonprofits are accustomed to gearing up—and welcoming new staff—in preparation for a campaign or other big, new initiative. But now, many of these plans are on hold. To avoid being overstaffed or wrongly staffed, assess your business units to determine which are operating at full tilt and could use more support and which are not and may have excess capacity. With a solid assessment in hand, redeploy your staff where everyone can pitch in for the greatest good. Here are a few examples:

  • If you happen to have a burgeoning COVID-19 Relief effort going, deploy some of your major gift officers to the Annual Fund.
  • Since your events team will not be dealing with large scale event activity in the foreseeable future, deploy them to the major gifts team to support smaller scale virtual events. This will keep your gift officers focused, and your events will benefit from the experts.
  • If your foundation officers are not able to capture the attention of institutional donors right now, redeploy them as writers for other teams. They are generally great at creating case materials.
  • If your major gift officers’ donor contact rates have declined substantially, increase the number of prospects in their portfolios. This might put pressure on your operations team to deliver and process the expanded load, but you likely have ways to get the work done.
  • If your gift processors have spare time because you are not processing as many gifts, maybe they can conduct qualifying donor research.

All of this is to say that it is not a bad thing to be nimble, particularly if you are feeling like you may be overstaffed or out of balance.

2. Conducting searches while remote…yes you can!

As we’ve mentioned, now is the time to invest in your team; make sure you have the staff you need to address new and shifting priorities and to keep your supporters engaged.
Many of our clients are successfully recruiting new staff while remote by doing the following:

  • Be transparent with candidates about the impact of social distancing on the interview and hiring process from the get-go. If you’re not going to officially extend an offer until you can meet live, or if you plan on having more than one Zoom meeting with key stakeholders, etc., let the candidates know.
  • Be open to having more phone and video interviews than you normally would. Not being able to meet in person naturally impacts your and the candidate’s ability to get to know each other, but this can be overcome by increased conversations.
  • For committee interviews on Zoom, be sure to assign a facilitator, formalize the interview plan as much as possible beforehand (for instance, assign certain questions to certain committee members or plan to do a round robin), hold prep and debrief meetings to ensure committee alignment, and last but not least, do a test run with the technology.

Recognize that these are unusual times and circumstances, and flexibility and understanding go a long way. Some candidates may be home with their kids, dealing with family illnesses, etc. – be flexible when scheduling interviews, and remember we’re all doing our best to maintain professionalism right now.

3. Virtually on-boarding new staff

You’ve found the perfect candidate – now what? Nonprofits across the country are having to onboard new staff while virtual for the first time. If that’s the case for your organization, consider the following tips:

  • Schedule frequent one-on-one touch points with your new hire and their supervisor. Not being able to drop into each other’s office means we have to be more intentional about our communications.
  • Make sure your new team member has the support they need. Assign a buddy to be available for questions and guidance on office protocol, etc.
  • Welcome them to your team by scheduling a time for everyone to interact and socialize on Zoom. Consider a virtual coffee break, lunch, and/or happy hour!
  • If possible, arrange for a remote “tour.” Many nonprofits are making their museum exhibits, artist performances, campus tours, classes, and other programming available online for their constituents – your new staff member can benefit, too!

See this Forbes article for more helpful tips: “How to Onboard New Employees When You’re All Working From Home.”

4. Management Tip – Protect institutional knowledge

The unfortunate reality is that members of your staff and/or their loved ones may contract COVID-19 and be out of pocket for several weeks at a moment’s notice. That’s why it’s critical your fundraising team be hyper-vigilant in documenting all donor conversations on a daily basis. Consider, as well, assigning a staff member (or multiple) to manage and update your database regularly. This will ensure your work can continue without pause while your staff are recovering.

Nonprofit Spotlight

Highlighting the tenacity and creativity of nonprofits in unprecedented times…

The National Audubon Society has assembled lessons, DIY activities, and content on their website so kids can explore nature right from their homes and backyards! Each week offers a new theme (most recent: hummingbirds) to foster your child’s innate curiosity. Check out Audubon’s page here.

Fidelity Charitable recently conducted a survey to see how donors are thinking about their giving during the pandemic. A couple key (and promising) takeaways here:

  • Of top concern are the health and human service nonprofits who are on the frontlines of combatting the pandemic and serving our most vulnerable populations. At the same time, donors recognize the pandemic’s ability to impact nonprofits in all sectors, including the arts, environment, etc. And fortunately…
  • 54% of surveyed donors plan to maintain their giving levels, while 25% plan to increase their donations. Clearly, donors recognize the continued—and heightened—need for support and are ready to respond accordingly.

Read the full results of the survey.

For more information, visit our COVID-19 Resources page.

All of us here at Development Guild recognize the critical role our friends and clients are playing in supporting the most vulnerable among us during this crisis. As we face these uncertain times together, it is our top priority to support you. Visit our COVID-19 Resources page for useful information and insights.