Planning for a post-pandemic world

How do we plan when the future is so uncertain?

By Caoileann Appleby - Mar 25 2021

2020 was – as has been said over and over – unprecedented. It has changed – and is still changing – the worldwide economy and upended how we think about work, travel, health, education… there’s no sector it hasn’t affected.


And the non-profit sector has been hit pretty hard. Most Irish charities are in crisis mode.


Yet we know from our 2020 donor research – more on that soon – that our supporters want us to have a plan.


But how are we supposed to have a plan – and communicate that to our supporters – when the future is so unpredictable?


1) Think strategy > tactics, and emotions > facts


Strategy is the goal; tactics are how you get there.

Sun [Tzu] got the point of strategy. He understood the importance of the destination over the journey. He knew that tactics, while clearly important, were pretty much useless without a defined strategy. Perhaps the most famous quote from The Art Of War is “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Yet here we are, two thousand years on, with businesses concluding the reason their sales suck is because they don’t have a chatbot on their Facebook page. 
- G. Ranasinha


Stick to your strategy, but be willing to change tactics quickly. Remember, strategy is often as much about what you don’t do as what you do.


Commercial agency BBH mapped out 2020 in terms of emotions, actions, and what that means for brands:  



Similarly, UK strategist Wayne Murray gave a great perspective for post-pandemic strategy development in a recent FundraisingEverywhere strategy session: think about what the future might feel like (not what it might look like).



 2) Control the controllables


You can’t control whether a random virus will mutate and infect humans across the globe. But you can wash your hands and wear a mask.


You can’t control how the global economy reacts to the pandemic. You can’t control when and how your supporters make their Wills, or when they die (!). But you can certainly control: how well you communicate with your supporters about legacies; how well you treat them; and how well you show them how they’ve changed the world.


As I’ve been saying for years, what matters most to your donors doesn’t depend on big money and lots of staff.


And you can definitely influence how well-trained and well-supported your staff are, so that whenever something unexpected happens – and it will! – they will be able to react quickly and well. Which brings me on to…


 3) Newsdesk thinking


Months before the pandemic, our friend Paul de Gregorio and Katherine Sladden wrote a cracking article on “newsdesk thinking” and charities, complete with this pearl of wisdom:


Organisations spend so much time and money creating contrived ‘moments’ when there are real moments happening every single day ripe for hijacking…. if your teams are set up right, empowered to execute quickly and given the space to fail well, the rewards can be huge: the perfect triangle of reputation, donations and real world impact. - John Coventry, who runs GoFundMe’s Europe and Australia operation and previously led’s global comms team


The full article is worth your time, but I want to draw your attention to tips #4 and #5 in particular: rapid response, and invest in systems. Having your infrastructure and management set up in a way that allows you to respond to what your supporters are caring about right now, is a system that’s set up for fundraising success.


I’ve seen it over and over again: with ASN, we could raise thousands online in a few hours simply by paying attention to Twitter and news headlines. Together for Yes showed this admirably; political campaigns also have great examples. But even fundraising giants like the RNLI and the Salvation Army can pivot to what’s hitting the headlines – and raise lots doing it. 




If you need help with strategic planning, supporter communications, or setting your team up for fundraising success: get in touch. 






Tagged with: AdvertisingpandemicpoliticsStrategy

Caoileann Appleby     @Qaoileann


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