Crisis is at the forefront of our daily existence more than ever before. But when non-profit organizations reframe our views and understandings crisis, big and small, it’s possible to prepare for whatever crisis comes our way. Because there will be others, even after 2020!
In the third episode of our learning and development webinar series, “From Crisis to Resilience: Strategies for Non-Profits" our founder and lead instructional designer, Leah Chang and guest speaker, Catarina Moreno, lead consultant for Ignite Management, shared practical tips, tools and strategies for leading your organization through crisis and beyond.
Read on for key strategies you can mobilize right away to build resilience within your teams, and watch the recorded webinar.
1. The concept of crisis: Is it linear or cyclical?
Right now when we think about a crisis, our minds immediately turn to COVID. Broadly speaking, a crisis is an extremely difficult or dangerous point in a situation (the key part of this definition being the word point). Crisis can happen to anyone and any organization: no matter how focused you are on your goals, something will always derail our best laid plans, sending us into a tailspin scrambling to get back on track.
Zooming out, however, we find that crisis is actually a circle or cycle. Organizations can go from chugging along to suddenly being impacted by an unforeseen event, situation, or liability. Successful organizations are prepared to deal with these eventualities, while others are slow to respond or find it hard to recover.
Rarely do things go as we planned from the outset, and our ability to adapt to these changing circumstances and demands is us flexing our resiliency muscle. This is even more important for non-profits than for corporations.
2. Building your resiliency muscle
Let’s use this analogy of building your resiliency muscle to help connect the concept to your organization. If we think about what it takes to build muscle in our bodies – repetition, practice, encouragement, complexity – the same principles can be applied to building resiliency within our team. The more we anticipate bumps in the road, practice overcoming them, and encourage each other in the face of adversity, the better when the next storm hits.
Building resilience is about building capacity, cognitive strength, emotional strength, anything that helps your team adapt in the face of an unexpected change. Psychologists view resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. One way to do this is to lead your team through a series of authentic scenarios. An activity we recommend is taking two or three scenarios of possible crises that may happen, walk through them with your team and then debrief how you might handle the situation.
A strong foundation of building an organizational culture with flexibility and adaptation can include how you have meetings, how you discuss important topics with your team, and how you make decisions in your organization. Are these processes are more hierarchical or flatter in your culture? Are you getting a diversity in perspectives from your team? Fostering multiple communication channels, having a clear strategy, knowing your direction and principles, and values that drive your organization.
3. How do you know when you are moving past the crisis?
During a crisis, there is usually a noticeable shift in the internal energy levels at your organization as people react in the moment. Tension may go up as people have an initial stress response but as individuals we can only remain at that high level of alert for so long. It’s really important to recognize that there are physiological effects to stress and crisis.
Indicators that your organization may be moving past the peak point of crisis are observable in the behaviour of your staff. There may be less conflict in the workplace, folks may seem more rested and tension may be less palpable. The initial stress response is ebbing.
At a team level you may be needing to meet less often. During a crisis business continuity meetings may happen almost daily but as you move through the crisis, this frequency will lessen. There may be more clarity on budgets. You may feel more prepared for the change - for example, the recent shift to working from home.
Understanding that there are ups and downs and how to recognize them is essential for leaders to help their teams anticipate and be prepared for challenges.
4. Avoiding tunnel vision
Cognitive tunnelling can happen when we respond and something unexpected - you get a big email or you have a difficult meeting. Your brain immediately goes into ultra focus mode. It turns a bright light on one thing and it doesn’t always help to respond to situations this way.
So how can we practice opening up our vision, to allow our brains to get back to the executive functioning instead of fight or flight?
Creating mental models, walking through scenarios, planning for different outcomes is the key. Use storytelling or narrative to describe the situations you may encounter. This is one way to help your team to identify successful mental models. Think about what might come to pass and practice your response with your team during both times of calm and times of stress. Build this into your organizational culture by doing this exercise on a regular basis, for example, as part of regular team or board meetings.
5. Activities to plan for multiple outcomes (plan B)
Rarely do things go exactly as planned. As an organization, identify some measurable outcomes that are important for success. Ideally you will do this during a time of calm. Practice how you may use these measurements to respond to any bumps in the road. This will help you to identify factors you may not have considered and prepare a response or highlight gaps in your plan that you may not have considered at the outset. It’s always a good idea to be guided by an overall organizational strategy as this makes pivoting to changing priorities easier.
One very simple technique that you can practice is to prepare three budgets for your project, program or activity. Anticipate the best case, middle case and worst case scenario to account for any kind of identified uncertainties. By making these strategic plans to address these uncertainties you are building your resiliency muscle and preparing to respond if any of these things do happen.
Another key technique is to assess your digital infrastructure and ensure your organization has the technological tools and digital skills to weather the long term impacts of COVID (and future crises). Organizations that had key systems like video conferencing, remote desktops, cloud systems and learning delivery systems (Webinars, Video hosting, or Learning Management Systems) in place before 2020 were much better prepared when COVID hit than other organizations who are still scrambling to put these in place today, eight plus months past the initial lockdown.
Watch the full webinar and access our suite of training tools for non-profits
In the full webinar recording, Catarina elaborates on the concepts above, while our Founder Leah Chang provides additional actionable tips and insights that non-profits can use to support their people and be proactive in building resiliency muscles.
We offer a growing number of online training modules designed specifically for the needs of non-profits.
Note: the CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) module has information specific to Canadians, but the Sponsorship and Measuring Impact courses apply to all English-speaking non-profits. Learn how to secure sponsorships and partnerships even in a remote work environment, and train your team on how to improve their measurement of the organization’s impact, to help make more informed decisions.
And as always, you can reach out if you have questions about how we can support the needs of non-profits with eLearning consulting and online tools.
The second episode in our learning and development for non-profits webinar series, “Mental Health Strategies for the Non-Profit Workplace,” was recorded live yesterday. We are ecstatic with the turnout and the response. Our guest speaker was Principal Consultant and Founder of Game Plan Total Rewards Consulting, Sean Raible.
Mental health is a concern for organizations of all sizes and non-profits are no exception. We made a list of some key takeaways from the discussion and you can read them below.
1. Mental health is already a concern for organizations
For non-profits of all sizes, mental health likely already affects your team in some way. One in five people will experience some mental health problem or illness each year. It’s likely that organizations of all sizes already have team members experiencing challenges.
What’s worse, statistically two out of three of those people do not try to access any assistance. Demonstrating to your people that their mental health is a priority can have positive effects by helping to remove stigmas and empower your people to seek help when it’s needed most.
2. COVID-19 has exacerbated an already challenging issue
The stats mentioned above are representative of the reality before the pandemic in the spring of this year. The additional challenges caused by social isolation, loss of work, and all of the other stressors of the pandemic have made a bad problem much worse. Now, over half of people report being more emotionally exhausted, sad, or irritable.
These additional stressors can contribute to insomnia, anxiety, anger and confusion. Establishing a policy and systems to help support your people is more crucial than ever.
3. The absence of a mental health policy at your non-profit can be more costly
Up to 30% of an organization’s disability costs can be caused by mental health problems. Even if a work stoppage is caused by another injury or illness, mental health can still become the primary reason for an inability to return to work.
The opportunity costs of the lack of a mental health policy can add up quickly, with absenteeism, losses of productivity, and more. Ignoring the issue can also have ramifications in terms of your organization’s reputation and in the worst cases could cause legal risks and expenses. Costs shouldn’t be the only concern, however. Non-profits who establish clear support systems for mental health can remain true to their organizational values and missions.
4. Mental health should be woven into every aspect of your organization
The old idiom about an ounce of prevention rings true when it comes to mental health. Establishing policies and helping your people to understand their options in terms of support can be very beneficial to all members of your team. Actions that show your organization places a focus on their well-being can help your culture and the comfort level of the people who need that support most.
Reacting to mental health concerns is crucial, but creating a safe place for your people to thrive can be a preventative measure that helps them feel supported.
5. Organizational learning helps organizations and individuals
Beyond establishing mental health policies at your organization and making your people aware of the resources and support systems available to them, you can help manage the overall mental health and well-being of your team by prioritizing organizational learning.
This means making long term learning a priority for your whole organization. When you are facing known challenges like adopting new technology, new protocols, introducing new team members, or embarking on new initiatives, acknowledge that some of your team will need some support adjusting. Taking a long term approach with documentation, peer-to-peer support, patience, and social learning initiatives will help everyone adapt to changes and help the entire organization continually improve.
Organizational learning is about changing behaviours and applying the learning over time, building capacity and improving performance.
6. Help individuals in your organization feel supported by offering ongoing training and knowledge sharing
Frequency is essential in learning. To help your people adapt to change, take a longer-term approach to change management.
One way to help your people avoid anxiety around their capabilities and help them feel supported is to offer ongoing training and knowledge-sharing that helps them improve their skills and gain confidence.
For example, to show your people that you are committed to supporting their mental health, you can provide that reassurance often through an employee’s tenure; during onboarding, throughout their time at your organization, when they take leadership positions, and even when they move on.
Watch the full webinar and access our suite of training tools for non-profits
In the full webinar recording, Sean offers a list of resources and tools available to non-profits. Our Founder Leah Chang also offers a number of case studies, along with actionable tips and insights that non-profits can use to support their people and be proactive against an issue that will continue to be an ongoing concern for organizations of all sizes.
We offer a growing number of online training modules designed specifically for the needs of non-profits. Only the CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) module has information specific to Canadians — the rest have info that will be of use to all English-speaking non-profits. Learn how to secure sponsorship and partnerships even in a remote work environment, and train your team on how to improve their measurement of the organization’s impact, to help make more informed decisions.
And as always, you can reach out to our team if you have questions about how we can support the needs of non-profits with eLearning consulting and online tools.
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) for Non-Profits Online Course
We recently released the first in our series of online learning modules designed specifically to meet the needs of Canadian non-profit organizations. The response to them has been very positive. We thought we would take a closer look at how specific non-profits are getting value from the courses. We spoke to Canon Ho, Lawyer and Privacy Officer for Praxis Spinal Cord Institute (formerly the Rick Hansen Institute) about his experience with “CASL for Non-Profits.”
Our courses are designed by our team of top-notch learning design experts, who have carefully crafted an enjoyable and engaging learning experience. Each easy-to-follow course has just the right amount of content, brand new for 2020, created by Canadians for Canadians.
Making online learning for non-profits more accessible
“In the pre-COVID days, lawyer-oriented webinars often cost up to $200 per person,” says Canon. Speaking of the pandemic in question, it has also made it difficult for non- profits to engage with and train their teams and volunteers. Remote learning opportunities that are designed specifically for Canadian non-profit organizations are few and far between. Of the content that does exist, much of it is out of date, siloed, or costly.
Our first three courses, including the Canadian Anti-SPAM Legislation module that Canon completed, were designed to meet this urgent need, allowing organizations to continue training team members in these new circumstances.
“The simplicity and easy-to-understand language was the best part. Additionally, the interactive nature of the content allows for good knowledge retention.”
Impressions of CASL for Non-Profits
We try to create our online courses to be interactive and diverse. The format of the content and interactions change from section-to-section. The goal is to help the learner to better absorb and retain the information.
“The simplicity and easy-to-understand language was the best part,” says Canon. “Additionally, the interactive nature of the content allows for good knowledge retention. I think that because this course requires a great deal of interaction from the user (relatively for an online course), it allows for greater engagement. This also includes the variety in types of interactions that require the user to stay alert while going through the modules.”
Specifically-designed tools that help non-profits keep on track
One of the decisions we made with our courses is to give them transparent, affordable pricing. Each user pays a small individual fee for each course. “The price range may allow organizations to have multiple members take this course,” says Canon. “This training can help educate board members and senior executives to understand the types of resources available and needed to comply with CASL. This will help the communication personnel to obtain the tools necessary to maintain compliance.”
“This course provides material for the leaders of charities and non-profits to immediately apply to their digital outreach strategy...”
As the laws and best practices of email communication evolve, non-profits need to remain compliant—not simply with letter of the law, but also with the trust of their subscriber and donor networks. “The individuals who are responsible for sending out CEMs (commercial electronic messages) and outreach can use the course as a practical guide for obtaining and recording consent, as well as reviewing CEMs before sending them out,” says Ho. “Online communication is a necessity in today’s world. This course provides material for the leaders of charities and non-profits to immediately apply to their digital outreach strategy in order to ensure compliance with CASL. Even for seasoned privacy professionals, this will be a good refresher.”
Want to try this course for your organization?
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Leah Chang is a learning consultant with 17+ years of experience designing online and classroom learning. In her spare time she goes on self-propelled travel adventures and tries to grow vegetables.