Now Departing: Your Comfort Zone

Blog Post By: Kim Perry

A Pop Quiz

It’s March 13th, 2020, and your company is kicking off spring fundraising event season with an event in Chicago. All of a sudden, a national pandemic is declared forcing events to be cancelled indefinitely. 

Not knowing what the future holds, you decide to: 

  1. Hide in your closet with a bottle of wine 
  2. Spend your life savings on Amazon Prime  
  3. Buy a year’s supply of toilet paper 
  4. Take 34 events virtual in the next 8 months 

For our team at STUDIO 4Forty (and pretty much everyone on the planet), 2020 proved to be the ultimate test – albeit in the form of a merciless gut punch – with everyone searching for answers. How long will this last? What do we do now? Where do we turn? With a pandemic bringing the advent of spring fundraisers to a screeching halt, our world as we knew it hinged on an action plan for our nonprofit partners. The question was, just what was our plan going to be?

We needed to quickly assess, evaluate, and advise over 50 nonprofit teams hosting our events across the country on next steps now that the rug had been pulled out from under our heels. Goals had been set and funds had been budgeted. As our clients turned to us as their trusted advisor, the answer to this challenge became crystal (and painstakingly) clear: it was time to embrace technology as our universal tool. (Cue the universal “ugh” moment we had all been dreading.)

But let’s be brutally honest. When it comes to technological trailblazers, the nonprofit industry isn’t exactly brimming Silicon Valley engineers and savvy software skillsets. In fact, if we learned one lesson over the course of countless conversations with new nonprofit teams seeking our advice, it was how unapologetically antiquated systems and routines had become (i.e. yellow legal notepads ferociously guarded by stubborn, “but this is the way we’ve always done it,” leadership). Suffice it to say, fundraising had been on cruise control until March 2020 and it was high time for a wake-up call for everyone on auto-pilot. We’re not going to sugar coat it – some of the largest nonprofit organizations in the country were running their development departments like a DOS computer system begging for an overhaul courtesy of the Apple Genius Bar. COVID-19 had ultimately proved to be a catalyst for change the nonprofit world didn’t know it needed, the proverbial blessing in disguise and silver lining that would catapult causes into a new arena.

Without blinking a laser-focused eye, our team guided 34 nonprofit groups in taking their events virtual and making technology their new BFF (not without some kicking and screaming along the way! Yes, change is hard, but the challenges we dread the most often provide the greatest rewards). We took it back to the fundamental basics: take a PAUSE, make a PLAN, choose a PLATFORM, and create a PROGRAM – carefully alerting our clients that their mission moment was happening in real time and their donors needed to feel connection. Immediate communication was essential and time was of the essence. As coaches in this new arena, we needed to provide our partners with a new tool belt and, more importantly, the unwavering support to use it effectively and efficiently.

From virtual cash calls to online auctions, we helped our nonprofit partners chart the course in a new frontier of fundraising by confronting change enthusiastically, thereby reminding us all:

True magic happens the moment we leave our comfort zone.