The novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, is creating an evolving situation with varied impacts around the world and across the states. One of the major impacts has been on operational productivity with organizations resorting to remote operations. Championing productivity in 2020 has been difficult, as the world shifted to working remotely during COVID-19. Much like many of our clients and peers, at the heart of our remote work culture was a commitment towards productivity and collaboration.
In a pre-COVID-19 world, all CLASS volunteers communicated and collaborated in dual modes, both in-person and virtual. So, while as a team we did have a few systems in place to manage remote work, we now had to gear up to make a complete shift. As we embraced working remotely during COVID-19, each of our practice areas saw some obstacles, solutions, and opportunities. Here in this blog, we share our learnings and challenges across all our functions.
Challenges Faced while Working Remotely During COVID-19
Like so many other nonprofits, COVID-19 has had a head-on impact on the way we strategize and operate. Below we discuss some of the challenges we faced concerning our strategy, logistics, and operations across client relations, marketing, and human resources functions.
Client Operations: Nonprofit operations have slowed down during COVID-19. Many of our clients are facing budget cuts or limited funding causing their programs to be postponed, as well as, experiencing difficulty in supporting remote work due to lack of technology. CLASS being a nonprofit itself is experiencing the ripple effects of the challenges that our clients are confronting from a business perspective
Internal Operations: The transition to a 100% remote work culture meant we needed to ensure a seamless synergy with our team members. The major roadblock we confronted was managing a systematic workflow and adhering to consistent routines, particularly, as we are a volunteer-driven organization, with many of our volunteers juggling between their full-time jobs and families.
Recruitment: Despite our well-planned recruitment and onboarding process, which was designed to ensure a smooth onboarding for new volunteers during the lockdown period, the lack of face-to-face interactions to build the team camaraderie left new volunteers feeling disengaged and disconnected. The more isolated the team members felt, the less likely it was that they would develop a strong understanding of organizational culture, or gauge expectations thereby increasing the risk of volunteer turnover for CLASS
Events: On the marketing front, our major challenge was with our in-person campaigns and events which were badly affected due to the pandemic. This challenged us to come up with smart, focused marketing strategies that strike the right tone and can help us overcome this time of crisis, find new audiences, engage existing segments and enable growth
Solutions and Opportunities
We are no stranger to remote work. We have been partly telecommuters for over 18 years! So, going completely virtual was not an overwhelming challenge for our teams. We are old pros when it comes to delivering an exceptional virtual client and volunteering experience. While the coronavirus pandemic entirely changed the way we work, which came with its own set of challenges, it also provided an opportunity for us to reimagine and enhance our programs and practices. Below we share the innovative solutions that we came up with to address our challenges, how we turned some of the challenges into opportunities, and our learnings through this journey of change.
Sustainability: To ensure the sustainability of operations during this crisis, we shifted our focus onto the top of the funnel activities such as lead research by capitalizing on the increase in the online presence of prospective leads. We shifted our events and campaigns into a complete virtual model. For instance, our annual fundraising event will now be executed on digital platforms. We scaled up on our efforts more than ever before due to lesser constraints on physical logistics. We also shifted our marketing strategy to heavily focus on value-driven content and leveraged our social media channels and website to capitalize on the increased online presence and engagement of our target audience
Communication: As an organization, we have always valued our people. Our volunteers have always been our most valuable assets. While we can no longer welcome our new volunteers in-person, we translate the same experience with virtual welcome notes from HR introducing the new volunteers to the entire organization, providing an opportunity to new volunteers to establish a connection with their coworkers across cross-functional teams ahead of time. We embraced technology and harnessed it to its fullest. We hosted engaging video informational and orientation sessions for our new volunteers and ensured constant and consistent communication with team members through virtual meetings and chat-based communication
Culture: As an organization that strives for excellence, promotes leadership, and comprises people who are passionate about community service, our culture is the DNA to our success. We empower our volunteers to take ownership of new challenges to work on and encourage their participation to ensure inclusiveness. We continue to do so despite the challenges that COVID has brought on. We now virtually recognize and reward our volunteers for their good work and ensure that they feel valued. We encourage strong connections between our volunteers and their leaders through planned and ad-hoc online communication. Promoting talent, developing leadership skills, being open about our organization's values has allowed us to create a strong network of connections.
Infrastructure: We implemented new tools for automation of internal processes and for the provision of enhanced customer experience. We conducted training sessions for volunteers on newly implemented tools and technologies, which in turn reduced the learning curve and improved overall organizational efficiency and effectiveness. We also cross-trained other functional teams for skill development across various areas. This enabled us to expand our resource pool and support our increased efforts in digital marketing and communications.
Innovation and Growth: We launched the Community Leaders Spotlight Series (CLS), an initiative showcasing Bay Area nonprofits that are changing lives in their communities every day. At CLASS, we work with many such amazing Bay Area nonprofits every day as we help them navigate the complexities surrounding nonprofit management—strategy, marketing, HR, IT, and finance—with our management consulting services. Each of these nonprofits has inspired us with their stories, their passion for their cause, and the greater good. So, we decided to tell their stories through our Community Leader Spotlight Series, where we feature visionary leaders who are dedicatedly leading their teams to make their communities a better place.
COVID-19 has reshaped our lives in many ways. However, despite its many challenges, working remotely during COVID-19 also allowed us to reimagine and revitalize our processes and systems and deliver a solid impact in line with our mission and vision. It enabled all of us to open our minds to other possibilities and transform the way we work, communicate, and live our lives. As we head into the holiday season, we are busy strategizing and planning for 2021, so we can continue to nurture our volunteers with professional opportunities and serve our clients in the best possible way.
About The CLASS Consulting Group
The CLASS Consulting Group is a trusted advisor to the board of directors and senior leadership of the Bay Area nonprofit organizations. It is a boutique management consulting firm headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area that provides consulting services to senior management and board of directors of nonprofit organizations and offers community leadership opportunities to professionals.
Interested in finding more about our services for nonprofit organizations? Simply request a meeting here and we’ll get in touch to tell you all about this opportunity and how our passionate volunteer-run teams are helping nonprofits make the Bay Area a better place, one community at a time.