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The past couple of weeks have been a real-time test of everyone’s business continuity procedures. Developed by most organizations after 9-11, and reconsidered by many during the 2008 financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced most of us to put the theoretical into action. So far, most of our clients are dealing with the moment’s challenges as best they can. Few were expecting telecommuting, shelter-in-place orders, social distancing, and the closure of non-essential businesses were going to be day-to-day challenges for the first quarter of 2020, and perhaps, even likely, for longer.

Expect the unexpected. Plan for it. Right now, most people are acting on the idea that today’s challenges are temporary, and they are, but the worst-case scenario modeling show today’s challenges could grow worse.

If you don’t have a business continuity plan already in place that deals with such contingencies you need to make one now. Some things to consider:

Long-term telecommuting, its effects on current staffing, and the impacts on new hiring. The question to ask is does your business have the technical infrastructure to keep your business afloat when your business continuity procedures effectively become your business as usual process?

When to hire? Now, so you are ready when the turn around comes, or wait until there is more certainty?

What will replace in-person interactions when your organization depends on them, especially from a fund-raising perspective?

How to regain, and maintain, your organization’s momentum? In just the past two weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted thousands of businesses and organizations, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The one thing that is certain is that those numbers will grow. The pendulum will return to normal at some point, but the future normal will not be the normal of three weeks ago. It will not be the normal of two weeks from now. How will your organization flatten its own curve and get back to “normal”? The time to start thinking about that is now, despite the fluidity of the current moment. Make a plan for what happens if the situation changes. Test your ideas. Solicit feedback from every level of your staff on the efficacy of current and future plans.

These are what leaders should be focusing on in addition to the difficulties and challenges of managing the moment. In the meantime, make sure your staff is up-to-date and understands all changes to business practices; that your technical infrastructure is being properly managed and maintained (make sure there are people dedicated to this task, no matter how small your organization is); and stay flexible in the face of new challenges and conditions. Communicate well. Listen better. This is not a test.

Jennifer and Nancy

DRi is an executive search firm ranked by Forbes Magazine as one of the country’s best executive recruiters. We focus on building the capacity of non-profits by recruiting senior executives and coaching their teams to adopt bold strategic plans and design powerful fundraising programs. We are privileged to work with some of the sector’s finest organizations and institutions—enterprises that touch lives and strengthen communities across the nation and around the globe.

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