tunnel with a light at the end

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published here and is re-posted with permission.


The wonderful Cheryl Collins told us, with the firm but loving tone she used in her schoolteacher days, that we must use this platform to share both brutal honesty and credible hope. So that’s what we’re going to try to do.

Brutal Truth: We’re in for a rough ride. Some ER doctors and nurses who have weathered horrific traumas are acknowledging that they’re scared for the first time. Seasoned business leaders who managed through the dot.com collapse and Great Recession see this economic threat as much more serious. We’re going to have to learn to live with the coronavirus. And we have to recognize that the economic pain will be with us for a long time.

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Credible Hope: We’re not powerless! Our colleague Schroeder Stribling recently wrote that “tomorrow is promised to no one.” For Stribling, that’s the perfect reason for all of us to use “this dark time … purposefully for the creation of more Light.” Not only is this the right response to strengthen our communities and country; it’s also one of the best things you can do to cope with stress and regain a sense of agency, as peer-reviewed research confirms.

Brutal Truth: The virus is showing it can strike anyone, rich or poor, but it’s increasingly clear that the health and economic consequences will fall hardest on those with the least—as a result of disparities in pre-existing health conditions, inequities in healthcare access, and the fact that social distancing is an unaffordable luxury for many low-income people. We’re talking about African Americans and Native Americans with hypertension or diabetes. Elderly men and women in nursing homesYoung gig workers with no savings or health insurance. Migrant laborers deemed “essential” but forced to sleep in overcrowded field shacks. Millions of workers who were already one paycheck away from disaster when the economy was good are now in crisis. And the cost is not only in dollars but in rising mental health problems, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and suicide.

Credible Hope: Fortunately, this crisis is bringing out the best in many, with acts of kindness, generosity, and empathy proving to be as infectious as the virus itself. We in the social sector have power to tip our country to “a recovery that benefits all people, including people living in or near poverty, and to restructuring our democracy and economy so it works for everyone,” in the words of PolicyLink CEO Michael McAfee. So let’s keep lending our voices and influence to those of social-sector leaders like McAfee, Dan CardinaliTim Delaney and Victoria Vrana. Let’s keep helping those in need in our own communities. To borrow a wonderful expression from Billy Shore, let’s all “share our strength” with those who are sick or who have lost a loved one. Let’s thank teachers who’ve pivoted quickly to online learning (and whose value is all the more clear to parents playing a more direct role in educating their children for the first time). And let’s support the healthcare workers and emergency responders on the frontlines as well as those helping to keep communities running (e.g., truck drivers hauling essentials, pharmacy workers, grocery stockers, electrical lineman, and dispatchers).

Brutal Truth: In the words of SeaChange Capital Partners, this crisis could be an “extinction-level event” for many nonprofits—so we need to act like it. Get your organization ready for the tumultuous times ahead. Have you thought through whom you will still serve and those you won’t? (Hospitals have deferred all elective surgeries.) Do you need to redeploy resources? Can you lock in commitments from key donors and funding sources? What funding cuts can you make? How will you innovate to do what you thought couldn’t be done? (Doctors figured out how a ventilator could support two patients at the same time.) Is there merit to merging or even closing (to ensure resources flow to the greatest needs)? Please try to learn all you can as fast as you can. You’ll have a better chance to navigate what lies ahead the more you understand the possible options before you, the pros and cons of the options, and most of all what implementation (doing it) means.

If there ever was a time to plan for the worst and hope for the best, this is it. Do all the things we’re being told to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy. Thank those who’ve been there for you, who’ve helped you become who you are today. And certainly tell those closest to you that you love them. Don’t do it as if you’re saying goodbye. Do it because of this vivid reminder that life, love, and gratitude are precious.


The views and opinions expressed in individual blog posts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Family Philanthropy.

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