Preserve, Prune, Pivot, Power-Up – Which Response Do Members Need from You Right Now?

Apr 15, 2020

Like most of you, when closures and cancellations started to spread as a result of the COVID-19 situation, I experienced a moment of, “Uh oh, what does this mean?”

I had to step back and remind myself that people *need* their communities and their industry advocates now more than ever before. I don’t think I’m wrong in that assessment because I’ve seen evidence of it every day among my clients and, hopefully, that is what you are seeing as well.

On my live broadcast last week, which you can catch in replay as a podcast on popular platforms, I talked about several clients who have implemented new strategies and programs to help them weather the storm that they are currently facing.

In my work with them, we’ve explored 4 possible responses to their specific situations. Each has selected the option that they feel best reflects what members need from them right now and took action quickly.

1. Pivot

The first possible response is a pivot.  A pivot becomes necessary when you look at what your organization is doing and you realize, “This is NOT going to work at all,” and you know that you absolutely must move in a different direction.

The founder of the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation (CIAF), one of my nonprofit clients, knew that a pivot was going to be critical as soon as Illinois’ Governor ordered non-essential businesses to be closed in order to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. For the past several years, CIAF has been primarily funded through two upscale retail boutiques which would now be shuttered for an unknown period of time.

Over a single weekend, I assisted CIAF in switching from in-store sales to virtual options – personal shopping appointments and trunk shows and conducted by Zoom.

All of the appointments go through an online booking system which automatically creates a Zoom link and sends all of the necessary information to the customer. 

This pivot was essential to restoring revenue flow for the nonprofit, but it has also created an entirely new way of serving customers that will be able to continue even after the pandemic period passes. 

2. Power-Up

I call the second possible response a power-up. In this situation, an organization goes all-in on something that has already shown a glimmer of possibility.  

The National Foundation for Danish America knew they were onto something after their launch at the start of 2020. Their email list began to rapidly grow, organizations that served the same audience reached out to partner, and new events were being added to their national event calendar every week.

The pandemic period has given NFDA the unexpected opportunity to step into leadership in a bigger and more immediate way. They immediately “powered-up” their event calendar to become the singular source of disseminating information about event cancellations and changes.  

They also “powered-up” their partnerships with other organizations, including The Danish Pioneer, to help the traditionally print publication create a digital format which could be distributed to NFDA subscribers.

3. Prune

Pruning may feel like the most painful response for an organization. Being forced to cut back on staff or to cancel events that are long-standing traditions is never easy. These may feel like significant losses.

But here’s the thing about pruning… arborists prune back the branches of a tree to encourage future growth to be stronger, to improve the tree’s health, to reshape the tree around obstacles, and to save trees that are damaged.

Pruning presents an opportunity for growth. It’s an opportunity to rethink and refocus the ways we do our work and deliver results for members.

The Affordable Assisted Living Coalition was forced to suspend the Annual Wii competition that the organization has hosted for more than a decade. Concern for the public health issues presented by teams gathering for the competition simply made it impossible for the competition to go on.

While suspending the competition that had already begun was not an easy decision, AALC’s leadership has double-down on communicating with and supporting members as they navigate through the current crisis and try to keep their residents safe.

4. Preserve

The final response to uncertain times like this is to preserve – as in preserving what’s actually important.

When times are good, it’s actually easy to get stuck on auto-pilot, doing the same events over-and-over, running the same programs you’ve always run, producing the same recruitment campaigns you’ve always produced, tracking the same metrics you’ve always tracked.

Uncertain times give us the opportunity to reassess – WHY are we here?  WHO do we serve? WHAT is actually working?

Synergy Solution Group operates as a peer network for the commercial HVAC industry. Yes, they’ve had adjustments to events and programs that needed to happen as a result of COVID-19, but their commitment to supporting members hasn’t changed at all.  

They’ve understood the role that their organization plays in supporting business continuity and helping members help each other.


I’d love to hear which of these approaches YOUR organization is taking right now. Are you using primarily one of these – or more? It may even be a little bit of all 4.  

Hit reply and share your thoughts. I personally read every response.

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