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What was a defining factor in navigating COVID-19 for nonprofits?

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Sheila Bravo
President & CEO of DANA

Collaboration. Plain and simple.

Leaning in, linking arms, and rising together. That is what I did with my counterparts Stu Comstock-Gay at Delaware Community Foundation, Cynthia Pritchard from Philanthropy Delaware, and Michelle Taylor of United Way of Delaware. While we all support the nonprofit sector, we do so from very different lanes. Yet, when COVID-19 hit – and hit hard – we were able to mobilize instantly and quickly change the ‘old rules’ to help support and stabilize our nonprofit community. We had to recognize that we did not have to be perfect, but we did have to act; as well as constantly adjust and adapt to the feedback from our community about their evolving needs. We had to be nimble and we had to do it together.

Together, we created and launched the Delaware COVID-19 Emergency Response Initiative. This effort consisted of two brand new emergency funds for which we raised money to be distributed to and through nonprofits to get food and supplies in the hands of people who were dramatically affected by COVID-19, while also coordinating a tremendous volunteer response. All the while, we were assessing the needs – current and future – of the nonprofit sector so we could raise and allocate additional dollars where it was and will be needed.

Recently, my colleagues and I had a chance to reflect on what was the magic behind our abilities to weather the COVID-19 storm together and be ultra-responsive and turn-key for the nonprofit sector. I invite you to listen in on our conversation – you will see and hear something special. It is the sound of partnership.

I will share a few take-aways from our conversation that were the foundation of our successful collaboration.

  1. Pre-existing relationships – built on trust and transparency.
  2. Recognizing and aligning each others’ strengths.
  3. Ideation to Action – Knowing our lanes and who was best suited to own each part of the effort.
  4. Having supportive communities – whether it be the philanthropic community or nonprofit organizations – that trusted us.
  5. Remembering that we didn’t have to be perfect, but we did have to take action.
  6. Listen. Evaluate. Learn.

Take a minute from your busy day and watch our video. I promise you will learn something from our self-evaluation. I hope it motivates you to build your own collaborations. Or, at least, begin creating or fostering those relationships. Know your neighbors in your network, so that when and if you ever need them – you know who to call.

My colleagues and I are encouraged at the idea that Delaware nonprofits will enter the recovery phase of COVID-19 stronger because of the collaborations built out of necessity early in 2020.

There is still much work to be done to keep our nonprofit community stable and sustainable. Please consider a donation to United Way’s Delaware Does More: COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund or the COVID-19 Strategic Response Fund.

Would you like to learn more about collaborations? Please consider attending the upcoming DANA virtual conference the week of August 17, 2020 – the sole focus is collaborations! Stay tuned to our website for additional details.

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