Six Things the Pandemic Taught Free-Market Nonprofits - America's Future

December 23, 2020

Career Advice

Six Things the Pandemic Taught Free-Market Nonprofits

By: Claire Kittle Dixon

This post originally appeared on talentmarket.org

I don’t know about you, but I won’t be sad to say goodbye to this year when it ends. Much like your in-laws after a week-long visit, 2020 has overstayed its welcome.

It’s a been a grueling year on multiple fronts, and I think we’re all ready for a fresh start.

But despite its glaring flaws, 2020 did teach free-market nonprofits a few valuable lessons:

1. Virtual work actually works!
Over the years we’ve given more hype to remote work than Limp Bizkit received back in the day. And with good reason: our virtual searches attract far more talent than in-office searches! Oddly, our begging and pleading with clients to consider virtual hiring didn’t carry quite the weight of a global pandemic, and it was only in the last nine months that many of our clients finally decided to hire virtually. Case in point: only 40% of our searches had a virtual option in 2019, but that percentage jumped to more than 60% this year.

And the resounding feedback from our clients was that despite their reservations, virtual work is working out just fine! Is it perfect? No. But neither is a long commute, interoffice gossip, and that 220 grit sandpaper in the restroom that the building management calls toilet paper.

Our clients were excited to learn that staff members can work remotely and still create value for the organization. As a result, many who previously were unwilling to consider remote work as an option at all have told us they won’t return to regular office work or will have a hybrid office/remote set-up from now on.

2. Virtual work isn’t ideal for every role/organization
Wait…what? I thought I just said virtual work works!? I did. And it does! But that doesn’t mean it’s right for every role and every organization.

Many of our clients transitioned quite smoothly to a remote environment, but they soon realized that the nature of some work calls for regular in-person interaction. And while video calls are a great stop-gap measure (as long as Jeffrey Toobin isn’t on your staff, of course), they don’t make up for the free exchange of ideas and bonding you get in an office setting. As a result, some of our clients have indicated they plan to or have already returned to office work.

3. Virtual interviewing might be all you need
Needless to say, the pandemic made in-person interviewing very challenging. And as you might expect, most of our clients quickly pivoted to video interviewing. While this was initially looked at as a second-best strategy, some of our clients (especially those that were already operating virtually), ultimately decided that video interviews would replace in-person interviews in most scenarios for the foreseeable future.

As one client said, “We have been operating as a virtual organization for many years now. We rely on Zoom interviews and phone conversations, and to compensate in part for the lack of an ability to meet in-person during the interview process given our geographic dispersion, we tend to have a range of staff within the organization talk to candidates to ensure that we’re getting a well rounded perspective on their capabilities and potential fit.”  Another client simply put it: “I doubt we will go back to requiring in person interviews.”

4. A Zoom meeting might be a better option than flying across the country
Before the pandemic, there was an assumption that most important meetings should be held in-person. And for things like conferences, seminars, and programs that focus on networking, that assumption holds. But the pandemic made our clients realize that some meetings could be held virtually (for significantly less time and money) and still be effective.

As one nonprofit employee shared, “Right before the pandemic I flew across the country for a presentation to a handful of people. Looking back, it should have been a webinar. We would have gotten almost the same amount of value from it and the organizations involved would have saved thousands of dollars each.”

5. Some donors like virtual meetings
This year many donor meetings that had previously been held in-person were moved to Zoom. No doubt we’ll see a return to in-person meetings in the coming months, but some donors (and weary gift officers!) will welcome the continued use of Zoom, at least on occasion. In fact, one nonprofit leader told me that virtual donor meetings have gone well this year and generally exceeded expectations.

But he cautioned that it’s incredibly difficult to build lasting relationships when you are solely relying on virtual interactions. So, the key will be utilizing a combination of methods to reach donors. He summarized by saying, “Overall, I think Zoom will continue to be an important tool in the bag for fundraising professionals.”

6. The liberty movement is tough as nails
When the pandemic struck, I worried we would hit a brick wall and the hiring would stop overnight. That never happened. Sure, things slowed down a bit, but Talent Market has remained incredibly busy throughout the pandemic because free-market organizations never stopped working to advance their missions.

Our nonprofit clients learned they can (and must) power through even the toughest of times. After all, as we have all learned by watching our governors tell us what we can and cannot do on any given day, a pandemic doesn’t slow the growth of government. And I’m pleased to tell you that a pandemic is no match for the organizations fighting to advance freedom. This year, as trying as it has been, is a testament to the fortitude and resolve of the liberty movement. All of us at Talent Market are proud to be a part of something so amazing!