I’d forgotten about Tom Peters. He’s a business/leadership guru I followed from back in the DotCom glory days. He was famous for humongous PowerPoint decks (think 300+ slides), rapid-fire insights and high-flying strategies. He’s a sound-bite machine!

In my reading this weekend, someone pointed me to Peters’ eNewsletter and a post from 2008 on how to survive that downturn. Peters had recently reposted his list of 46 Strategies for Dealing with Gut-wrenching Downturns.

His list seems oriented toward individuals working in corporate environments (and feels pretty dated with “show up early” as #1 unless he means show up early to your zoom call).

I flipped to my notebook and drafted my list for you. After editing and reflection, here’s my list of 33 leadership strategies for nonprofit leaders to bring their organizations safely through the COVID-19 crisis.

1.  Pray, meditate and read what fills and restores you. You have to take care of you.

2.  Work out, train and eat well (go easy on those baked goods).

3.  Stay in touch with your board (deal with facts and emotions).

4.  Stay in touch with your banker (deal with facts and emotions).

5.  Stay in touch with your major donors (validate, thank and support).

6.  Stay connected to your staff (focus on the work, feelings and hope).

7.  Know your cash runway (how long do your reserves last?).

8.  Prepare your worst-case scenario plan (have those difficult talks with vendors and banks before you‘re forced to).

9.  Speak the truth positively.

10.  Believe everything you say but you don’t have to say everything you believe (model Churchill or Nehemiah).

11.  Hold lightly to previous grand, strategic plans (those days may be over).

12.  Create your 30-second statement of why, more than ever, your org is vital to the community, city, state, country, world.

13.  Make sure everyone (team, board, and donors) knows the 30-second statement.

14.  Remind yourself why you got into this job in the first place and keep that close to your heart because you might need to remember it.

15.  Connect with those people who fill your emotional/spiritual tank and tell them their importance to you in this time and ask them to help you.

16.  Prepare yourself for disappointments, setbacks, frustrations and good news.

17.  Get enough sleep (exercise and eating well will help).

18.  Monitor your media intake…those headlines might do more damage to your soul than the knowledge will help you lead.

19.  Face your expenses (where can you cut now, even if you’re not sure you’ll need to). 

20.  Revisit your revenue projections with a sense of harsh reality sprinkled with hope.

21.  Sit with your CFO, bookkeeper, keeper of the purse and make sure you understand their understanding of the situation (this might not be the time for business as usual).

22.  Remember, cash is king in these times (I’m thinking liquidity not actual Benjamins).

23.  Study your org’s individual programs and work (can all be sustained in difficult times?). 

24.  Examine starting something new (with minimal cash investment) that will encourage and bless your donors and community.

25.  Maintain a routine.

26.  Stay visible.

27.  Be wary of new vendors and new advisors with “solutions” (I mean, really, who wants to share a foxhole with a stranger?).

28.  Keep your personal and organizational core values clear in your head and heart (it’s times like this we have to center there).

29.  Seek ways to connect with your community and donors that don’t involve them giving you money. 

30.  When you communicate with donors about expenses or costs in this time, don’t talk dollars, talk percentages.

31.  Don’t talk expenses without talking about how hard you’re working at controlling those expenses.

32.  Don’t stop marketing, fundraising and communicating with your donors and community (going radio silent will make things much, much worse for a longer period of time).

33.  Pray. I’m not thinking desperate, last resort prayers. I’m talking about staying in touch with the source of wisdom, order and power in our world. And, yep, that’s where I started and that’s where I’m ending.

See if any of these land for you. I believe if you’ll use this list to guide your efforts, you’ll weather this crisis.

Would you share my list with someone you think might benefit? We have to help and encourage each other in these times. And everyone needs encouragement.

I’ve seen a few of these crazy times and these feel important and right to me.  Obviously, your mileage will vary.

You can always reach me at sthomas AT Oneicity DOT com. Thank you for letting me know what’s up with you.

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Steve Thomas

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