The Future Of Nonprofit Office Life
By Ephraim Gopin
“Prophecy was given to fools” (Jewish saying)
Everything in our lives revolves around coronavirus. Though the present is clouded in uncertainty, it would appear that the near future is going to look very different.
Fool’s talk? Maybe. But as I started thinking about the future, I do believe that nonprofit office life will change. CEO’s and managers are going to have to adapt to a new normal.
Over The Shoulder, Micro Managers
You have one of those? Sorry to hear. I get it. Work from home? OH HELL NO! The assumption is you’ll goof off and not get any work done. Clearly your boss has never visited the break room.
Then coronavirus came along and guess what? We CAN work from home and surprise, surprise, we CAN be productive!
That seems to be the easiest prediction: Remote work will enjoy its day in the sun. How will that look? What will change? Here are 21 of my predictions. I plan to revisit this post in a year and see what I got right.
- Remote work will become standard. Employees will demand it as part of their contract and employers will have to allow for it for new (and current) hires. Does that mean full-time? Not necessarily. My guess is employees will ask and be allowed 2-3 days per week of home work.
- Bosses will learn to live with distractions. Guess what? Say hi to my kid who’s also home with me! As long as the work is getting done, bosses will deal.
- Was your CEO resistant to digital, social and email marketing? Guess they have no choice but to rethink that strategy. With events and face-to-face meetings happening less frequently (see below), better start using digital tools more to stay in touch with donors and supporters. Too bad it took a pandemic for some organizations to realize this but better late than never.
- As some staff members begin to work from home, rent costs will be reduced because you don’t need such a big office. Then again, you might need the same amount of office space so everyone stays six feet apart. I don’t see CEO’s being willing to pay for “dead space” which means smaller offices.
- So if the budget line for rent will go down, the line for office cleaning costs will go up. Constantly disinfecting. Voice activated machines. A cleaning crew every night.
- Nonprofits will need to supply remote workers with computers. This means a short-term outlay for equipment.
- Will remote work mean a drop in wages? NY wages are X, while Iowa is Y. So if the job is in NY but I’m in Iowa, would I accept a drop in salary? If yes, that could help NPOs save money. (More below)
- Security costs will rise: There will be a need for better data security as workers have access to sensitive personal information (donors, volunteers etc.) while working on multiple networks. Time to call an IT outsourcing company or bring someone in house. This is something nonprofits should have been doing already but now it becomes that much more critical.
- This one I like: Welcome to shirt and shorts – the new dress code!
- Easier to relocate: Some staff will no longer have to be physically close to the office. People might want out of the big cities where it’s more expensive to live. They might want to move towards the Midwest/not the coast to lower their expenses.
- Blurring of personal and work life: Will employees be able to separate them? Either everyone is actually now working 24/7 OR people make a hard stop at 5pm to spend time with family, friends etc. Work? Not on my free time. My prediction is the latter. People pull away from the tech which means they’re not answering emails when it’s REALLY REALLY URGENT. Let’s see how CEO’s react to this.
- Geography matters for programming staff, local volunteers and fundraisers. For communications, marketing, social media and website personnel? Not so much. I believe this means a win for staff (they can choose jobs anywhere) and a win for CEO’s (a wider pool of candidates to choose from). The big losers? HR personnel, who will have to deal with a larger flood than usual of resumes for open positions.
- Mental health: Anxiety and stress may be reduced because we’re not in the office. Or it will create more problems because people will feel they have no one to physically talk to. I’m going with the former: People will enjoy not having their managers hovering over them.
- Not every meeting has to be face to face. The most important ones? Yes, if possible. But nonprofits will have to change how they interact with donors. You can build trust and strengthen relationships using Zoom or the phone. It can be done!
- Less car and air travel: For national and statewide organizations, the travel budget line item will be reduced. (CEO’s everywhere: Yay!) Because there are other ways to conduct meetings. Fundraisers might not be happy: Travel was sometimes a perk of the job.
- Staff meeting strategy has to change: There IS an etiquette to virtual meetings. But a lot of the formality will disappear. I hope meetings will now go quicker or take place less frequently. That would make ALL employees go Yay!
- Gala events: Well that got cancelled real quick. Here’s a timeline tip: Facebook has canceled all gatherings of more than 50 people until June 2021. If a gala event is a large part of your organization’s revenue, time to either rethink that strategy or consider a virtual event. I do believe that nonprofits will now have to reassess their annual budget and prepare accordingly. Not easy to replace the revenue from a gala but it will be necessary to do so.
- Fewer in-person conferences: That will have a huge impact on consultants and people who want to network. It’s not the same experience when it’s virtual. But here I can predict what will happen when conferences can take place: They will become WAY more popular because people want to get out and actually see people. Will we hug? Maybe not. But we can see each other and dammit that feels good!
- Professional development and learning opps: I know, I know. You can’t stop laughing because your organization never had a professional development budget. But in fairy tale land, where the budget exists, you won’t be attending classes in person. The Zoobinar will take over.
- The digital divide: This was already a huge issue between those with access to fast Internet and those without. But now, as schools and programs move to Zoom, how will government and nonprofits step up? Kids in after-school programs need high speed internet and tablets/computers at home to learn. I believe this issue will now be seriously tackled and funds appropriated to bring everyone to the same level. Add in the question for organizations: Will you be running these programs in person or from your virtual office?
- Mental health: (This isn’t necessarily an office life issue but once we’re discussing programming…) Nonprofits providing mental health support are going see a rise in people seeking their services. Having been stuck inside for a long period of time has definitely affected people, many of whom cannot afford private therapy. They’ll be asking nonprofits to meet their needs.
Many other facets of nonprofit life will be affected by coronavirus. Office work is just one of them. I’ll be paying close attention to see how my predictions fare.
My prediction: Not well. Because prophecy…
Ephraim Gopin is the founder of 1832 Communications, an agency which helps your nonprofit raise more money through strategic and smart marketing and communications. He is always happy to connect with nonprofit pros on Twitter, LinkedIn, via his daily nonprofit newsletter or his weekly podcast.