Published 3.16.20 – Updated 3.31.20
Dear Clients and Friends,
POWER 10 is monitoring the national Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and the local / regional situation for each client community. Our team has developed the below guidance in the hope that it will be of help to you as you consider how best to proceed with ongoing fundraising efforts.
We have been impressed – particularly in the past couple of weeks – by the work of our clients to serve as thought leaders, advocates, and problem solvers for their investors and other stakeholders. Economic developers can be the “first responders” to the business community during this challenging time, and we encourage you to continue doing so.
In short, we say: KEEP MOVING FORWARD. Let’s act consistent with an informal motto of the U.S. Marines, “improvise, adapt, and overcome”! Please call me (404-550-6167) or EVP Amity Farrar (404-432-3465) anytime to discuss your ideas, questions or concerns.
Our Guiding Principle
Develop strategy and take action consistent with the best interests of our client.
History / Lessons
CEO Sean Mikula and VP Operations Laura Lilly were both working in the capital campaign management industry during the 2008 recession.
Economic development feasibility studies / campaigns generally continued forward with very little substantive interruption. In 2008-09, investors generally continued to invest, though most were slow to commit to significant increases from past investments in light of the economic uncertainty.
Why? Economic development campaigns fund core operations (staff, primarily) that drive a community’s ability to rebound / “snap back” from the current situation and thrive. The community of business leaders does not want to see their Chamber or EDO “dry up and go away,” so campaigns can and should be successful, BUT we may need to moderate expectations.
Traditional philanthropy campaigns were impacted to varying degrees. These projects are commonly seen as important but not urgent, so client communities often (but not always) opted to delay project starts or pause in-progress studies and campaigns – mostly due to downward spiraling “consumer sentiment” that accompanied downward spiraling markets / investments. Most were able to resume their campaigns at some point in time.
KEEP MOVING FORWARD
- Clients have two options – they can (a) sit still, close the doors, board up the windows and wait on a to-be-determined time in the future at which time they can “crank the campaign engine back up” (no easy feat) OR (b) they can KEEP MOVING FORWARD.
- Each client organization should determine what “moving forward” looks like; we say – stay on the standard project path to the greatest degree possible; we like an informal motto of the U.S. Marines here: “improvise, adapt, overcome”!
One exception – modify meeting style whenever possible
- Feasibility studies and campaigns are comprised of a series of meetings.
- Meetings can be done effectively in person OR REMOTELY – via phone or video conference; this includes study interviews and campaign Asks; POWER 10 clients may use our Zoom video conference service for feasibility study and campaign meetings.
- Be proactive about this – LEAN INTO THIS approach
- Push it; conduct and share research among your organization regarding how best to conduct meetings via phone and video; take the opportunity to get better at remote meetings.
- Of note, the entire POWER 10 team works remotely. Sean and Laura each have 10+ years’ experience with remote work and Amity has 7+ years’ experience with remote work. If a work from home environment is new to you and / or your staff, we are happy to share best practices to maintain high levels of productivity and a sense of camaraderie even when you are not in the office together.
- Tactics do matter – they will impact the effectiveness of your video conference meeting. For example, we recommend you prepare appropriately so that ALL CALL PARTICIPANTS ARE ON VIDEO – not a mix of video and dial in; if an individual doesn’t have a camera on her / his computer or has some other computer related issue, use an application that enables individuals to use the video on their smart phone or tablet (e.g. Zoom) to participate in the meeting AND BE SEEN.
- We anticipate prospective investors, etc., will be very amenable to conversations via phone and / or video (for at least the immediate future).
Accommodate prospects / investors and exercise flexibility to the greatest degree possible
- Meetings – offer to meet with prospects in person OR via video conference or phone.
- Terms of campaign pledges / financial commitments – flexibly respond to prospect needs. Consider various approaches for the prospective investor that “get around” / bypass the coronavirus situation
- For example, depending on the client’s financial situation / need for near-term cash, you could offer more flexible payment timing, or stepped / escalated pledge commitments that increase year over year (or are reduced in 2020-2021 and stepped up in 2022+).
Adjust the program of work to be funded by the campaign / reallocate resources to address new needs and opportunities created by the effects of the coronavirus on your stakeholders / the community
- Exercise leadership and creativity – if you are not in position to protect against or mitigate the problem, what can you do – what changes can you make to your program – to accelerate the recovery when it comes?
Don’t let your study / campaign drift – have a plan and work it
- If you decide to pause any feasibility study or campaign activities, be sure to articulate what you ARE moving forward with and identify the triggering event for resumption of “full go.”
- Communicate your plans to all stakeholders (full staff – not just those assigned to campaign duties – and volunteer leaders, investors, prospective investors, etc.)
- Project yourself forward in time – think about how you want investors and the general community to think / feel about you and your organization when they look back on this time, and take action now to ensure the outcome you seek (In hindsight, will your constituency see you as having “stepped up” and displayed leadership, resiliency, creativity, etc.?)
Plan / build capacity for a U-shaped recovery
- Things may be downward trending for now and we can expect some ensuing “flat” period, but we need to be prepared to come out strong (upward!) once the triggering health event (cure, vaccine, etc.) happens. (“This, too, shall pass!”)
- Understand the personal and professional situations (hardships) of volunteers, staff, and prospects / investors (i.e., children home from school or college, challenges in their own business, etc.) and convey empathy.
- Ensure your communications are in tune with / not discordant from the moment (“There is a hard reality here, but we’ll come out the other side.”)
- The “KEEP MOVING FORWARD” message (we can sit still / go dark or we can find a way to keep moving forward)
- Importance of resiliency in the face of economic and other challenges
- Importance of maintaining / growing organizational / economic development capacity
- Communicate proactively and regularly with investors during this national crisis and future recovery.
- EMAIL TEMPLATE: In particular, we recommend making a personal phone call to investors and sending a communication to them covering some / all of the following [items in bracketes are to be tailored]:
We are grateful for your continued work for and investment in the [organization’s work / initiative]. Because of your investment in [Organization Name] we have been well positioned to lead our business community during this challenging time. A few examples of our Coronavirus response efforts include [customize examples]:
- [Diversion of funds that would have been spent on events / travel during this period of months to projects designed to directly alleviate the effects of the pandemic on the business community such as ____]
- [Provision of information / resources to stakeholders]
- [Collaboration with state chamber / EDO and elected officials]
In light of the current challenges, we are flexibly adapting our program of work in our [initiative / five year plan of work], and will engage and update you as our plans are finalized. We want to respond quickly and effectively to these challenging times and trust that, in partnership with you, our community will emerge even stronger.
Although most of our team members are working remotely, we are “open for business.” In the coming days, we will be contacting you by phone to check in and see how your business is faring. We understand that these are trying times for many, and we are here to help.