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What does it mean to be mission driven? For nonprofit organizations, it means delivering programs designed to change lives, shift trajectories and save environments. It also means raising money to do critically important work locally, nationally or internationally.

Coming into 2020, organizations focused on delivering quality programs to advance their mission. Fundraising activities such as galas, walk/runs, peer to peer events, capital campaigns and annual appeals filled the dance cards for donors excited to support their favorite charity, and fundraisers were on the hook to bring resources into their organization. But 2020 unfolded like a bad straight to DVD movie, and nonprofits globally had to pivot or risk extinction. Organizations moved “in person” galas to stay-at-home affairs. Walk/Runs were held virtually with people running solo and friends cheering participants on through social media. One on one contact, via phone or video became the norm. Marketing efforts increased, with savvy organizations reaching donors in their homes and on their devices in more personal ways. Two words elevated in meaning and importance — connection and community.

Charitable organizations were thrust into a tornado when COVID-19 became our reality. Organizational leaders couldn’t predict where the wreckage would land and what damage it would leave in its wake. Like our peers in the corporate sector, our way of doing business was upended and around the world, organizations, charities and NGOs scrambled to figure out “what’s next” and how to execute their mission virtually. Team members looked to leadership for answers and every leader had to dig deep into their toolbox for tools to inspire, motivate and model what it meant to work differently in uncertain times.

Women led organizations stepped forward as examples of how to weather the ever changing landscape. There was an increased focus on self-care. The conversation around mental health and social justice began to perform a delicate dance as the news flooded our homes 24/7 and there was nowhere to go.

According to an MIT survey conducted in March 2020, nearly half of professionals working before the pandemic in an office environment began to work from home. In the nonprofit sector, women account for nearly 70% of the workforce and we’ve seen an uptick in the number of women leaving the workforce to navigate increasing home responsibilities. This downshift in the workforce, particularly for placed based organizations, exposed challenges that prior to the pandemic sat quietly in the shadows. Many women were forced to lift the veil of being a working caregiver as our colleagues had a window seat into our private lives. What was revealed was the complexity and difficulty of the informal roles many women play at home, while being pulled away from hardwon informal networks, growth opportunities and limited access to social services and care. In our leadership coaching practice at Kishshana & Co., women shared their prioritization of core competencies and daily practices centered around compassion, communication and collaboration. What surfaced in conversations and the dozens of facilitated learning experiences we’ve done since COVID-19 were three strategic priorities women leaders focused on regardless of mission, organizational size or location.