RECESSION OR REINVENTION? What will it be for your non-profit? (Part 2)

By March 27, 2020Community, Partnerships


This blog is part 2 of a 4-part blog for Australia’s non-profit sector, on how to address the looming economic crisis and in particular, seeing it through the lens of corporate partnerships.

If you haven’t read Part 1 – which covers two areas; 1) LOOK BACK and 2) LOOK FORWARD, please do so before diving into this one. Link HERE.



“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller.

Look after yourself

There’s a critical reason why, when on a plane, adults must don oxygen masks before the kids – we can’t be of service and help others through this if we’re not well.  Who’d have thought a few weeks ago, there’d be no planes flying, yet we’re all wandering around in masks. It’s extraordinary how quickly the world has changed. And it doesn’t look like the rate of change is going to slow down anytime soon.

A few weeks of isolation, yes, we can all cope with that. What about 4 weeks or 4 months? We are going to have to practice self-care like never before. Because we are facing something we’ve never before faced.

Meditate, enjoy nature, cook up a storm, make mocktails. Order noise-cancelling headphones online! (I’m not kidding they’ll be the best investment you’ll ever make.) Accept that this whole mess is out of your control, but you can choose your response to it. Print out the serenity prayer and stick it to the loo door. Remind yourself every day. We’re going to need all our energy to face what’s coming and there’s no point in wasting a drop on stuff you can’t change.

No matter what your situation – whether you’re out of work, your job is at risk or you feel fairly secure – upskill. The world is going to look very different in 2021, and its going to need people like you. So, get ready.

Be careful who and what you listen to. Social media is great for inspiring memes that put things into perspective. It’s not so great for panic-inducing misinformation and clickbait. Stay off it. This is the time to listen to your head and your gut; they served you well in the past and they will serve you now.

Look after others

Apart from your family and your team (which are also your family), your priority is obviously your donors, partners, sponsors and important suppliers. I’m no fundraising expert but I am a donor, and I have to admit, I’ve been a little underwhelmed with the EDMS I’ve been receiving. I got one just today selling me Easter Eggs. It was clearly scheduled weeks ago, but surely it could have been amended or postponed?

This crisis is so life-changing and so universal that I don’t believe you can send any communication to anyone that doesn’t at least acknowledge it or provide a solution. Blatant selling or fundraising just feels crass right now. Yes, you’ve spent months working on an event, a launch or an appeal – so have I. If you can’t tweak it, shelve it. Sending it could do more harm than good. Right now, your comms must take into account where everyone is at – I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet right now, who is not affected in some way.

Aside from dogs. Dogs are just delighted that their owners are home; ain’t no virus bothers them. This meme captures it beautifully. See? Not every communication has to be about fundraising. You can join the conversation, remind people and donors you are still there, without making an ‘ask’.


If you have a massive signature day that’s been planned for months, be clever like Cancer Council, whose Biggest Morning Tea relies on people gathering for tea – and at least acknowledge the current situation. Then suggest a twist or alternative.

Oxfam’s campaign ‘Pandemics Know no Borders’ acknowledges the crisis here, but also speaks directly to their donor. ‘I know one of the hallmarks of our Oxfam community is our ability to look beyond ourselves, to see the terrible challenges faced by the most vulnerable, even as we cope with our personal concerns”. And it came from a human, Lyn Morgain, CEO. With her photo.

Humanity is critical in this time.

Use this as an opportunity to show your donors how good you are at what you do. Mitch Wallis from mental health organisation Heart On My Sleeve emailed donors with a video on 5 ways to manage anxiety during the crisis[1], a free online peer support sharing circle [2]and a 1 hour webinar[3] – and this was over a week ago, when most of us were still going ‘Corona what?’

Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation sent out instructions on how to run kitchen garden lessons at home, including cheat sheets on knife skills and recipes with physical distancing.[4]

Age UK have kept their messaging simple – and it works.[5]

Reach out to corporate partners to see how they are going. This is a chance to listen and truly understand how it is for them. Behave like a valued partner rather than a donor recipient – seek ways that you can assist your partner in the challenges they face. It’s possible that you can help them to navigate the challenges – because you’re at the frontline, your response is a compassionate one, you’ll have a very different perspective which is crucial at this time. Call them as a human to another human and simply ask how they are. It’s amazing where this could lead…

Looking after others also means thinking about how you react to the ongoing stages of this crisis and how you communicate to the world. Margie Ward, Founder of Kids Xpress Life talks in this video[6] about how kids’ responses mirror how you respond. Solid, practical advice from a leader in the trauma field. What are you teaching your kids through your behaviour? What are you teaching your staff? How can you help your community right now?


Obviously my social feeds are biased towards my work as a social entrepreneur, but the words that keep appearing are connection, community & collaboration.  People are enjoying being with their loved ones & pets during isolation – it’s like they’re realising what’s important in life and I believe we will return to a much better sense of community once this crisis has passed. There’s a bunch of campaigns about how contagious kindness is – read this article by fellow DoGoodologist & friend Elizabeth Morris[7] in South Africa.

Here’s an Aussie one – The Kindness Pandemic[8]. When social media gets too much for me, I flick to this for a shot of inspiration and hope.

This is the first time that we as global citizens have faced the same crisis at the same time. We are all in this together. If this doesn’t connect us, I’m not sure what will. If this doesn’t make us realise what’s important in life, I don’t know what will. Perhaps this is the crisis we had to have, to wake us all up from our complacency, over-consumption and disregard for mother earth. Maybe it’s the time to reset society, to create a more equitable one. Perhaps this is the crisis that will enable us to evolve and ultimately, heal the planet and save humanity from extinction (I know this isn’t a particularly sensitive thought right now, but many are thinking it).

Kindness & compassion is YOUR DOMAIN. This is the time of the changemaker, I’m sure of it.


“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton.

My dear friend, neuroscientist Fiona Kerr, alerted me to a campaign called Look Up. A multitude of physical, psychological & social benefits happen when you simply look up. In essence, it puts us into a state that is conducive for creative complex problem solving and ‘Aha!’ moments. This type of thinking is going to be crucial for navigating how to survive – and thrive – in the new future, yet remaining determined.  Read the science behind this here.[9] So wherever you are, take the time to go outside and look up. It could be just one of the many practices that you put in place now that will serve you well for years to come.

For me, when I’m confronted with a crisis that is completely out of my control, I always reach for things that give me perspective, the bigger picture. Yes, it’s horrible, but for most Australians, we’re going to be OK. We’re not teenagers in the trenches at Gallipoli and we’re not living in squalor in a third-world country. We’re Australians.  And we have enough toilet paper to go round.

Watch these if you’re after some big picture perspective.


Time in isolation will give us time to think, reflect and upskill.

Look for the entrepreneur within, because its entrepreneurial thinking that will get you and your non-profit through this and out the other side.  Being away from the office will give you a chance to work ON your business (not in it) – the entrepreneur’s mantra.

In times of crisis entrepreneurs pivot. They make hard decisions, but they don’t throw out what works, and they invest in the future. This crisis will force you to think creatively, look for different ways of doing things – and it will make you stronger and more efficient. There IS opportunity on the other side of this. Join Andrew Griffith’s ‘Let’s kick this bug in the nuts’ weekly free webinar[10] – and listen to how entrepreneurs are looking at this crisis.

Traits for survival

Humans behave in an instinctual way in a crisis, a little like the stages of grief. In Amanda Ripley’s book ‘The Unthinkable: who survives when disaster strikes – and why’ she describes the psychology and physiology of panic, heroism and trauma, having studied human responses to crisis including terrorism and hurricanes, military situations and plane crashes. This is called the ‘Survival Arc’[11] .

  • Denial – in the terror attacks on 9/11 people were moving slowly and turning off computers…this is a sign of denial
  • Deliberation – they lose their ability & reason to do simple things – they are often seen almost daydreaming
  • Decisive – this is the time to act

The thing that interested me most about this was that there are 3 traits, THROUGHOUT history, that have helped people to survive a crisis and heal quicker:[12]

  • Breathing – deep breaths slow down the adrenalin rush that makes us do irrational things
  • Preparation – knowing you have some control give you confidence and optimism – and optimists adapt to change far better than pessimists
  • Resilience – the elixir of survival

If there is one thing Australians – and those working in the for-purpose sector have in bucketloads – and that’s optimism and resilience. But to get through this and rebuild Australia we are going to need to collaborate and build psychological resilience together. Because with climate impacts now irreversible, with social structures collapsing, this isn’t the last crisis we will face – so we’re going to need to get on with it. That’s the realist in me talking; I’m not denying the seriousness of the situation but I’m nevertheless optimistic.

I predict that 2020 will go down in history as the year that out-dated, unfair systems got a kick up the arse. I also predict that 2021 is going to be the year where all sectors – government, business, non-profit and community will collaborate for the greater good.

I’ve been waiting 25 years, so it’s about time.

What preparation are you doing NOW to be ready for the year of the partnership?

This might help:™.[13]

Thank you for reading. Part 3 will be a summary of all my practical suggestions and will be with you on Monday. Blog 4 we’ll dive even deeper into the practicalities of HOW non-profits can gear up for the new world.

Hang in there!



I’ve mentioned a new online training program called™. This is a brand-new business I’m part of, with a group of amazing social entrepreneurs that have translated my 25 years of experience into a robust online learning & implementation course.












[11] Survival Arc – denial, deliberation and Decisive Moment


[13]™ – a new online training program for non-profits to upskill in corporate & business partnerships – kicking off after Easter.


About Hailey

As Fearless Leader of Cavill + Co, Hailey has advised blue-chip companies and brands on CSR & Social Good for over 20 years. She’s built over 50 cause partnerships for clients including Disney Australia, Vodafone Foundation, Mondelez Australia and SEEK. She also teaches non-profits how to partner with corporates through online training program,®

Leave a Reply