RECESSION OR REINVENTION? What will it be for your non-profit? (Part 3)

By April 2, 2020Community, Partnerships


This blog is part 3 of a 4-part blog for Australia’s non-profit sector, on how to address the looming economic crisis and, seeing it through the lens of corporate partnerships.

This blog captures all the practical take-aways from Blogs 1 & 2, with some additional resources from credible sources that have landed in my inbox. If you haven’t read Parts 1 & 2 for context & the detail, here they are:

Part 1

Part 2

This is in no way definitive, and since the world is changing daily, it’s a snapshot of how things are today. I hope they are helpful in some way.  Please let me know what else you need.


In need of some big picture perspective?

General suggestions       


  • Use this disruption – to adapt, pivot, reinvent, innovate and come out the other side leaner, stronger and more resilient. Move fast, the world won’t wait for you
  • Be optimistic – no matter how hard it is. Crisis experts say optimism plays a huge part in survival & recovery through a crisis
  • Look after yourself – practice self-care, order noise-cancelling headphones (you won’t regret it)
  • Use this time to drill down on what problem you solve in the community and how can your solutions adapt to the world that is changing daily? Smiling Mind have been fast to market with Thrive Inside, to help you foster good mental health habits during isolation

  • Helping others is an innate human trait. It’s as human as the fight or flight response in a crisis. Giving, altruism and partnerships will not stop during this time. Remind yourself of the neuroscience that proves it – download our DoGoodology report here (free)
  • Hope and Inspiration is what people want – give it to them. You have the most inspiring stories of people, animals & the environment overcoming obstacles, now is the time to share them
  • Online – If you have services that can go online, now is the time to investigate. There’s going to be a spate of hastily thrown together online courses that will simply not stand the test of time – don’t allow yours to be one of them.  Schedule a call with us if you want to learn from our year of building an online course
  • Check credentials of any ‘expert’ offering advice – you don’t have time to make costly mistakes. Make the right decision not a rushed one
  • Boards: Excellent video from Board expert Simone Joyaux, on what Boards should be doing during this time. She advises that staff should focus on training and upskilling
  • Webinar: Excellent webinar from Moceanic
  • Moceanic cheat sheet here
  • Explore out of the box ideas that were rejected in the past – now is the time to stand out
  • Demonstrate leadership – when people look back on this time they will remember what you did and what you said (and its OK to be angry and sad and fearful….just save that for the dog)
  • Look up – neuroscience shows our brain chemistry changes – it goes into a dream-like state that is best for problem solving. Next time you look down at your smart phone and see doom & gloom, remember to Look Up (note works best if you see sky or trees not a ceiling!)

In order to THRIVE remember these: Tenacity, Hope, Reinvention, Innovation, Visionary and eLearning.

“A finite mindset is obsessed with sticking with the strategy, but it’s the destination that really matters.  The world changes. Politics change, culture changes, public tastes & trends change, technologies change.  So, sticking to the strategy in an ever-changing world is a fool’s game” Simon Sinek author


  • Look back at how consumers behaved in the last economic downturn – financial hardship was only 50% of why donors stop giving. So, in the months ahead don’t feed into the fear and assume that donors will abandon you for this reason.  Read Blog 1 for more detail and articles (link)
  • Balance your time & investment across 3 areas – short-term, medium term & long-term income potential. If you have under-utilised staff that are working from home, reskill them so that when this is all over you’ll have a stronger team ready to tackle 2020 & 2021 head on
  • Communicate with your donors for sure but test your comms with people outside of your organisation. Selling Easter eggs (ignoring what’s real) or just asking for money (not recognising their needs) could damage your reputation.  Postpone scheduled posts that do not speak into everyone’s concerns – and for once, most people’s concerns now are the same, whether wealthy or Aussie battlers. See Blog 2 for examples of those non-profits doing it well
  • Stand out, be bold – samey appeal letters just won’t cut it when people are so distracted
  • Get into the headspace of your donors – call them if need be to just ask if they’re doing ok
  • Inspire donors and give them hope – feed them with positive stories and less about needs
  • The word ‘need’ is so over-used – ban it from all your comms. Need is close to needy, and no-one in this environment wants to hear from a ‘needy’ charity. Everyone is going to be doing it tough for months and possibly years to come, they will want optimism, inspiration and opportunities to do good. There are other words to use – essential, vital and critical are the same but don’t have the same sting
  • Focus on the awesome work you do and why its ‘vital’ you continue – not how you are struggling
  • Be ruthless with communication – comms needs to be tight, to the point, focus on the human impact
  • Get creative – I don’t mean adding more colour to EDMs or throwing out tried & tested strategies. I mean thinking of ways of achieving the same outcome with less money, think of ways that you can serve your stakeholders (staff, donors, corporate & business partners etc), how can you repackage, repurpose what you have: entrepreneurs call this ‘pivot’ and ‘sweat your assets’
  • Postpone not cancel (if you can) events – once the isolation is lifted people will desperately want to get back to ‘normal’ and socialise again and in particular, do something meaningful. A crisis always forces people to realise what’s important in life – and already plenty of #tag movements around kindness, compassion and community have arisen.
  • Go digital – In the new, post-virus post-recession world, digital will reign supreme – talk to Marlin about how to digitise your events, programs & assets
  • Think & act like an entrepreneur – embrace risk, adopt an abundance mindset – after all our mind is all we have and all that we can control

Great advice from DVA Navion – 1) Create a video message from your leader 2) Reassurance supporters 3) Ensure communication is relevant 4) Report on impact and 5) Get on the phone

Read Marlin’s reflections on the FIA Conference (remember the days when we could gather and learn together).  Seems like eons ago.

Corporate partnerships

  • Look back at last century’s two global recession – major companies like IBM and J&J emerged from the first and HP from the second. Apple & Microsoft rose out of the 1973 stock market crash and later innovative online companies like Alibaba, LinkedIn and Atlassian were born.  After the most recent downturn in 2008, companies that adapted like Netflix, Apple & Disney survived while many others (Blockbuster, Kodak) went to the wall. Innovation loves a crisis.  Corporates will be up for partnering in the months & years to come
  • Stay optimistic. There will be companies that will not survive this, others that will change their structure (we’ll see more companies becoming part government owned again) and new, leaner, more innovative, consumer-attuned companies will emerge.  Its these companies that you’ll want to partner with, because they’ll be evolving, embracing CSR, they’ll be stepping up to solve social problems, they will show you innovation like never before and you’ll be much stronger & resilient by being their partner.
  • These leaner, innovative, consumer attuned companies WILL want to partner with non-profits. But they’ll be discerning. The professional non-profits with a compelling offer will have a distinct advantage.
  • Embrace change – In times like this you must change how you do things. As Einstein put it so eloquently:

  • Upskill – Winning the right corporate partners has always been a specialist skill. Use this time to skill up NOW so that you’re ready when we’re on the other side of this crisis (and we will be).  Check out™
  • Check in with your current corporate partners & sponsors and see how they’re doing, and how you can serve them, be pro-active
  • Move your partnership assets into the digital world – explore SMS messaging, video, social content, video storytelling, online training
  • Provide practical & useful information for your stakeholders – as this is the audience your future partners want to tap into
  • Help – with current partners & sponsors see how you can help them to keep their teams at home motivated & inspired with your stories & impacts, digital volunteering tasks etc
  • Understand corporates – if you want to partner with corporates you need to understand their consumers. Watch this from Brandwatch on how consumers are reacting to COVID-19.  People are worried about the economy, hospitals being over-run, stockmarket crashes.  You can download the report free which covers how consumer behaviour has altered, how mindsets are shifting weekly
  • Marketing Budget: Corporates may have less money for their marketing, but companies do not stop marketing in a recession, and they’ll need to be more compelling than usual as customers will be more discerning in their spending. They will cut the fat for sure, perhaps cut back on expensive tv campaigns, but they’ll look for positive, feel good alignments and stories – because their customers will be seeking hope and positivity. Budgets for partnering with a charity compared to most marketing & ad campaigns is pocket money for most large & medium sized companies.
  • CSR Budget: Corporates that are on the CSR path won’t sit on the grass – if anything they’ll increase their activity because society will need it.
  • HR Purse: Staff motivation is going to be more important as we embrace working from home. What at home volunteering activities can you provide?
  • On the other side of crisis there is always opportunity, always innovation and often acts of altruism. Put in place a strategy to ride out the crisis and invest in planning, upskilling and your people to get ready for this new world of opportunity

The Corporate sector stepped up during the bushfire crisis, and they will do so again. However, they will have a keen eye on every dollar being spent, so they’ll look for investments that deliver a return. Corporate partnerships will be crucial – not only because they provide a return – in reputational benefit, motivated staff, differentiation and brand halo – but because in tough times companies are more sharply focused on giving customers what they want – and customers want companies that do good. I’ll keep you in the loop with this.

Thank you for reading. Finally, our corporate clients keep asking us how the non-profit sector is feeling and what they need.  I’d rather not guess so can you tell me?  Please complete this quick survey and I promise your needs will be heard and shared with the corporate sector (I’ve got a couple of articles to write this week that will feature in corporate magazines).

Part 4 we’ll cover how to best build partnerships with the Business & Corporate sector.  Coming next week.


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,®

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