How your nonprofit organization will thrive in a post-2020 world

Emily D H Olson
3 min readMay 20, 2021


We’ve all been navigating the pandemic during the last year (plus a couple of months).

You, as a nonprofit professional, know that the work you do has been critical in this last year.

(And that’s regardless of the discipline you serve in!)

Your services have been critical for the growth, support, and emotional well-being of the neighbors in your community.

You have helped the people in your community to navigate this last year.

But while you did that, you had one tough thing on your plate that was new to you since 2020.

You’ve had to deal with: how do we continue with our mission while we deal with ______ at the same time?

That thing you’re dealing with may have been:

  • Loss of significant financial income
  • Working remotely for the first time
  • Lay off of team members

Not only are we trying to deal with these things, but we’re also navigating our personal lives. You’ve been managing your relationships, your child’s education, and your safety.

For a lot of us, there’s been a sense of cumulative, reactionary action.

So the key question is this:

How do we begin to right the ship in the nonprofit community, post-2020?

How will you get back to do the service that you truly want to be doing?

Even though your services may not look exactly as they looked before, this has the potential to be a new season.

We’re going to have to look at things a new way.

One of the hallmarks of vibrant, successful, engaging, community-supported nonprofit organizations is this:

They understand the important of personal and organizational well-being.

In order for anything to thrive, whether it’s a plant or your organization, you have to be intentional about creating an environment that supports growth.

What has happened in the nonprofit work is that we sometimes take our service to an extreme that is unhealthy for ourselves, for our organizations, and for our teams.

When the seasons change around us, we see signs. We experience bright, spring flowers, or cool, autumn air.

Well, it is the same for our organizations.

We will see signs, or indicators, of health or sickness in our agencies.

There are some organizations that have been able to navigate the last year better than others.

And, in my 20+ years of experience, I believe those organizations are the ones who have been able to prioritize health and well-being.

Someone is going to need to lead by example, though.

Let that someone be you.

Take an inventory of the things in your life that you’ve noticed are not supporting your mental, physical, and spiritual health.

I’m thankful to work with an amazing therapist, and she said to me recently: “I don’t believe we’ve even scratched the surface of the effects this pandemic has had on everyone yet.”

Some aspects of your life may have thrived in the last year, but take stock of where your challenges have been.

When you lead your team, your board, and your stakeholders in the process of refocusing on well-being — you will find that growth is a natural outcome.

Just as when you provide sunshine and water to a new, spring plant — growth is inevitable.

One resource on this topic that we recommend often to our clients is The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout by Aliza Sherman and Beth Kanter.

If you’d like other suggestions like this, I invite you to download our free Nonprofit Resource List here.

After you download, I’d love to hear which resource was the most helpful to you.



Emily D H Olson

20+ years of experience in non-profit leadership. Passion for creating integrative and intentional strategies for NPOs.