What It’s Like to Celebrate Our 16th Anniversary During a Pandemic
Today, Nexus Direct is celebrating our 16th anniversary.
To be candid, on July 1, 2004, I wasn’t entirely sure what the future would hold. As a business owner, you hope for the best and plan for the worst. This year, so far, has shown us that those worst-case plans will most likely come in handy someday.
Looking back to 2004, when we opened our doors, a few of the biggest news stories in the United States were that gay marriage was finally legalized in Massachusetts (the first state to do so), Senator John Kerry failed to unseat President George W. Bush for the office of president, the Iraq War was in full swing, and the deadliest tsunami in history hit Indonesia, killing over 200,000 in December.
Despite this and many other issues, somehow, back then, the divide between us felt approachable. There were not arguments that descended into hateful insults or violence, or at least they were fewer and farther in between. But Facebook had just started in 2004, so there was very little social media backdrop.
Sixteen years later, astonishingly, the Supreme Court is still having to defend gay rights, and our politics have now divided our world in a way that has become literally dangerous to our lives. We are hearing an unprecedented voice for racial equality contrasted with a constant Donald Trump shock-and-awe news reel, and overlaid with the news of an uncontrolled, global pandemic, which has killed more than 500,000 people, infected more than 10 million to date, and created the potential for the worst global recession — if not depression — in history.
With more than 126,000 people dead, and more than 40 million people having lost their jobs in the United States alone, along with weeks and weeks of protests, one would imagine this would impact our company’s ability to continue to do our job.
Our life’s work is to raise money for nonprofit organizations in the United States, Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom, whose missions are to fight against all the horrifying issues I just mentioned or provide aid to those that suffer from them.
There is no question that all three regions we work in are facing major crises, creating what many nonprofits fear to be a fragile environment for a donor’s ability to give and sustain their organizations — and at first glance, this fear is not unfounded.
As in past recessions, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the anthrax scare, our clients’ natural inclination is to immediately evaluate their revenue streams and revisit goals for 2020/2021, especially given the fear of a potential “second peak” of the pandemic, a second record drop in the stock market, as well as more job losses — all which could come with a second lockdown.
But as during past crises — national or global — our clients have seen a tremendous outpouring of support.
Supporters of nonprofits are empathetic human beings, who recognize that what is happening in our world today means the beneficiaries of the programs our clients run need their help more than ever!
While the nightly news shows empty foodbank shelves, full homeless shelters, overwhelmed hospitals, and underpaid and overworked “essential workers,” we all feel we must do something.
In the last 90 days, our company has contributed and delivered food to local first responders, hospitals, and rescue squads. Our company and our “Nexies,” the fond name we have given ourselves over the years, have donated time, money, and resources to every organization we can think of.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to work from home, have an uninterrupted household income, and are natural givers, are still giving! And we always will.
Supporters who are safe at home, because they are in the most vulnerable population, are reading their mail, answering their phones, and wanting to help. This means nonprofits who are standing still, fearful of asking, and not communicating with their supporter family, are missing out on an opportunity to engage their supporters where they are.
And those who are proceeding as usual, with no change, are contributing to the problem by ignoring what’s happening and are being perceived as disconnected from the world their supporters live in: reality.
It would be better to take a loss on a program you have already invested in, rather than dismissing the state of the world and reaching out to supporters with an irrelevant communication.
Here is a fact: This is not going away as quickly as past crises have.
Tragically, approximately 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11. And as stated already, more than 126,000 Americans have died so far in 2020. That number is expected to exceed 200,000 at minimum.
Let me say it again: This is not going away.
Making inquiries about your supporters’ well-being should be a priority. This will demonstrate a two-way relationship, in the best and worst of times, and is the key to longevity for any friendship. Your supporters are your friends, not your bank. Some nonprofit CEOs forget that, to the extreme frustration of fundraisers like us.
The organizations who serve the underserved populations in our society — the orphan disease researchers, the animal rescues, public TV, and every other nonprofit that may not be connected to the current events in the world — must survive the next few years by being relevant.
But our Nexie team has been shocked by the amount of email and direct mail we have received that does not even address what is happening in the world, sounding completely tone deaf and communicating a complete lack of leadership to supporters.
People want to help organizations who they trust, who they believe “gets it,” and who they know is spending their money wisely. And ignoring the state of the world does not demonstrate that.
So, after 16 years of helping nonprofits meet their goals, our takeaway in 2020 is that there has never been a time before when leadership has been more important.
Courageous leadership within nonprofits themselves, the partners that serve them, and the teams on the ground, raising the funds and executing the programs, is critical right now.
As we watch examples of outrageous courage in the protesters fighting for civil rights and the medical staff fighting COVID-19, the least we can do is demonstrate the same courageous leadership in order to protect one another and the beneficiaries of our programs.
We, at Nexus Direct, are committed to being courageous leaders — for our clients, our service partners, and our industry. We are committed to building a pathway for others to follow. We have been given the trust of hundreds of organizations over the years, and we will use every ounce of our energy to continue to earn it moving forward.
Whether it’s by moving to a four-day workweek to help our Nexies’ quality of life, making Juneteenth a company paid holiday, demonstrating our commitment to racial equality, contributing to our communities through volunteering time and financial resources, or assisting nonprofit organizations in meeting their goals every single day, we are determined to set the standard and raise the bar.
Sixteen years of past success, and the future is ours to make. What are you doing? Whatever you do, do something. There is never a bad time to make an impact.