An Open Letter to Nonprofit Leaders at the End of 2020

Dear Friends,

In our recent rollout of the Financial Commons, Hal Cropp, the Producing Artistic Director of Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, MN, offered an anecdote for how the year has been going for him and his colleagues:

“We make plans on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we listen to the governor speak on Thursday, and then we tear up the plans on Friday. And then we start over on Monday.”

In April, I joked that we at Propel, “no longer pivot, we pirouette.” I don’t think any of us knew how long our careful, quick, and calculated spinning would last. We still don’t.

Metaphors and anecdotes aside, the past nine months have been intense, hard, sad, joyous, lonely, and yet here you are doing the thing for yourself and your organization.

As many organizations and leaders prepare for the end of one year and the start of a new one, I wanted to write a brief and sincere thank you note to executive directors and nonprofit leaders for showing up, for finding creative ways to keep going, and dignified ways to deliver difficult news and work through seemingly impossible situations.

To leaders who took care of staff and volunteers, who worked hard days whether it was donned in PPE or alone in your guest rooms, living rooms, and at your kitchen tables while your kid struggled to stay focused during their school day;

To office managers and IT staff who suddenly became the curators of home office supplies and virtual procedures in the matter of a week or a month;

To those colleagues in the sector who arrived to zoom meetings and simply asked “how are you,” and “what do you need to talk about today?”;

I can’t thank you enough for everything you did and will continue to do as we enter 2021 together. I hope in the next few weeks you are given the grace and time to rest and take care. There’s no doubt in my mind you did your very best and our community is better for it.

So, happy new year. And, if you’re a board member who happens to be reading this before your executive director’s annual review: just give them all a 10/10.


Kate Barr

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