Toward a Post-Pandemic Future

Response to Catapult Revisited

July 2021

Jim Klocke, CEO, Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN)

In this time of turbulence, the Catapult Papers ideas - advanced before the COVID-19 pandemic - are even more relevant.

The pandemic moved through the nonprofit sector like a hurricane. Structures, resources, operating plans and networks were scrambled beginning in March of 2020. Service providers of all sizes had to change radically overnight. Some were forced to suspend operations, while many others jumped in to help meet needs they had never addressed before. Fundraising events critical to nonprofits’ future had to be canceled or scaled back. And remote work became a daily reality in nearly every organization. Through it all, nonprofits and their supporters rallied. 

Today a post-pandemic future is on the horizon. What’s the best way for nonprofits to move into it? We think Catapult’s four core ideas offer a roadmap. Here’s how:

Being market responsive: The importance of being market responsive has grown over the past year. It hasn’t become any easier; many of the communities and markets served by nonprofits were turned upside down by the pandemic. But a higher degree of difficulty doesn’t mean a goal should be abandoned. Organizations that stay in close touch with their markets, noticing changes and responding to them, will be in the best position to deliver transformative services going forward.  

Knowing your own backyard: Today knowing your own backyard means knowing more about the suffering so many have endured. The pandemic shone a badly-needed light on inequities, hardship and suffering that are widespread in communities—whether defined by place or by common conditions—across Massachusetts. The work done by nonprofits to alleviate that suffering will provide relief, and more. It will accelerate our journey toward the “Beloved Community” envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Going bold and going big: The range of possibilities has been expanded by the pandemic. Multi-trillion-dollar relief bills have become law at the federal level, and large-scale relief programs have been created at the state and local levels. The dollar amounts involved in those programs receive a lot of attention. But the funds aren’t the only opportunity. Major policy changes were included in the federal bills, and the door is open to more policy changes going forward.  

Tapping the untapped workforce: This is one of many areas where the pandemic has made things worse. It expanded the untapped workforce by forcing people to stay at home to protect their health or the health of loved ones. And it wiped out millions of jobs that have historically provided opportunity for people in the untapped workforce. So the challenge has grown—but we can meet it. Addressing the five factors “Catapult Revisited” identifies in this area is the key to success.  

The pandemic has been horrific. But there have been even worse crises before, and communities got through them by calling on deep reserves of commitment, compassion, creativity and common purpose. Those traits are serving us well now. And JVS and the Boston Foundation are helping to lead the way.