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I love watching Project Runway, and have since the show began over 15 years ago. I enjoy watching how the designers make amazing creations in just one to two days’ time. It almost seems unreal and is definitely a skill that I don’t have. The season 4 winner, Christian Siriano, was always a fan favorite, and I was thrilled when I started last season as a mentor to the contestants. 

While you might be curious why I bring him up, well, he has recently been in the news but having nothing to do with fashion. Given how the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across all sectors, the fashion industry has not been spared. Christian Siriano’s headquarters is located in New York City, where most of the COVID-19 cases in the US have been concentrated. Rather than sitting idly by, he decided to support the efforts by having his 10 seamstresses work from home to produce face masks for area hospitals and providers in desperate need of essential supplies. Not only that, but he working on getting FDA clearance for the masks, and also coordinating his efforts with Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Others are following suit. Brewers are making hand sanitizer and wipes (including LVMH/Louis Vuitton’s perfume manufacturing arm), clothing manufacturers are making gowns and masks, and celebrity chefs are turning their restaurants into community kitchens. How amazing that these for-profit entities can pivot and support their communities during a time of need.

While nonprofits are working overtime, I have also seen moments that have moved me greatly. I have seen Interfaith Works coordinate with other housing providers to develop a framework for ensuring staff and client health and safety through their housing programs for people experiencing homelessness. I have seen CollegeTracks change their in-person student meetings (that normally take place at schools) to virtual meetings, to ensure that high school students receive college preparatory coaching and support. I have also seen Cornerstone Montgomery offer telehealth services to support clients in need of comprehensive behavioral health care. These reflect a few of the many examples of how nonprofits are pivoting to continue serving their communities.

Before making any drastic pivots, organizations might want to consider:

  1. What are the changes that need to be made to continue offering services to our clients? Do you think these can be adapted in the long-term?
  2. What resources do you have (and what is needed) to make these changes? If you lack resources, can you acquire them in-kind or through COVID-19 related grants?
  3. Are you working with other partners to share services and resources?
  4. What are you doing to document your COVID-19 related expenses?
  5. How will your data gathering be impacted by COVID-19?
  6. Are you communicating with grant funders and donors about these changes and potential impacts?

These are not easy questions to answer, but necessary as these restrictions remain. You might even find your responses to these questions changing as the weeks go by.

RBW Strategy is happy to offer complimentary coaching to review these issues and discuss action items. Our new mantra: big changes start with small steps.

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