From Cookies to Camp: How Nonprofit Boards Can Encourage Strategic Shifts During Crisis

Drexel University’s Gupta Governance Institute and Grant Thornton’s biweekly Nonprofit Directors Dialogue Miniseries features nonprofit leaders and board members as they share insights and strategies for turning today’s challenges into tomorrow’s successes.

What have you learned by the switch to an almost entirely virtual world for some nonprofit organizations and workers?

Organizations who were waiting to get things done, or thinking about refining strategy, or trying to make sure that they were reaching their targets, now it is more important than ever, and they can no longer wait to say, “Hey, we’re going to figure it out”. You must get it done now and I do think that’s a positive thing while we’re in a remote type of situation. I think the time is now to get the things that we’ve been putting off done.

We talked at the top of the call about Girl Scouts and so obviously I’ve been involved from the national perspective, but I was also for many years involved as the chair of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania. Girl Scouts is a great example of an organization that was able to pivot, respond to the pandemic, and meet the needs of the people that they serve where they are comfortable. When the pandemic hit, many of troops were not even finished their cookie season, so how do we figure that out? They did what they call the “cookie locator”, and it was literally you can put in your zip code and find cookies. It was a great opportunity for girls to continue to sell and for people to get the cookies. I think on the camping side, many of the staff at Girl Scouts were really concerned that would not be able to give girls this experience that they grew up loving. So they put their heads together and creatively came up with this idea of “camp from home”. They literally met these girls where they were in their homes. They flipped the script a little bit in terms of how you define camp and what that experience should look like.

I think those were a couple of different ways that they were able to gather together creatively to meet the customer, so to speak. I think it also really energized the staff because they were able to gear their creative thoughts into a whole new program that they thought, “you know what, maybe this is going to speak to what the girls want”. I think as a result for next year, there will continue to be at-home camp as well as hopefully in-person camp. Ultimately, it gave some girls other options that they would not have already had.