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Brutal Truth & Credible Hope

The wonderful Cheryl Collins told us, with the firm but loving tone she used in her schoolteacher days, that we must use this platform to share both brutal honesty and credible hope. So that’s what we’re going to try to do.

Brutal Truth: We’re in for a rough ride. Some ER doctors and nurses who have weathered horrific traumas are acknowledging that they’re scared for the first time. Seasoned business leaders who managed through the dot.com collapse and Great Recession see this economic threat as much more serious. We’re going to have to learn to live with the coronavirus. And we have to recognize that the economic pain will be with us for a long time.

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Credible Hope: We’re not powerless! Our colleague Schroeder Stribling recently wrote that “tomorrow is promised to no one.” For Stribling, that’s the perfect reason for all of us to use “this dark time … purposefully for the creation of more Light.” Not only is this the right response to strengthen our communities and country; it’s also one of the best things you can do to cope with stress and regain a sense of agency, as peer-reviewed research confirms.

Brutal Truth: The virus is showing it can strike anyone, rich or poor, but it’s increasingly clear that the health and economic consequences will fall hardest on those with the least—as a result of disparities in pre-existing health conditions, inequities in healthcare access, and the fact that social distancing is an unaffordable luxury for many low-income people. We’re talking about African Americans and Native Americans with hypertension or diabetes. Elderly men and women in nursing homes. Young gig workers with no savings or health insurance. Migrant laborers deemed “essential” but forced to sleep in overcrowded field shacks. Millions of workers who were already one paycheck away from disaster when the economy was good are now in crisis. And the cost is not only in dollars but in rising mental health problems, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and suicide.

Credible Hope: Fortunately, this crisis is bringing out the best in many, with acts of kindness, generosity, and empathy proving to be as infectious as the virus itself. We in the social sector have power to tip our country to “a recovery that benefits all people, including people living in or near poverty, and to restructuring our democracy and economy so it works for everyone,” in the words of PolicyLink CEO Michael McAfee. So let’s keep lending our voices and influence to those of social-sector leaders like McAfee, Dan Cardinali, Tim Delaney and Victoria Vrana. Let’s keep helping those in need in our own communities. To borrow a wonderful expression from Billy Shore, let’s all “share our strength” with those who are sick or who have lost a loved one. Let’s thank teachers who’ve pivoted quickly to online learning (and whose value is all the more clear to parents playing a more direct role in educating their children for the first time). And let’s support the healthcare workers and emergency responders on the frontlines as well as those helping to keep communities running (e.g., truck drivers hauling essentials, pharmacy workers, grocery stockers, electrical lineman, and dispatchers).

Brutal Truth: In the words of SeaChange Capital Partners, this crisis could be an “extinction-level event” for many nonprofits—so we need to act like it. Get your organization ready for the tumultuous times ahead. Have you thought through whom you will still serve and those you won’t? (Hospitals have deferred all elective surgeries.) Do you need to redeploy resources? Can you lock in commitments from key donors and funding sources? What funding cuts can you make? How will you innovate to do what you thought couldn’t be done? (Doctors figured out how a ventilator could support two patients at the same time.) Is there merit to merging or even closing (to ensure resources flow to the greatest needs)? Please try to learn all you can as fast as you can. You’ll have a better chance to navigate what lies ahead the more you understand the possible options before you, the pros and cons of the options, and most of all what implementation (doing it) means.

If there ever was a time to plan for the worst and hope for the best, this is it. Do all the things we’re being told to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy. Thank those who’ve been there for you, who’ve helped you become who you are today. And certainly tell those closest to you that you love them. Don’t do it as if you’re saying goodbye. Do it because of this vivid reminder that life, love, and gratitude are precious.


With intent to create all the light we can,

Signatures: Mario and Lowell
Mario and Lowell


Mario Morino is chairman of the Morino Institute, co-founder and founding chair of Venture Philanthropy Partners, and author of the lead essay in Leap of Reason. Lowell Weiss is president of Cascade Philanthropy Advisors, co-editor of Leap of Reason, and advisor to the Leap Ambassadors Community.


Updates From Around the Leap Community

On a daily basis, our colleagues in the Leap Ambassadors Community are updating this compendium of resources they’re finding helpful in the age of COVID. It includes sections on Social Sector Response, Federal Laws, Our New Normal, Inclusion and Science.

One of the resources we’ve found particularly valuable for those opening their wallets along with their hearts is How Can I Help?, a guide from the Center for High-Impact Philanthropy. It includes strategies for making the biggest impact, lists of urgent needs, well-vetted nonprofits meeting those needs, and insights on needs that will emerge after this emergency period.

Pete York and his colleagues at BCT Partners are developing the COVID-19 Urgent Service Provider (CUSP) support tool to help donors determine where emergency funding is needed most. CUSP is the first big-data platform designed to evaluate the capacity of nonprofit service providers to meet the needs of the local communities they serve. The tool will be released tomorrow, at no charge. Thanks, Pete.

In “A Simple, Low-Cost Way for Nonprofits and Foundations to Curb the Coronavirus Crisis,” Sean Gibbons explains that “when there is no vaccine, communications is a vaccine.” Gibbons suggests: “sharing and retweeting social messages local governments, the CDC, and NIH are positing on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere; posting links to local health departments on the homepages of nonprofit and foundation websites, along with resources from NIH and CDC; sending an email to grantees, clients, supporters, and others to help them find local government, CDC, and NIH resources; and slowing down or halting nonessential external messages for now (think of this as akin to pulling over to get out of the way of an ambulance).”

In his latest Forbes.com column, Bill Meehan makes a powerful case that “all educational institutions should include instilling the value of ‘serving others’ as part of their mission statement.” He believes it’s no coincidence that many of the national COVID heroes (including Anthony Fauci, Andrew Cuomo, and Gavin Newsom) attended Jesuit institutions, which have servant leadership at their core.


Events/Webinars for Raising Performance

Daily — Online
Paycheck Protection Program clinics” webinar; Fiscal Management Associates

Apr 28 — Online
Managing Multiple Disasters Amid the Pandemic” webinar; Center for Disaster Philanthropy

Apr 29 — Online
Attaining Corporate and Philanthropic Support During COVID-19” webinar; Grantspace by Candid

May 7 — Online
Boards and CEOs: The Secrets to Effective Governance” webinar; GrantSpace by Candid and Leap Ambassadors Community

May 7 — Online
Scenario Planning During Moments of Crisis” webinar; Bridgespan

May 14 — Online
Donor Advised Funds and Their Critics” webinar; Stanford PACS