Looking Back and Charging Forward – We’re Still Standing!

By Michael J. Tomlinson, CEO and President at Brewer Direct

These three things are now vital for the success of your organization.

It’s been more than a year since the US went into lockdown from the COVID-19 pandemic. I clearly remember standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the BDI staff as we crowded into our conference room, watching live as the government declared a national emergency.

I expected we’d have a couple weeks to plan and strategize. A mere 48-hours later our headquarters office was shuttered and the BDI staff were serving our partners fully remote. Talk about a test of being pivot-adept and change-capable!

Unemployment began to rise, businesses were shutting down, and illness was spreading. To be candid, what seemed at first to be an unfortunate and concerning issue quickly turned into a brutal and widespread crisis. The world was tossed into dark new waters, unprepared to navigate the waves and obstacles ahead.

But the nation has persevered.

New donors opened their hearts, loyal supporters started caring more for those in need, and giving (both online and offline) grew in the midst of great trials. In the midst of uncertainty and turbulence, we’ve witnessed bright spots in philanthropy.

Fueled by faith, ministries charged on, stepping forward with an innovative spirit and can-do attitude that quickly became imperative for organizational success. Over the past year, leaders have continued to make bold moves – transcending the challenges and transforming into vision-driven organizations, supercharged by change.

A recent study by McKinsey and Co. surveyed 30 of the top US companies on how they navigated 2020 and their focus going forward. They discovered three, big-picture functions that organizations have prioritized during the pandemic:

  1. Who We Are: What is the purpose behind why you do what you do?
  2. How We Grow: Is your team equipped for change and ready to try new things?
  3. How We Operate: How well do you know your team and processes?

In these categories, we see a story paralleled by so many courageous, service-driven nonprofits. Instead of waiting for the storm to pass, they seized an opportunity to embrace change and befriend the unknown.

Alongside other nonprofits, BDI’s clients have made some bold steps in these areas. I’d like to share three stories with you in hopes that your organization can move forward with courage, knowledge, and a revitalized hope.

Who You Are: Know Your Purpose

Tiny Home Villages
Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, Los Angeles, CA

As a big city with a large homeless population, Los Angeles has been a high-risk focal point for the spread of COVID-19 in California. Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission was contacted by the LA Conservation Corps to embark on a new project that would keep LA’s vulnerable individuals safe.

The mission shifted their efforts to a four-month project to open and operate Tiny Home Villages throughout LA County. These would act as safe, interim housing where homeless individuals could begin their journey toward wholeness. By May 2021, there will be three more open sites, totaling 270 Tiny Homes and 520 beds.

Takeaway: During the pandemic, Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission let go of their 2020 plans and expectations to pursue a greater call to help their homeless neighbors.

Does your leadership continuously keep an ear to the ground for the greater needs in your community? Do not hold plans, logistics, or specific campaigns so tight that you lose sight of the ‘why’ behind your organization. Instead, be change-ready, confident, and open to new opportunities so your team is ready to answer the call when a new challenge presents itself.

How You Grow: Build a Network of Support Outside Your Staff

Sweet Sunday at Home Dessert Festival
City Mission, Washington, PA

This is the 27th year that City Mission hosted its annual Sweet Sunday Dessert Festival. Over the years, this fundraiser raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and focused the community’s attention towards the Mission’s needs.

Due to health restrictions, the Mission shifted this single-day in-person fundraiser to a fully-virtual month-long campaign. They expanded their digital capabilities to guide supporters online to order custom sweet boxes that would safely be delivered to their homes. Their flexibility and innovation paid off, raising more than $25,000 in sweets alone! But they wouldn’t have been able to do it without the vendors, community volunteers, and dedicated staff that stepped up to help.

Takeaway: After being unable to host their event as usual, City Mission leaned on their team and community partners to successfully execute this virtual campaign.

Is your organization fully utilizing its connections and community to further your mission? It’s not too late to expand your digital capabilities and build a network of supporters online. Connecting virtually with colleagues, partners, and donors can help your team tap into new wellsprings of interested individuals who can elevate your cause and move your programs into greater waters.

Not sure where to start? BDI has a Virtual Community of nonprofit fundraisers and expert marketers that is free for you to join. Apart from our monthly webinar series, this community is open 24/7 for leaders to share insights, ask questions, and virtually connect. Start building your online network and sign up today.

How You Operate: Lean on Facts and Expert Advice

Bolstering their Acquisition Budget
City Union Mission, Kansas City, MO

Crisis amplified the cause of City Union Mission, encouraging the team to push for support and foster additional funds for the mission. After seeking advice of trusted advisors, the Mission leadership decided to increase their acquisition budget by 25%.

The results were outstanding! Their acquisition resulted in a 53% increased response rate, and an unusually positive ROI that generated a net of +$0.52 per donor acquired. If retained over the course of the next five years, these new donors will give $1,566,600 to the Mission.

Takeaway: Even though City Union Mission found success in increasing their acquisition budget, that’s not the main takeaway. Their decision was rooted in thorough data analysis and consultation with advisers. They leaned on facts and experts to help guide their steps.

Making bold moves during rapidly changing times can bring great value. But first, are you taking into account the capabilities of your team, the capacity of your organization, and the counsel of trusted advisers?


Be proud of the courageous decisions you have made and the bold steps you have taken to move your organization forward over the past year. We are proud of you!

This is what being in the restoration and transformation business is all about.

When the chips are down, who will step forward to serve… sacrificially give… and lead? We will, together. None of this was a surprise to our Heavenly Father. He’s chosen each of you for a purpose in this ongoing story of overcoming tragedy and is blessing us with the opportunity to grow personally.

As new challenges come, my prayer is that you find energy in the truth that the Lord has called you to do His Kingdom work. Seasons of great change allow us to empower our team, further our purpose, and unite with others in a shared vision to improve lives.