Post-Election Space for Nonprofits: A Call to Leadership, Peace, and Counting Our Blessings

November 4, 2020

Nonprofits are all about solutions, bright sides, and bringing out the best in people. Whatever the ultimate outcome of the presidential race, we know that approximately 45% of our nation will be deeply unhappy with the results. Nonprofits have an important role to play in bridging divides and focusing on non-partisan solutions in our communities.

Uncertain times bring out the best in leaders.  No matter what your position – board, staff, or volunteer – we all have opportunities to lead in small and large ways:

  1. Show you care – Let others know you are there for them. Maybe you text or email a colleague or a board member, or if you are the CEO, send a caring message to your team. The mental health challenges some people are facing in this election and its aftermath are serious, and can also manifest in physical symptoms from stress. Acknowledge the strains people are feeling, emphasize the importance of mutual support, self-care, and remind people about your Employee Assistance Program. 
  2. Convene people in a nonpartisan space. Think together about future opportunities, not just challenges. Talk about how your mission is crucial in these times. Invite diverse voices to share their perspectives.
  3. Call for peace. Any and all protests should be peaceful. If things get dicey with vote counting, legal battles, and protests, we want to make sure people stay safe. If violence does occur, focus on the safety of your team and utilize your disaster preparedness plans.
  4. Stay calm and focus on the positives (See below!). Plan for the future in organized ways at specific times. All other times stay in the present moment and focus on what is immediately ahead of you. 

While the country is focused on counting ballots, let’s also focus today on counting blessings.

The first blessing is that this election marked a dramatic increase in voter turnout from people of all races, all ages, and all political leanings. Nonprofit organizations across Maryland and the nation engaged in successful nonpartisan voter education and engagement. 

The second blessing is nonpartisanship. People of all political backgrounds leave their party affiliation at the door when they enter the nonprofit board room. Instead of bickering and pointing fingers, we roll up our sleeves and link arms to get the job done for our communities. Our nation needs more examples of nonpartisan and bipartisan problem solving, and we can find it right here in the nonprofit sector.

The third blessing is our opportunity to serve. Many in our community are suffering from COVID-19, unemployment, and hunger. Many in our community may be experiencing mental health challenges directly related to the election. Many in our community are subject to racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and xenophobia. While none of these are blessings, we are blessed to have an opportunity to wake up every day to serve, to create change, and to work together for a better future.

The fourth blessing is this: we are the solutions sector. If our democracy is facing challenges, nonprofit organizations exist to fight for democratic institutions. If racism is on the rise, nonprofit organizations are organized to combat racism and white supremacy. If the national government is in gridlock, nonprofits exist to advocate at state and local levels for the changes we want to see.

A bonus blessing for Maryland is that voters approved a ballot measure to increase the legislature’s ability to make changes to Maryland’s budget. Prior to this change, nonprofits had very few avenues to influence the Governor’s budget. Starting in 2024, we will have a much more direct route to advocate for our priorities with our state senators and delegates.

Finally, our biggest blessing is that we have each other. Nonprofit leaders support one another through tough times, and this time will be no different.

Maryland Nonprofits is here for you!  Our weekly member meetings (Wednesdays at 3:30 pm) offer an opportunity for us all to come together, learn from one another, and make sense of our next steps together.

Heather Iliff is President & CEO of Maryland Nonprofits, responsible for advancing the organization’s vision to create a highly effective, ethical, and accountable nonprofit sector that drives change through collective action and advocacy.