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Jun 11, 2020
Posted Under: COVID Foraker News

A note from Laurie: 

A new reality needs new words. Recently I was asked, “are you open?”  A simple question but now with so many meanings and answers.  In the midst of this pandemic, we have watched nonprofits close the doors on their physical space but stay open virtually.  We have watched as some close their physical space without a clear path to anything virtual and we have watched missions shift space and double down on service delivery no longer hampered by their building infrastructure.  For decades when consulting with organizations about their potential capital campaigns I have said to countless board and staff members “you are not building a building – you are expanding or deepening mission.” Indeed it is the mission that happens inside the building that matters, not the building itself.  Never have we tested this thought more thoroughly than in this time of COVID-19.  I used to joke that our sector had an “edifice complex” because they thought that their buildings made them real.

Well, our missions still exist now even without the buildings that hold us. To be sure, this understanding impacts missions differently. Not having a physical space has been devastating for our arts community as their business models are designed to gather people in a built environment. But it has also been liberating for others. I have heard examples of this in Petersburg, Bethel, Kodiak, and Anchorage where groups who serve our homeless community have “left their space” to work together in real-time outside with the people that need help. Leaving our physical spaces has allowed so many to break long-held assumptions about how we do the work and the work itself and for this, we can all be beneficiaries of this time.  It also gives me hope for our missions and for all of us as we take the lessons learned and keep moving forward.

So with all that, I come back to Foraker. Yes, we are open. We have always been open. We never missed a day. And our physical space has been closed and will likely stay that way through the summer. Our reality is that when we reopen our physical space to the public it will not be to “go back” to what was but to move forward into a new reality. This reality is one that hearkens back to a time in Foraker’s life that included a small but mighty workforce in a single space and a powerful team working in many places alongside Alaska’s nonprofits.

Going forward will mean that some staff members do not return to working in the office because, in fact, they are just as effective working from home. It will mean that we will see less permanence and more flexibility with the whole team. It will mean that we will continue to meet our sector where they are (as soon as we can fly safely into communities). It will mean that when we are together we will practice physical distancing and take all the CDC precautions including, but not limited to, wearing masks. It will mean that we will require groups we work with to wear masks (assuming their age and ability allows) to keep our employees and consultants safe. It will mean sadly that we will not let children in our office right now. It will also mean that we will continue to use technology to engage our boards, staff, consultants, and community in new and existing ways to stay connected. And it will mean that we will take this next period of time to understand our roles, responsibilities, and definitions of how we bring people together. We look forward to many more creative ways to exercise our definition of “open” right alongside you.  

Thanks to each of you who have reached out and expressed your support. We are continuing to do what we do best – serve Alaska’s nonprofits. Give us a call. We are ready.