How a Network Leads in Crisis: An update from Pillar's Executive Director and Board Chair

We hope that you and your loved ones are staying well and are able to take time where you can to pause and find moments of peace. 

We know that saying this pandemic has been difficult for many of you, both personally and professionally, is an understatement. We have heard, and continue to hear from you, about the very real effects this has had on the viability of your organizations. 

At the same time, we also continue to see tremendous resilience and innovation in our sector. We continue to be inspired by local response efforts and the mounting movements across our sector to shift broken systems towards approaches centered in equity and inclusion. We are working on our own plans to help in this effort that we will share in the coming weeks. 

Please know that regardless of how you are affected, or how you are feeling, you are heard and seen. We will continue to offer our support in the form of programming, advocacy and facilitating community connections as we navigate the transition to new ways of working and being. To do this work, we developed four key focus areas. Here are a few ways we have been putting these principles in action. 

Ensuring the health and wellbeing of our employees and network

We believe a key component of ensuring the wellbeing of our network is providing opportunities for learning and connection. With Innovation Works closed, we swiftly shifted our co-tenant engagement opportunities online, along with our learning and development programming. Each week we host five online connection opportunities for our network ranging topics from Nonprofit Connection to Organizational Continuity. 

In April, we hosted a total of 24 total connector events, 19 of which were hosted by co-tenants with over 230 attendees across all events. With the move to hosting our learning and development opportunities online, we’ve also piloted new webinars free to our members on topics relevant to the current climate. We have also been proud to offer a support network for over 70 Executive Directors in the impact sector, and have received overwhelming positive feedback from participants who feel truly supported and empowered by this community. 

Maintaining regular communication with our network

Since the outset of COVID-19, we have increased communication with our network across the board. Weekly, we’re sending email updates to our members including up to date information on policy advocacy, government assistance, grant opportunities, online learning opportunities and more. We’re busy on social media sharing what we’re working on at Pillar as well as amplifying local news, member initiatives and sector information. Members of our team are working hard daily to curate the COVID-19 resources our network needs on a variety of topics ranging from volunteerism, to sector advocacy and financial support, to mental health and resiliency, to actions that folks can help today take to help give back – it’s a long list, but we promise it’s all relevant and helpful.

Advocacy on behalf of the nonprofit sector

Pillar is a regular collaborator of the Ontario Nonprofit Network and Imagine Canada acting as a voice for our members and advocating on behalf of the sector to ensure we are supported by government stimulus and viewed as critical to both the social and economic functioning of society. We are also fortunate to be respected as experts on the impact sector by our local media and were featured in the press speaking on sector issues more than 12 times in April alone. 

Recently, Michelle had the opportunity to present to the House of Commons Finance Committee speaking on the urgent need for increased government support of the impact sector adding her voice in support of the Sector Resilience Grant Program proposal submitted by Imagine Canada. On the local front, Michelle also sits on two of the Mayor’s recovery task forces helping to lay the framework for economic and social recovery in our city and speaking to our sectors’ vitally important role in this process.

Doing deep social listening and encouraging online connection between our members

Staying connected to our members is the foundation of all of our work at Pillar. Throughout this time, we’ve heard from you through our member survey, on our Online Community, through our COVID-19 feedback form, during our connection activities, learning and development events and countless informal conversations with members of the Pillar team and board. As a network organization, the voices of our members shape all of our programming and advocacy efforts.  

With all of this rich information, we’re also able to make connections between members and with other local organizations to spark collaborations and solve community issues. Recently, we helped to connect the London Food Bank, Youth Opportunities Unlimited and RBC Place London to help feed London’s most at risk populations. We also partnered with Centre for Research on Health Equity and Social Inclusion (CRHESI) to launch a series of articles and reflections titled Voices from the Margins of a Crisis, highlighting the inequities during COVID-19 and bringing first hand experiences. 

We need your voices

As we move toward rebuilding our communities and look with hope towards a future where systems serve our communities more equitably we need your help. To ensure that our sector is here today and into the future we need your voices along with ours to create a movement. 

Contact your MP to voice your support for the Sector Resilience Grant Program led by Imagine Canada and share your voice to the conversation on social media using hashtag #WhatsAtStake. 

Contact your MPP to voice your support for the provincial stabilization fund led by Ontario Nonprofit Network and share your voice to the conversation on social media with the hashtag #680millionreasons.  

With warm support and community love,

Michelle Baldwin, Executive Director

Nicole Spriet, Board Chair

Article type: 
News Topic: 
Advocacy and Awareness
Communications and Marketing
COVID-19 Response

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