I’m not sure how many movie buffs out there are reading this, but given that I am one, a movie theme was bound to work its way into one of these articles eventually. So let me set the stage—Brad Pitt, World War Z, Israel. A council, where the last stronghold of human civilization stands, is explaining to Brad that they were prepared for zombies because they adopted the rule of “The 10th Man”. This 10th Man tells Brad that if there is ever a scenario presented that 9 out of 10 of the council members believe is outlandish and ridiculous and could never happen, the 10th man is obligated to consider this a plausible situation and to plan accordingly.

So how does this relate to COVID and financial forecasting? Okay, so we aren’t dealing with zombies. But we are dealing with a highly volatile, quickly changing scenario for which planning even 2-3 months into the future has proven challenging, nearly impossible in some instances. Non-profits and for-profits alike are seeing financial swings they haven’t seen in well over a decade—some positive, but many in a negative direction. Investors are looking more than ever at ways to support businesses that have a Social Impact—not necessarily legacy companies like Brooks Brothers. Foundations are largely focusing their money on safety net organizations to help with housing payments and food insecurity with so many people out of work—and there just may not be as much money to help save the whales this year after those needs are met.

The moral of the story that I took from World War Z is that, however unfavorable it is, or however unlikely it is, we need to have someone with an eye on what “could” happen. Someone that can strategize. Someone that can be innovative and pivot. Someone that can be nimble with the constantly changing environment that a pandemic or economic crisis—or both—can bring.

Now every organization doesn’t have that type of person sitting in the top chair. But a great leader doesn’t have to be all those things. A great leader just needs to have the wisdom to surround themselves with others who can help them think through these things and support the organization moving forward. Or in some cases, perhaps they need the wisdom to step down and allow for the next leader to use their talents and skills to take the organization in a new direction, just like Rose Marcario did for Patagonia.

There are also several ways to adapt to this kind of thinking. Find a leadership course that offers a theme of leading through change. Recruit advisors to your board (or circle of trust) that have a specialty in financial forecasting or strategic planning. You can even come hang out with us at the Institute for three days and learn about how to launch, market, and lead a Social Impact organization. But I believe the very worst thing that any of us can do right now is take the ostrich approach and bury our head in the sand and hope this all goes away. Or get stuck. Or fail to plan for multiple scenarios both financially and strategically. We need to keep our heads up, looking to the near and distant future, and lead our organizations through this challenge to create opportunity as well as revenue. And find that 10th Person, the one that is going to challenge our beliefs and ask us to do better—for the sake of the organization, our economy, and our humanity.

For more information on Colorado Institute for Social Impact and the services we offer, please go to our website at CI4SI.org or email Stacey@ci4si.org

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