Steering Your Nonprofit Through the Pandemic

Home Workout Equipment
Photo by Alexandra Tran on Unsplash
  1. A set of totally free workouts on their Instagram channel led by a variety of instructors from their global network.
  2. A class you can pay for that’s twice as long as the free one. This class is led by an instructor on zoom and includes a whole bunch of other folks in their homes around the world. You can pay more to get these classes exactly when you want, with groups you determine, with specific instructors you like.
  3. Where allowed, you can attend in-person classes with dramatically reduced attendance, with the assurance that the work-out room has been sterilized. This is essentially Barry’s old model (I haven’t gone to these).
Teenage girl homelearning homework on a macbook in the family kitchen
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
  1. Students and educators can attend our Learning Differently 101 programs for free. These experiences take place entirely online and offer the knowledge and skills acquired through our in-person programs.
  2. Schools can pay Eye to Eye to tailor the Learning Differently 101 programs to meet their educators’ and students’ needs with respect to length and content.
  3. We can, where allowed and following all health and safety protocols, go back into schools to continue the programs we offered pre-pandemic.

Be in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution

What do I mean by this? To me, this means holding your values — your “why” — tightly, and your process — your “how” — loosely. Eye to Eye’s mission has always been to create a more equitable world by bringing visibility to the power of learning differently. Our mission — our “why” — hasn’t changed since the pandemic started. What has changed is how we’re partnering with schools. Our Learning Differently 101 programs are designed with equity in mind to reach anyone anywhere. The student version of LD 101 is not only a multi-sensory, entertaining journey that arms students with the skills they need to self-advocate. It also matches them with mentors and peers for a virtual experience that welcomes and connects them to the broader community of people who learn differently. The Learning Differently 101 program for educators is an interactive workshop that also prioritizes equity. Educators explore learning disabilities and how to provide flexible learning environments and opportunities with their peers — wherever they are in the world.

Don’t Try to Enact Statutes

I always say that Eye to Eye isn’t working to create statutes or to become an organization that will last forever. I’m not interested in celebrating Eye to Eye one day far into the future. I’m focused on solving a problem. We know that 20 percent of students struggle with a learning disability in an education system that was designed for the other 80 percent. Eye to Eye has grown in response to the need for supportive, flexible learning environments and opportunities for students who learn differently, but the growth of our organization has never been our aim. We’re working toward a future in which students with learning disabilities are seen, heard, and valued from the moment they step into a school. A future in which equitable learning environments are a given, not something our students must fight to attain.

Listen to Your People

Twenty-five percent of Eye to Eye’s chapters met in January. That’s because, in many places, educators, families, and their students believed that in-person meetings could resume safely as long as everyone wore a mask and other precautions were taken. My colleagues and I did everything we could to accommodate the schools that want students and support teams to transition back to in-person meetings. If they needed something, we did our best to provide it. Schools that wanted to continue virtual support also had our attention and resources. We listened and said “yes” to as many requests as we could to meet the changing needs of our community across the country.

Get Your Business Right

We know that we don’t have a boatload of money. As we’ve modified how we deliver our programs and services, we’ve had to build a business model that won’t put us out of business before the end of this pandemic. To figure out how to make our business work through a combination of philanthropy and school funding, we’ve had to spend a lot of time talking to people in education. These people have shaped our business model by clarifying the needs of our community; in other words, they’ve helped us determine where we can have the biggest impact with the money available to us. We’ve also been in constant communication with people in other industries and disciplines. We’ve done this to make sure that the choices Eye to Eye makes relate to the real world. We want people with disabilities to continue to find their way and thrive after graduating. And we want them to stay connected. The key to making this happen is communication. We’re figuring out what we know and sharing it without hesitation. We’re also being honest about what we don’t know.

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David Flink

David Flink

As Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of Eye to Eye, David Flink is an author and social movement leader on the front lines of the learning rights movement.