Pivots, Decency, And Bravery
Wow, we’ve somehow arrived at the end of a year that has been unlike anything we’ve seen before. I know I’m not underselling 2020 by saying this has been the hardest year we’ve ever experienced individually and collectively. Between the pandemic and the economic/health turmoil that’s stemmed from it, the strengthening of the Black Lives Matter Movement and America taking a hard look at itself in the mirror as it relates to race, and an election cycle that has left Americans feeling even more divided, it would be easy to chalk 2020 up as “the worst ever”.
And while this has been a difficult year, and one I hope we never have to go through again, there have been a lot of bright spots; a lot of pivots, decency, and bravery has shown up this year. This has been a year that has allowed VISIONALITY as a company to pivot, reassess and lean into our core values, and take stock of the things we are truly grateful for.
Along with my new Senior Project Manager and business whisperer, Kristiana, VISIONALITY was heading in a new direction when we sat down in December of 2019, and somehow, even though 2020 feels like surviving a tumultuous storm, we’re still on the course we set. We’re taking on more meaningful work and clients with missions that resonate with our company’s values. It’s a pivot that’s sustainable, and one that we’re excited about.
I’m thankful for our Events Manager Cecily for leading one client –California Mental Health Advocates for Children & Youth (CMHACY) – to transition their 4-day Conference to an engaging digital event in just 6 weeks. And I’m proud of CMHACY for being brave enough to lean into change. After hosting their conference for 39 years in person, making the leap to digital was a lesson in change management that would challenge the most seasoned professional.
I’m thankful for Breanne who learned on her first day– April 15 – that her new job was not the job she was hired for, but was now to learn everything there was to know about Zoom. And then master the custom-built platform we used for CMHACY. And then tour 20 (yeah – two-zero.) mid-level event platforms, select how we would spend VERY precious resources, and then master this THIRD program (AccelEvents), so that we could provide a more interactive digital event experience. Oh. And then figure out the 4th new program – OBS, which allows us to do real-time mixing of live and pre-recorded videos for real-time broadcasting. Breanne = Baller.
VISIONALITY broke away from priding itself on being a “politically neutral company” to leaning hard into becoming an anti-racist business full of brave, equality-minded, fiercely forward-thinking employees who are committed to supporting and lifting the voices of people locally, nationally and globally. After painstakingly drafting, then publishing this statement, we received some interesting responses– many people praised us for taking a stance, while one accused us of being “Anti-American” (true story).
As a small company, taking any kind of stance is frightening – I never wanted “politics” to harm my employees. But guess what: being committed to ending racism and racist practices, fighting for equity, access and basic human decency is actually not political. It’s human. And we did not want our BLM statement to be performative. We were all-in on doing the work, and we still are.
I’m thankful for our Human Resources lead, Llewellyn who built a diversity mindset into our hiring practices years ago. Her work is paying off — our last two rounds of hiring had the most diverse applicant pool since our launch in 2011. We’ve also partnered with Pepperdine to create a *paid* Diversity Fellowship so we can reduce barriers to gaining work experience. So often, college students have to be able to AFFORD to not get paid to gain valuable internship experience, and this was an area we could do something. I’m thankful for our intern Amara who is building a roadmap to bring diversity, inclusion and access into our work with clients. She is answering the question: “How do you address diversity within the lens of resiliency and sustainability?”. VISIONALITY is also underwriting a student worker at CLU’s Center for Nonprofit Leadership, who identifies as a person of color. We have done pro-bono work for the Ventura County chapter of the NAACP and sponsored sessions with Coffee with a Black Guy.
Black Lives Matter. We’re not done yet. I hope you aren’t either.
Our clients haven’t flinched. They chose to stand up to COVID. They continue to do more with less. They are exhausted and they keep showing up for the most vulnerable in our community.
· Community Action of Ventura County has seen over a 200x increase in need for their services to keep families fed and safe in their homes.
· The Coalition for Family Harmony who is still operating their shelters to help women escape their abusers while providing legal services to keep that protection in place after they leave.
· has provided 10,529 COVID-related counseling hours, engaged with 9,207 businesses, handled 8,166 calls — helping local small businesses keep their doors open (including ours!).
· Girl’s Inc has completely pivoted to providing new and different opportunities for their girls while helping partner organizations, like the local food back, by offering their unutilized passenger vans to transport more food to meet the growing need in Santa Barbara County.
· The Ventura County Community Foundation and Santa Barbara Foundation are both redefining what it means to be a community foundation by dramatically shifting their funding priorities and encouraging other funders to get on board to make sure families and nonprofits have the financial resources to move through these incredibly difficult economic times.
I’m thankful for Kristiana who encouraged and strategically led our clients into bold changes to their fundraising and digital engagement strategy. I’m thankful that Nico chose to bring his considerable fundraising experience and love of cats to our team this November, without so much as a face-to-face meeting with his new colleagues. And this time next year, I’ll get to tell you why I’m thankful for Jaehee who will be joining this badass team in January.
As a small, local, women-owned business, this year has brought more uncertainty than ever. I am so grateful that I can sit down today and write this letter, because back in March, I wasn’t sure we were going to be here. We are immensely thankful for our clients, our partners and our friends who believed in us. Because of you, our business continues to grow, and we can continue to make a meaningful impact on our local communities. And because of you, we are thankful.
This year has reminded me once again of the amazing power that comes from working together to create collective impact. We did this together. Thank you.
May 2021 bring us all health and happiness.