News, Ideas, and Musings From our Team
12.31.20 - 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.
6.3.20 - Black Lives Matter
- VISIONALITY prides itself on being “politically neutral” – but this does not mean we will stay silent in all situations.
This is one of them.
Racism should not be seen as a political issue, because it’s a human issue.
It’s an issue that is often rooted in misunderstanding, fear, and ignorance.
It’s an issue around the misinterpretation that this
country was founded on equality.
It’s an issue that the systems our country created after its founding do not, in fact, provide “Liberty and Justice For All.”
This country has struggled to give ALL of its people a seat at the table. However, we need to be specific and see these recent events for what they truly are – black men and women being targeted and mistreated – and in some cases killed – simply because of a pigment in their skin.
Frankly, VISIONALITY is led by women who are white, who believed that helping the nonprofit sector as whole meant that they were in fact, helping ALL succeed. And we’re also a company who has learned how flawed that thinking is. We have worked hard, but we have also benefited from undeniable privilege along the way.
And yet, we also believe the success of a company like VISIONALITY is crucial. What the world needs now is a whole bunch of brave, independently-owned, equality-minded businesses run by fierce ass women.
And so we’re making pledges. We’re doubling down on our commitment to make the world a better place. Because we need companies like VISIONALITY – companies that help those who help the underserved. Companies that build up their employees and leave clients and the community better than we found them.
We’re not going to claim that this is comprehensive or that there will not be more work to do in the months and years ahead, but this is what we’re pledging:
1. To keep the conversation about race and access ongoing amongst our team and our clients – to not be afraid to challenge people to make the table bigger.
2. To strive every day to treat people equally, to constantly check ourselves for potential blind spots, to make sure OUR table is big enough.
3. To listen – this is one of those instances where we are NOT the subject matter experts, and we will sit and give space to and amplify those who are.
4. To take a more active role in pushing nonprofits to think beyond the role of simple diversity, and instead deeply embrace systemic changes towards inclusion in staffing, in boardrooms, and in their services.
VISIONALITY is an anti-racist business that is committed to supporting and lifting the voices of Black people locally, regionally, nationally and globally.
We weep for Breonna. We cry for Ahmaud. And we yell for George.
BLACK. LIVES. MATTER.
4.28.20 - Pivots and Projections
- Here's our COVID timeline:
March 12 - VISIONALITY decided to stop ALL in-person meetings.
March 13 - We decided to run our business for the foreseeable future on a "worst case scenario" model. What if we don’t get any new business? Loose a few clients? Our staff gets sick? I re-did our budget and projections. I discussed possible layoffs with my staff and made sure they understood the federal and state resources available to them and my commitment to the wellbeing of their families.
Today - 48 Days Later (GOODNESS that’s a crazy coincidence!) – We have successfully helped each of our clients adjust their work to continue operations. We signed four new COVID-related contracts that represent 54% of our projected April revenue and 63% of our projected May revenue. We streamlined processes and reduced overhead, which is projected to increase our net profit in April by $4,165 and $11,294 in May.
Even at the best of times, we can get stuck in analysis paralysis – trying to make the ‘perfect’ decision. Lucky for me, my approach has always been “do something and adjust along the way.” Our company has a ‘No Blame, No Shame’ policy. I KNOW that we will make mistakes. And we’ve created a company culture that holds space for those mistakes so that we can be adventurous and creative and then problem solve as a team. We aren’t caught up in the pressure of needing to be perfect. We have latitude to explore things. We know that we are better together.
I made our pivots based on the most conservative data. I acted fast and I trusted my team. Most importantly: I trusted myself. As entrepreneurs, we are ‘figure-outers.’ I don’t know what the right decisions are. Or even the right data to inform those decisions. But I DO know that I am good at figuring it out.
So we’ve done the thing. The “PIVOT” in terms of revenue and business development. And now we need to focus on the wellbeing of our team. I noticed that each member of our team needs to take an unexpected day off about once every two weeks. They get hit by a migraine, couldn’t sleep, or realize that they are just simply distracted to justify billing time to a client.
And we make space for that. If someone needs the day off, we identify what can be postponed on our own to-do list and then divvy up their urgent tasks and meetings. No blame, No shame.
And that’s how I know we’re going to make it through this. We acted quickly based on the data we had available. But we also acted with kindness. At the end of the day, we’re all just flawed people trying to do our best in the world. No blame, No shame.
So I’m encouraging you to take your next step. It may not be flawless, but it will be faultless. You’ve got this. I know it.
Covid is The Amplifier
COVID-19 has amplified all of our underlying conditions – good and bad – in our health, in our personal lives and in our businesses. VISIONALITY had productive relationships with each of its clients. We had our financial processes and systems in place. We learned from the Thomas Fire and Hill/Woolsey Fires and adjusted our business model to be more resilient and agile. And most importantly: we had trust, respect and generosity throughout our team.
3.12.20 - California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES)
- Mass Gatherings Should be Postponed/Cancelled until the end of March (3/12/20)
“Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of 6 feet per person. Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines.”
3.12.20 - Updates From Eventbrite
- From Eventbrite, 3/12/20: We are reaching out today with important information regarding your Eventbrite account and the status of your scheduled payouts. To ensure your funds are readily available in the event you need to issue refunds to your attendees, we are holding your scheduled payouts for all published and future events in your Eventbrite account. This change will only impact payouts you are scheduled to receive before your event ends. Now, your payout will process 5 days after your event ends, which is our typical policy.
- This could significantly impact the cash flow of your event and your organization. Please reach out to VISIONALITY, so we can help you strategize around this continually evolving situation.
- Info for Event Organizers
- Info for Event Attendees
3.12.20 - Small Business Development Center
3.12.20 - California Department of Public Health (CDPH)
Zoom User Guide
VISIONALITY has put together a quick guide for using Zoom, the cloud platform for audio and video conferencing that is widely used to replace in-person meetings.
Since the beginning of COVID-19, VISIONALITY has been committed to providing excellent virtual events for nonprofits - from fundraisers, to awards ceremonies, and multi-day conferences. Contact us about hosting your 2021 events virtually.