Navigating an NPO and supporting entrepreneurs through COVID-19
Sharad Kharé is in a unique position. Not only is he the founder of Kharé Communications and Human Biography, but he’s president of TiE Vancouver, a nonprofit that works to help connect entrepreneurs with networking, strategic partnerships, funding, and youth mentoring.
Kicking off our new video series, “A Conversation With,” our CEO Omar virtually sat down with Sharad (thanks Zoom!) to talk about what his experience has been navigating this nonprofit through COVID-19, the impact he’s seeing the pandemic having on entrepreneurs, and his advice on how we’re going to get through it.
Communicate, innovate, show empathy, stay lean, and stay positive. Let's hear what else Sharad has to say (transcription below).
A Conversation With Sharad Kharé
While he’s not volunteering for TiE, Sharad is Founder and Director, Legacy Documentarian at Human Biography where he gets to engage with some of the world’s most interesting individuals in dialogue in regards to the stories and commentary that matters most to them, including their digital legacy, personal legacy and living legacy.
Omar: Hello everybody. Today we’re going to be speaking to one of our clients, Sharad Kharé from TiE Vancouver. We will listen to Sharad’s views on the current situation with COVID-19 and the impact that is having on non-profit organizations.
You have a unique perspective of being an entrepreneur, serving a community of entrepreneurs through TiE Vancouver, but with TiE Vancouver being a nonprofit organization itself. What impact has COVID-19 had on TiE Vancouver and the community of entrepreneurs that you serve?
Sharad: Face-to-face connectivity has obviously stopped because of safety. I think the other thing is not knowing – there are entrepreneurs out there that don't know whether their big idea or their business that they were working towards will actually come into fulfillment.
Due to funding stops – people have just paused, right – a lot out of fear because of the media recognition of the economy right now. And that constant uncertainty has left entrepreneurs a little bit stifled and unable to understand where their next dollar might come from or if their idea that they had is even going to work in the current atmosphere.
So I think that has been a big piece. On the other side as well, a lot of these entrepreneurs do work on low budgets and some of them don't have big offices and whatnot, so they understand the pivot point.
There are some businesses that have started in the last few years that have completely paused and stopped and not making any profit or not turning any types of client work out there because they just don't have that opportunity because they might've been in an industry that was very service-based or product based that there's no need for that currently.
So, that has been a tough thing. The conversations that I'm seeing with our membership or just that, you know, they miss hanging out and connecting. There's just not that ability to do so. And because Vancouver's chapter is a smaller chapter and we've gone through a lot of growth spurts, we're just trying to be organized on our side. We've had a little bit of a challenge to just engage with members because they're so worried about what's going on. So TiE's become an afterthought to them for now.
But I feel that we could be a resource to them because we do have a lot of members in the exterior community outside of the Vancouver ecosystem that are in other chapters that really could give them advice during this time.
So we've pivoted to online virtual events, which we're having one of our first ones next week, a big dialogue, a series that we'll start. And then we're piggybacking off the ideas that TiE global has not stopped, in fact, they have more events now than they ever have. And so the idea that virtual is going to be the new normal. So virtual interactions are how people are going to reach out to each other. So everything is just virtual.
Omar: Great. Thank you. Any advice to other NPOs that might be struggling through this difficult time? Is that advice different for entrepreneurs?
Sharad: I think the idea to just let people, let your members know or let your network know that you still exist and you're thinking about them. Like just the interaction that people should be doing in general with others.
I think letting them know that you're trying to be innovative, maybe have a virtual event where you just have a social tea time or drinks, an evening of drinks where you bring them all together and maybe have conversations about what their needs are right now?
It's about asking people what they need rather than just saying, “Hey,” or, “We need something right now.” It's really about just showing face, being available to them. Putting up your flag and just saying, listen, we are here. We're still open. It's in a different sort of capacity.
But just the communication is really, really key because what will happen which I've learned even before COVID, with this nonprofit, is that if you don't communicate, nobody knows that you're still around.
And then that's just the case because some people look at nonprofits as a place just to socialize, which is fantastic. Whereas, other people need purpose out of it otherwise they're not going to put their time to it. And we're trying to sort of meld both ideas.
We're trying to give purpose. We'll also keep that social component going on and we'll see what happens with this first event. So far we have met as a group virtually some board meetings with our board.
But really it's just letting them know you're still around and you're still there to be active, be actively communicating with them. So constantly communicate, you know, use video content, have chats like this that are really open, endearing and be open to also showing an emotional side to some people because people need empathy right now.
Big businesses that were doing very, very well are not doing so well right now. And I think I'm a very empathetic person. I'm a very emotional person when it comes to this because of the type of work that I do. And I think that the real key is to just show some empathy to the people out there because they're really not sure how to navigate sometimes.
Omar: You, outside of your work with TiE Vancouver, have the opportunity to meet with some philanthropists that have really changed the world and who are really seen as thought leaders. How are those conversations changing as a result of COVID-19?
Sharad: Yeah, so I've done a few calls like video chats and I think the bigger thought leaders are optimists that I've talked to. They're not doom and gloom in this situation. They might have better financial opportunities than a lot of us. So then, maybe that's the reason why, but I always have to look at both hats, but they're just letting people know that this is a period in time that will pass.
But we have to be very careful to learn what our resources are. They're telling us what resources to go to because either they're people who are funding some of those resources or they know about them because they're in relationship with some of these. So I think they've become people who are still thought leaders, still sharing knowledge, but their knowledge holders for where the resources could possibly be.
They're also knowledge holders of the industries that they're in. Whether it's real estate, technology, whatever it is. So they're giving you information on what is next within that industry based on what's going on in COVID. And those are great listening points.
There's a lot of podcasts out there, a lot of people that I don't get to talk to, that I'm listening to. And the people that I do talk to are telling you, “here are the opportunities.”
And the reason that they know that is either they're creating the opportunities or they're definitely embedded into the opportunity. They're like, “I'm taking this opportunity and so should you.”
So there's no shortage of information out there. I think what's happening is people are, those big thought leaders are, being empathetic, they're being kind, but they're also like, “here's the opportunity.”
They're seeing, they're optimists. And they see that there's opportunity right now, and I feel sort of the same way as well. So, those big thought leaders who are in the charitable giving arenas and all that, they're giving bigger than they ever have. They're being more accessible to people than they ever have as well, which is true leadership. And that has been the case in everybody that I've been interacting with as of late.
Omar: We hear a lot about you know, once we've made it through this period you know, the hard days of COVID-19, that many not-for-profit organizations will cease to exist. What do you think not-for-profit organizations can do to prepare themselves to weather the storm?
Sharad: Well, I think it's working really lean. From an administrative standpoint, if there's not a lot of administrative things to do, then you need to cut those sorts of job roles and not by firing anybody and laying off anybody, but actually pivot what those people's attention is put onto.
And so I think creative communication is really the key and I think working lean is going to be the model moving forward because they can't, they won't be able to, like a lot of these organizations are putting all the money that they're getting towards helping others rather than paying themselves.
So that is something that the model of not-for-profits is going to change in a really drastic way. We are all, as you know TiE is all run by volunteers. And I've been putting a lot more work into it as of the past year only because trying to catch up on administrative items.
You have to look at as a nonprofit, as a place that you're giving rather than taking. So the whole mindset has to come back to not the profiting side of a nonprofit, but the giving side of nonprofit. And that's the mindset I think people need to sort of take forward, moving forward with this because people are just trying to survive, let alone fund their own sort of lives.
So I think that the not-for-profit model moving forward is going to be really lean working, moving away from having big staffing and maybe moving towards more volunteerism.
Omar: Well, thank you very much; I appreciate it.