Three Ways Nonprofits Can Build Resilience

Lessons from Capital One’s Reimagine Communities Summit

At the 2022 Capital One Reimagine Communities Summit, three overarching recommendations emerged as ways that nonprofits can recover from pandemic-related setbacks and build resilience for long-term success.

The seventh annual summit, held on November 4, brought together nonprofit, government and private-sector leaders to spark new ideas and insights. Many of the major takeaways revolved around creating resilience internally first and foremost, becoming a model for those you’re serving and leading the way.

In particular, three themes emerged as ways that nonprofits and other organizations can build resilience.

Speakers Amy Sample Ward, CEO, NTEN, and Co-Author of “The Tech That Comes Next”; Richie L. Butler, CEO and Founder, Project Unity and Together We Dine; and Afua Bruce Co-Author of “The Tech That Comes Next”

1. Embracing Agile strategies for building and maintaining great teams

In her session The Agile Approach to Resilience: Creating Impact at a Sustainable Pace, nonprofit leader and grant writing expert Diane Leonard made the case for implementing tried-and-true Agile tech methodologies into nonprofit project management workflows. 

Everyone in nonprofits, Leonard says, are constantly busy, wearing multiple hats and trying to do the best they can with the communication options available. But when silos need breaking down and processes yearn for improvement, most people aren’t equipped to take on these tasks in a way that maximizes productivity—or happiness. 

“The answer is not: let’s work more hours, let’s send more emails,’’ Leonard said. Being an Agile nonprofit is developing better ways of working to achieve greater impact in communities faster than they ever have before. “Agile helps us come together, coordinate our efforts and create twice the impact at a sustainable pace.”


Nonprofits can embrace the four Agile values by placing importance on the following practices: 

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

  2. Working product over comprehensive documentation

  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Leonard brought up two different frameworks–Agile values and Scrum values–and discussed how both could be implemented in a nonprofit. “Being an Agile organization does not require you to utilize a specific framework like Scrum or Kanban, nor does it require a specific project management tool,” she said. “No matter what your title is or how you think about these principles, they can empower your teams to reimagine themselves.”

2. Developing better teams through diversity and cross-generational engagement

During a session titled Together We Dine: Putting DEI into Action, nonprofit leaders engaged in courageous and safe conversations with trained facilitators exploring topics on race, diversity and inclusion. Through this interactive session, participants were encouraged to share their experiences and listen to the stories of fellow leaders. The exercise functions as a model for a healthy organization. When everyone has a chance to speak, everyone also has a chance to learn.

While in their breakout groups, participants were given topics of discussion, including the following, which other nonprofits may also want to ask themselves:

  • How has the racial makeup of the communities you serve shaped your views on race? 

  • How has your cultural awareness shaped your views on community outreach?

  • As the needs of diverse communities have evolved, what new strategies have you implemented?

  • How might we lean on our own experiences to develop solutions that close the equity gap?

“At Together We Dine, we’re not judging each other,” said Project Unity Founder and Pastor Richie L. Butler. “We’re engaging each other. I don’t want to call you out. I want to draw you in.” 

By discussing their beliefs and differences in a collaborative environment, nonprofit leaders were able to build their cultural awareness, strengthening their organizations' abilities to serve diverse communities.

Another session urged nonprofits to consider generational diversity, a rarely discussed type of diversity, when aiming to recruit for a diverse staff. 

“Businesses need to focus on attracting talent, reaching across generations, changes in return-to-work policies, employee engagement, and the cost of turnover,” said Capital One’s Terrance Bowman, Director of Diversity Talent Acquisition. “Right now, there are five generations in the workforce. We want to attract all of them.” 

The key to achieving high rates of retention, Bowman suggested, is recognition and compassion. “Companies must show employees they’re valued and are provided with opportunities to grow their careers. They also need to recognize that their employees are humans with lives outside of work.”

3. Learning about digital access and its importance in protecting vulnerable populations

According to Capital One’s 2022 Reimagine Communities survey, fielded to 300 nonprofit workers in October 2022, the digital access gap remains a pressing concern among nonprofits and their clients. Cost of internet and lack of digital literacy are among the top issues faced by the communities nonprofits serve. Half of survey respondents say that this lack of digital access causes financial hardship for clients who may already be negatively affected by a fluctuating labor environment. 

The cultural shift caused by the global pandemic introduced new technological realities into our day-to-day lives; the pandemic also revealed the challenges faced by those who lack access to crucial technological resources. 

So how can nonprofits begin to build this equity into what they do?

To answer that, the closing keynote, The Tech That Comes Next: Reimagining Digital Access to Build an Equitable World, focused on building systemic inclusion through technology.

“An equitable world requires that we value accessibility as a priority from the start in all technology and social impact work,” said Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN and co-author, with Afua Bruce, of “The Tech That Comes Next.”

Bruce and Ward recommend that technologists, nonprofit leaders and philanthropists spend time developing a long-term sustainability plan for their technology and thinking about how the community is going to use it in the future. For policymakers and regulators, they urge a focus on narrowing the digital divide and prioritizing access to broadband and other services. 

“The reality is we all have a role to play regardless of where you fit,” Bruce said. “How is your staff supported to align tech with the community’s needs? How do you think about including tech in your strategic plan, even in things such as job descriptions? These are the questions we want people to ask.” 

Bruce and Ward also advise nonprofit leaders to learn more about security and data privacy to protect the vulnerable populations they serve. Activities like data collection, when threatened by privacy concerns, can lead to unintended negative consequences for community members.

Speakers Afua Bruce and Amy Sample Ward, Co-Authors of “The Tech That Comes Next"

Resilience for a stronger future

By anticipating tomorrow’s challenges and equipping ourselves with the knowledge to address them, we can foster resilience in our organizations. 

It’s also just as important to encourage growth in the nonprofit sector as a whole. To imagine and plan a better future for the communities that nonprofits serve, collaboration will continue to be key. 

“In nonprofits, we can be so engrossed in our work, we don’t see what other organizations are doing,” said participant Phillip Konecki of Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas. “We have to come out, take a breath and see what other people are doing. [The Summit] is our chance to see it in person. Other nonprofits are doing work we can’t. This is giving us a chance to network and learn what other resources are available.” 

Through Capital One’s Impact Initiative, we are listening to, partnering with, and investing in small businesses and nonprofits to advance economic mobility and increase social capital with the aim to close gaps in equity and opportunity and foster well-being in our communities. Check out our stories of impact to learn more about how Capital One is investing in nonprofits.

About the Reimagine Communities Summit Survey

The survey was conducted between October 12 and October 15, 2022 among a sample of 300 nonprofit workers. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points. Interviews were conducted online and the data were unweighted.

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