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Into the wind - relationships create new connections through new channels

Josh Traptow smiles into the camera.
Josh Traptow (AIM '11) shares the impact the economic downturn and COVID-19 has had on non-profits, and how they can harness digital initiatives to build new connections.

An unprecedented pandemic; a difficult economic outlook; global uncertainty — these overwhelming challenges call for innovation and insight. They also call for conversation, discussion and debate — for gaining personal perspectives from people on the frontlines.

Named one of SAIT’s Outstanding Young Alumni in 2016, Josh Traptow (Administrative Information Management ’11) is deeply committed to preserving and celebrating Calgary’s heritage — and to sharing that passion, both professionally and through volunteer work, whenever and wherever he can. Here, the executive director of Heritage Calgary explains how charities have embraced digital initiatives to overcome some of the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The pandemic will have long-lasting effects on how charities roll out their programs, plan fundraising efforts and build relationships with donors into the future." 

“When I first entered the non-profit sector in 2014, its biggest challenge was the downturn of the economy as oil and natural gas prices fell. That was when non-profits saw their corporate sponsorships and donations really start to take a hit. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on the sector. The pandemic will have long-lasting effects on how charities roll out their programs, plan fundraising efforts and build relationships with donors into the future.

Virtual adaptations

“A lot of non-profits have adapted by offering their programming virtually. For example, at Heritage Calgary, we’ve worked to better promote our inventory of evaluated historical resources online, we’ve launched self-guided walking tours on our website so Calgarians can explore their own neighbourhoods, and we’ve updated our digital map of heritage site plaques.

"...non-profits will have to rethink how they are raising donor dollars and creating connections with their passionate supporters." 

“In terms of fundraising, a lot of non-profits rely on a big annual gala event or on silent auctions. Because of physical distancing measures, those events are probably not going to be able to return or run as they once did. Without those big events — and with fewer in-person opportunities to build relationships with donors — non-profits will have to rethink how they are raising donor dollars and creating connections with their passionate supporters. 

New tools for old connections

“But that’s where improving digital literacy and technical skills will play a huge role in future-proofing this sector. For example, as more non-profits create marketing and engagement materials in-house, professionals in this sector will need to have knowledge of technical design programs like Adobe InDesign and Photoshop to deliver a high-quality product. As more programming moves online, coding skills and knowledge of websites will be important. And social media, online content and newsletters will be an essential way to form relationships and encourage donations in the future.

Looking ahead

“Looking ahead, I think working in the non-profit sector will require adaptability, the capability to pivot quickly and the potential to remain relevant in an ever-changing world. And upskilling, particularly in terms of refining digital skills and learning how to work with new technologies, will be a huge component in all of that.”

Into the wind series

LINK magazine reached out to eight past recipients of SAIT’s Alumni Awards, asking for their advice on meeting the future, head-on. Dive into the series, Into the wind...

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