When Ana and I dreamt up this little venture towards the end of 2019, our 2020 business plan was simple. Spend the first couple of months getting all the boring bureaucratic red tape nonsense out of the way – i.e. registering the business, building the website, getting a bank account, etc. – and then hit the ground running sometime around early April by showing up to as many meetings and conferences and networking events as possible in order to drum up some interest in the foundation, and schmooze with potential funders, collaborators and volunteers.
Unfortunately, being the naive amateurs we are, we made the rookie mistake of neglecting to include as part of this business plan any contingency schemes that would help us to offset the effects of, say, the unforeseen outbreak of a once-in-a-century deadly global pandemic and the resultant worldwide economic meltdown exacerbated by unprecedented government prohibition of regular everyday social interaction. Silly us!
Needless to say, on the 23rd of March, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would go into lockdown in order to try and slow the spread of COVID-19, all those plans we had to spend the next few months eating stale cucumber sandwiches off paper plates while flashing our lanyards at fellow conference goers had been well and truly scuppered.
So the question then became, how can we continue with our original plans to build some brand awareness and attract potential collaborators, but now with the added obstacle of being stuck at home, unable to travel and meet people face-to-face?
For an established organization with a marketing budget and a reputation to cash in on, this is not an insurmountable challenge. In fact, we’ve gazed in envy from the sidelines as plenty of our more seasoned peers have adapted to the current circumstances by hosting all manner of successful digital meetups, symposiums, and presentations on Zoom.
But for an organization whose only fans are it’s founders mum’s and with a marketing budget of whatever loose copper happens to be skidding around the ashtrays of our respective cars, organizing such get-togethers isn’t really an option.
As a brand new venture we’re caught in a bit of a catch-22 at the moment where we can neither host nor attend these little industry orgies with the cool kids because nobody knows who we are… but the reason nobody knows who were are is because we don’t possess the requisite reputational gravitas to be able host or get invited to such things in the first place.
We could of course throw all our efforts into blasting out emails and stalking people with similar mission statements on LinkedIn, but as far as I’m concerned this is only barely above cold calling in terms of networking etiquette and is unlikely to result in any sort of long-lasting or meaningful business relationships.
With any luck, this episode of purgatorial limbo in which we find ourselves will soon pass and we can once again frequent soulless function rooms up and down the country and crack on with good old fashioned begging for help in person. In the meantime, if there’s one thing that this coronavirus crisis has served to remind us of, is just how unpredictable the world of business can be, and how vulnerable we are as a fledgling organization in the face of such unpredictability.
So when we first began to flirt with the idea of producing a podcast, the only thing we figured we could do from home, the question that naturally arose was… But what are we going to talk about?
We’re a brand new organization, with no money, and no infrastructure, and no connections, and no staff, and no active projects on-the-go. We don’t even really know what we’re doing.
Well, in the oft misquoted words of Sherlock Holmes: “Exactly, my dear Watson!”.
And so, the “Nonprofit Diaries” was born. All the trials and tribulations of launching, running, and growing (hopefully) a nonprofit startup, recorded for your listening and viewing pleasure. In fact, the first episode, “What’s Our Why?”, in which Ana and I discuss the origins and inspiration for launching the William Tuke Research Foundation, is already available!
But that’s not all there is to look forward to. As well as documenting our journey as a nonprofit, we will also soon begin producing educational content such as interviews, debates, and audio and video lectures under the banner of the “Tuke Academy”.
And for those people with visual or learning disabilities that make reading difficult, or just the hardcore audiophiles amongst you, all future blog posts, articles, and opinion pieces posted to our website will be narrated and made available as an audio “Blogcast”.
But don’t worry, you won’t have to scrounge around your podcast app in order to find all these different episodes. They will all be available via the same “William Tuke Research Foundation Podcast”.
And if you enjoy the podcast, maybe you could even leave us a positive review or share it with your friends on social media.