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Nonprofit View: For nonprofits like Arts Council, pandemic spurs out-of-the-box, creative solutions | COMMENTARY

For those of us of a certain age, we remember the TV Show, “The Brady Bunch.” One of the running themes was the jealousy between middle daughter, Jan, and the oldest daughter, Marcia. Jan felt that all anyone ever talked about was “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”

In today’s nonprofit world, it’s easy to relate to Jan Brady. I almost miss the days when we talked about dwindling audiences, aging volunteers and social media difficulties. Today, all anyone talks about is COVID, COVID, COVID.

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Although the news in the last 6 months has been bad for nonprofits, especially in the arts sector, there have been a few bright spots. At the Carroll County Arts Council, we’ve already reaped many of the rewards of this time and hope to keep some of the innovations in place after things get back to normal, whatever that looks like.

First, nonprofits are developing a new relationship with technology. At CCAC, we had to transition the PEEPshow, the largest event in Carroll County, to an online-only format in less than 6 weeks. The Historical Society of Carroll County just held their annual gala in a virtual format. Organizations that previously had no reason to explore digital content or virtual formats have had to pivot to try to present experiences that are inherently three-dimensional in 2-D, and have overall succeeded.

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Second, many nonprofits have had to think outside of the proverbial box to keep the community engaged. Downtown Sykesville Connection held a Virtual Dance Party, where contestants sent in videos of themselves dancing and local business people served as judges. The videos were shared on the DSC website and social media.

At the Carroll Arts Center, our “out-of-the-box” thinking actually entailed getting into a box. We created a summer camp program of activity boxes for students to do at home, with the help of video tutorials. This was so successful we’ve created a Halloween activity box!

Finally, I think we’ve all learned the value of finding new and fun ways to engage the community. Classes may be smaller but offer more scheduling options and topics. Zoom events have turned into virtual happy hours. If possible, social media became more prevalent. CCAC created a new Facebook group called Carroll County Creates for people to share their artwork with the community online.

We may be sick of hearing about COVID, but I think we’ll look back on this pandemic as the catalyst to spark greater creativity, technological innovations and stronger community engagement.

Judy Morley is the executive director of the Carroll County Arts Council.

Each Monday, the Carroll County Times publishes a column from a local nonprofit, allowing them to share information about their organization and the issues facing it, as our editorial. To be considered, email cctnews@carrollcountytimes.com with the subject line “Nonprofit View.”

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