Many of you know that my wife, Moira Branigan, is also an executive director for a regional nonprofit here in Mid-Michigan. Her first year should have been as challenging as any first year should be for a new nonprofit leader, but it turned out to be so much more. She began at the YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region in August of 2019, and just a few short months later she was staring down the long and uncertain path with which we were faced in March 2020.
We have all faced an incredible series of challenges in 2020. Is anyone else as tired of the term “unprecedented” as I am? In our case, we had just completed a record-breaking February fundraiser. In Moira’s case, she had to cancel all their events for 2020, one after another. What does this have to do with cooperation? Well, since the pandemic began, we have been operating from home, in two spare bedrooms across the hall in our Bay City home.
It has become a bit of a punchline. In some cases, I have been on the phone with a donor or foundation, only to have them ask if they can talk to Moira, and vice versa. When that happens, I just walk my phone down the hall and hand it over. The most incredible thing, however, is just how much we helped one another navigate this unprecedented year.
There was no playbook for 2020, and our coworkers and boards of directors have had to put some faith in each of us to do what we think is best. There have been mistakes and there have been moments of inspiration, and through it all, we were there to critique, suggest, support, or improve one another’s ideas. Moira, I hope, learned a lot from me as I drew from my nine years of experience, especially with some of those aspects of the job you need to know from an administrative or operational standpoint. She, on the other hand, has lent a fresh pair of eyes to my work as she wades into her career at the YWCA.
The YWCA is dedicated to empowering women and ending racism. Their mission has been front and center this year. The SBLC has been as well, as we raise the voice of nature against the backdrop of regional flooding and help our municipal partners weakened by diminished resources.
Cooperation has always been at the forefront of what we do at the SBLC. We work with partners to accomplish things we could never have accomplished on our own. We leverage funds from donors and philanthropies to make agency and municipal resources go further. Just this fall, we began working closely with Shawna Walraven, the Bay County Treasurer. She realized that the County’s inventory of vacant lots and future vacant lots would need a well-designed approach to avoid blight and to reduce the resources necessary to maintain them. She called us, and now we are working on a series of lots around Bay City, planting nature-beneficial groundcovers in place of maintenance-intensive and non-contributing turfgrass,
Cooperating is not always easy. On the toughest days of 2020, sometimes you could sense a little tension in the air at the “Branigan Nonprofit Management Center” here at our house. Not every moment was perfect, but we helped one another, as we have in so many challenges throughout our lives. In our community, cooperation isn’t always easy, either. There are contracts and dollars to worry about; communications and deliverables that must be completed. But, it is worth it. Together, we are better than we are on our own.
I hope we can all remember that every day when we are queued up to drop our kids off at school and that other car needs to get in. I hope we remember it when we see a call for volunteers on a Saturday morning social media feed. I hope we remember it when our neighbor needs a hand with her lawn bags. I hope we remember it always.
With hope for our community and an open heart,