Nurturing Trust… In Real Life
It seems ironic that the theme of our cancelled business and development conference in April was “Nurturing Trust.” What was supposed to be a refreshing retreat discussing what it means to trust God in the context of business and development—how we could engender trust in our communications, and how we should walk through tricky human resources issues with integrity—has instead become a real life learning experience.
The finances of many businesses, charitable organizations and individuals have been turned upside down as a result of the covid-19 crisis. The same is true for independent schools. Not only is there immediate concern about tuition and donation revenues, but also pressing considerations about how to best provide financial security for as many staff as possible. Add to that privacy, cyber risk and occupational health and safety issues for staff working from home, building security and insurance considerations, communication with banks about credit facilities, and the legal ramifications of trying to cancel contractual obligations, and it becomes clear why accountants are considered essential service workers. The constantly changing landscape of government assistance programs and the volume of documents, webinars, news releases, and other advice has often times been overwhelming and has left schools grappling with the question “What do we do when the numbers don’t add up?” As we progress through this crisis, a few answers have become clear.
Take a deep breath
Initial advice to schools to avoid rushing into action has proved propitious. Taking time to gather all the necessary information, to think, plan and ask questions before making decisions has served schools well in a time of significant uncertainty. As government assistance and direction has continued to evolve, schools were able to stay the course and demonstrate a steady hand to staff, students, and parents.
Take time to do your research
We are blessed to have access to plenty of good advice from experts, including lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, and bankers. All levels of government have been communicating frequently with up-to-date information. While it has sometimes been hard to keep up with the latest pronouncements, we are fortunate to have access to a multitude of websites, documents, and webinars that help us gather the information we need to make informed decisions.
One of the blessings we have all experienced in recent weeks is the degree of collaboration among our Christian schools. The free sharing of ideas and information has been one of the silver linings in the middle of trying times. Larger schools with greater capacity have been able to help smaller schools, learning leaders and administrators are working closely with finance and development, and all types of independent schools across the province have been working together with FISA to share solutions and advocate for our schools. When this is all over, let’s hold onto this spirit of collaboration.
When making decisions during times of crisis, it’s important to avoid just looking for easy solutions. The quick answer to a question could provide some temporary relief but may cause more grief in the long term—the perfect example of this is a decision to lay off educational staff at a time when there is a shortage of teachers and educational assistants in the province. Sometimes we need to focus on the next week or two, but we also need to think about where we need to be in one month or one year. Disaster recovery planning is ideally focused not on just the point where the organization re-opens its doors, but on one to two years beyond that. Be strategic in your thinking and be prepared for the long haul.
Care for each other
Christian schools are not and should not be operated like any other for-profit business. At our core, we are communities of believers. While financial and operational decisions need to be practical and demonstrate good stewardship, we always need to remember that God first calls us to love Him and to love each other. Extending grace and offering a sense of security to others who may be suffering from extreme anxiety, financial struggles, and illness is part of what differentiates us from the world.
We’ve all seen the endless memes and posts about trusting God and how we will learn from this crisis to value what’s most important…all true, but often difficult to live out in real time. So when we know in our heads that God is in control but our hearts are filled with worry, the most important thing we can do is to call on Him in prayer—yes, for the healing and restoration of the world, but also for the peace we need in times of trouble.
“Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33
Tracey Yan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
SCSBC Director of Finance