This week I’m delighted to share an insightful article by HBG Senior Consultant Heather Hoke. As is our custom, the whole team gathered at the NEDRA conference this year. NEDRA is always a bit like a family reunion, but this year was even more special for all of us. Heather shares a slice of that wonderful two days and some of the insights and reminders the experience gave her. ~Helen
I recently returned from the NEDRA conference in Springfield, MA. My drive home gave me some time to reflect on the differences that I saw at the conference this year versus the one I attended pre-pandemic in 2019.
At the conference, I was happy to find that it felt like it was back to near normal. I saw smiling faces not hidden by masks, no one backed away from hugs or sitting close. I gave countless hugs during the conference, the most I have in years. Some people wore masks indoors which I think is now just a part of our lives for the long term. I was thrilled that we were back to a place more like pre-pandemic for this event. This felt amazing considering all that we have gone through since Spring 2020.
It was 1,153 days that we were in a COVID-19 Public Health Emergency! The health emergency was renewed 13 times since the declaration was first issued on March 13, 2020. It expired on May 11, 2023. Shouldn’t we have celebrated on May 11?! I mean come on…. We all went through a shutdown and our lives changed forever. After the shutdown in 2020, the roads were deserted, rainbows went up in windows, everyone was out walking in the neighborhood but on opposite sides of the street, toilet tissue was impossible to find, face to face time with people outside of our bubble ceased, we were wiping down our delivered groceries for Pete’s sake!! Where were the fireworks and the parades to celebrate on May 11?
May 11 was just another day, like any other. It did not feel much different. Well, it did a bit as I was climbing out of the work pile that happens after you travel for a conference.
As I sat down to write this blog, I intended to write about the quality and value of the NEDRA conference. As always, NEDRA put on a fantastic event, and I learned a lot from the sessions. I was excited to learn more about art, planned giving, physician compensation, and unlisted billionaires. But upon taking the time to really think about my conference experience it unexpectedly became about something else…the human connection and coming out the other side of a pandemic.
One thing that was not “normal” this year was the number of development researchers that I spoke with who are now working from home. I was thrilled to hear this! I have been fortunate to work from home at least part time since 2001. When I wrote a blog in 2016 about the benefits of teleworking, I received many messages of frustration about the struggle to get employers to allow staff to work from home. Most often such work arrangements at the time were denied. A positive about the pandemic became apparent. Employers are much more accepting of teleworking and hybrid arrangements. That’s a big victory (more fireworks here)!
This recent conference was a good reminder to open up, let go of the past, live in the moment, and to celebrate the victories in life as they come. I found such enjoyment with my HBG colleagues, clients and friends. I am feeling refreshed, renewed and even hopeful as we move into the time after the public health emergency has been lifted. Heck now that we know life as we know it can just come to a halt, that’s enough of a reason for all of us to live a more carefree life.
I hope to see you face to face at a future NEDRA conference, perhaps next year in New Haven, Connecticut. (Don’t forget that the Helen Brown Group awards a conference scholarship which covers registration plus some travel expenses!) Perhaps there you will discover some unexpected life lessons too.