Recognizing When You Need Change Management in Your Nonprofit Organization

One of the most significant challenges in any organization is dealing with change. Developing processes, implementing strategies, creating programs—all of these things are far simpler in the face of an unchanging, static environment. But amid a rapidly moving digital landscape, shifting consumer expectations, social and political events, and internal organizational transitions, nonprofit leaders can be left winded by the constant need to adapt and flex.

Change management is a key part of ensuring your teams are prepared for whatever comes their way, ultimately allowing your organization to smooth the path toward success, regardless of industry changes or environmental impacts.

Airan Scruby, Senior Change Management Strategist at Good Scout, speaks to the value of developing a systematic change management strategy and how it can support nonprofit organizations as they roll out changes large and small. “Every generation of business or organization encounters change as the world changes,” she explains. 

Treated as a management task for decades, a lack of internal expertise and time to shepherd change processes well have led an increasing number of organizations to view formal change management as a distinct world of technical skill. Having a change professional on board throughout an initiative can increase effective implementation and save money in the long run. Effective change management increases the likelihood of full implementation of a project or restructure sevenfold, according to ProSci, which provides change management frameworks and training for industry professionals. 

A Proactive Approach Can Ease the Impact of Organizational Change

Identifying the need for change is rarely the primary challenge for nonprofit organizations. Rather, the more common pain point is found when organizations try to move from their current state to their planned vision. “Implementing meaningful change that sticks is really difficult to do from inside an organization, and even more difficult to do when you don’t have sufficient staff with specific training around that,” Scruby points out.

Working with a change management professional can often be the ideal resource for organizations facing this dilemma. Not only does it increase capacity to manage the change, but it can also help with identifying where changes need to be made in a safe way. “When it comes to saying the difficult thing that everyone in the room knows about an organization’s culture, but nobody wants to be the one to say out loud, it can really help to have a compassionate, knowledgeable person come in and help through that process,” says Scruby.

While many processes with outside consultants are about gathering external opinions and determining the direction of the organization, change management focuses more on creating an internal, personalized roadmap to help you reach your goals. With an outside consultant to help shepherd this change, you can help minimize the loss of momentum while enhancing resilience and adaptability within your organization.

Strategies for Successful Change Management

Your strategies to manage change will differ depending on your circumstances, but there are ways you can prepare for a systematic plan that will help your organization navigate the process more effectively, whether you plan to bring in outside help, or manage the process internally.

  • Maintain documentation. “Bad news is never exciting for people, and so they tend to back off documentation,” says Scruby, “this leads to a situation where they know they have a problem, but they can’t quantify it. When you do this, you’ll end up spending a lot more money and a lot more time drilling down on what the actual issue is.”
  • Strengthen your communication. Maintaining consistent, reliable communication channels and enhancing your communication soft skills will give employees confidence in the changes you make down the road. Scruby explains, “Even if you have so much goodwill, even if the change process that you want to embark on is really great and positive and it’s going to help a lot of people in the organization, you might still end up with a rumor mill that paints the change you’re making or the needs you have in a really negative way because you’re not able to tell the whole story to your people.”
  • Create teams to keep the ball rolling. Establishing a strategy is one thing, but maintaining momentum without burning out your teams is another challenge altogether. It’s crucial to help your staff maintain change implementation by giving them the right resources and assigning responsibility for various aspects of the plan. “When careful methodology is used, not only do you not lose practical momentum for the change, you also don’t lose that soft momentum that comes from having employees working in a place where they feel comfortable and valued—you don’t leave people feeling like they need to catch their breath after this process,” says Scruby.

When to Consider a Change Management Strategy

Change management is a systematic and scalable process, so whether your team is in the throes of major change or you’re anticipating some waves on the horizon, developing a planned approach can be helpful. In fact, having a built-in procedure ahead of time can make a big difference in the efficiency of rolling out a change. Depending on the organization’s size, this procedure could range from documenting change processes and having regular check-ins on progress with leadership, all the way to having internal change management staff.

Outside the daily operation of an organization, some initiatives should always include a more formal change management element. “Any push toward restructuring, streamlining, increasing profits or raising funds in targeted ways will require some change facilitation in order to achieve full implementation,” says Scruby.

“Often, the destination is not the challenge; it’s the journey there that stumps leadership. Where we often see organizations struggling are with methodological questions: Where do we start? How do we measure the effectiveness of the changes we’re making? How do we make sure the changes stick? How do we make sure we communicate them to the people who work here and the people who work with us outside the organization?” explains Scruby.

If these questions are leaving your nonprofit stagnant, this can be a good indicator that a formal change management strategy is the right solution.

Good Scout Group offers customized change management strategy development that is sensitive to public perception and to employee well-being during times of organizational transformation. Our approach proactively addresses the challenges and uncertainties of change, ensuring a smoother and lasting transition for all stakeholders. For more information, reach out to our team today.