No Time for Change?

nonprofits organizational change
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We know Change is coming. But we’re too busy to think about it. So we just "cross our fingers" and hope Change will stay away until we have time for it. We cruise along with our heads down, hustling to complete our bloated To Do Lists. Then, not only are we caught off guard when Change shows up, but we have to scramble to respond to it.

Pain, Pain, Go Away

Change–whether good or bad–draws us out of our comfort zones. It rips away our cozy routines and creates more work. Sometimes it brings painful choices, and sometimes it brings loss.

Change and its Companions

Marriage, for example, is Change. When I got married, I gained the love of my life, but lost the ability to see my parents every day. They were now many miles away. And I left a job I loved and became another DC-area job hunter.

We created that Change on purpose, but it still brought joy and pain, loss and gain.

In an organization, of course, Change is far less romantic. (At least it was where I worked.) But organizational Change still brings joy and pain. And being human, we’d rather avoid pain whenever we can. So we steadfastly ignore the fact that Change may visit us someday, bringing unpleasant little minions with it.

Then, when we least expect it, Change smacks us in the head, knocks us off our feet, and rocks our cozy, predictable worlds. And we simply can’t ignore Change any longer.

A Fond Farewell to Procrastination

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know already. If you’re over the age of 10, Change has come to visit you at some point in the past. What I AM doing is giving you a reality check and, hopefully, a swift kick in the...will. Before it’s too late.

After years of working with nonprofits, I know how busy you are. You don’t need another thing added to your agenda. But as an organizational development professional, I’ve gotten those emergency calls from nonprofits who failed to prepare for Change until it struck.

They didn’t have time for Change, either.

Once the organization was in crisis, their leaders had no choice but to  make time for it. And, trust me, when this happens, you face both the pain that comes with Change AND the pain of being unprepared for it.

Still Think There’s No Time?

Nobody can predict and prepare for every possible form of Change, but we can minimize the discomfort and disruption that comes with predictable events.

Here are some of the most common events that force nonprofit leaders to deal with Change. If your organization is around long enough, at least one of these is bound to visit:

  • The exit or absence of a key leader or staff member,
  • The exit or absence of a key board member,
  • Loss of one or more major funding sources,
  • The need for organizational layoffs, or
  • Negative press or organizational scandal

You’ve probably heard a story or two about nonprofits who found themselves up to their necks in Change because they failed to prepare. You don't have to be another one!

Don’t Wait For Headlines

Did your heart skip a beat when you read that list? Those things are unpleasant to think about. But ignoring them now can lead to trouble later. In some cases, your organization’s survival might be at risk.

So start with the bullet list above. Talk about how these situations might play out in your organization and how your board, staff, clients, and stakeholders might be affected. Create written plans that can help you minimize the damage, take advantage of any opportunities that arise, and resolve matters as quickly as you can. Then train your board and staff to implement your plan should the need arise.

Planning won’t stop Change but it can help your organization face the challenges with more intelligence and grace. And by managing Change well, you might just win even more supporters to your cause.

It's Your Move

So far, these big Changes have happened to OTHER nonprofits; so ignoring Change has felt safe. But wouldn't you rest much easier knowing your organization has done what it could to be ready? If the unthinkable should happen, your written contingency plans and well-prepared leaders will help you manage the situation thoughtfully.

Isn't that peace of mind worth adding this task to your To Do List?

I sincerely hope so.