Change is inherent in the nature of nonprofit work. Organizations must be agile and efficient in the work they do to reach the short term goals that allow them to accomplish their ultimate missions. Changes range in scope from the personal to a project level, and can even grow to impact the entire organization. We’ve all come to expect the day-to-day changes that appear without warning:
- A major donor calls asking about allocation of an upcoming gift to a new program
- An event coordinator requests the place cards for the event you are organizing a week earlier than anticipated
- Your volunteer manager is putting together an impromptu extra training session due to an influx of sign-ups
These changes and emergencies are normal, and established processes should be able to flex to handle inevitable unexpected challenges. At a larger scale, changes that are multi-department or organizational in scope can become extremely disruptive and have a negative impact on staff morale, program effectiveness, and even how the organization is able to serve its constituents. In these situations, it is essential to actively manage changes to reduce confusion, miscommunication, and frustration.
A common change that organizations struggle with is an operations or technology project, be it strategic planning for a new workflow, process, and system, or the implementation of new tools and systems. All of these changes can serve to transform the way an organization works, but at the same time can disrupt the processes and even the culture of an organization that is not prepared.
Change management is effectively using a defined plan to coordinate efforts during a large change, and serves to control the way it will affect the organization and the individuals involved. This can include everything from measurement of the team’s overall readiness for change, stakeholder involvement in the planning and implementation of the proposed change, and end user preparation, training and adoption. In the end, the success or failure of an implementation project will be revealed by how the team uses the new system, and how effectively it serves the organization’s mission. Reducing the risks of fear and confusion during the transition greatly increases the probability of success.
Strategies for Change Management
There are various approaches and tools available for managing change at every level of the organization. In our webinar with Feeding America, they shared aspects of a robust change management program that guided both individuals and departments through their complex transition. Change management plans can include components like steering committees and hosted change management workshops designed to involve those impacted by the change in early planning sessions. They can also incorporate interview and coaching sessions with teams and stakeholders throughout the transition. A common element is intentionally managing the communications throughout the change to ensure the proper message is being received at the appropriate stage of the project. This will prevent confusion and fear that can often surface and be detrimental to the overall effort.
In today’s rapidly changing world where technology is empowering businesses and nonprofits to move faster, every organization must innovate and evolve to stay competitive. Proactively addressing change through intentional change management strategies is becoming increasingly critical to project success. Depending on the scope and impact of the change at an organization, there are many opportunities to introduce these strategies and tools into your efforts.
Over the next few months, we’ll share many of the tools and strategies that we have refined for nonprofit organizations to use during their most challenging technology initiatives. We’ll describe how they can be used to provide support during the project stages, and how they are essential for successful adoption of the new system.
If you have questions about how to incorporate change management into your organization’s initiatives, please contact us, or download our recent paper Managing Technology Change at Enterprise Nonprofits. In this paper we’ve combined our years of experience helping nonprofit organizations through technology changes, and we hope it provides you with insights and strategies you can apply today.
The fact is while change is often necessary and healthy, it can a disruptive force, and is rarely easy. Interestingly, it’s our response to change that determines whether we feel positive or negative about what’s happening. Download this paper to learn factors that influence an organization’s response to change, a process for managing change, and how managing change effectively can impact the success of a nonprofit organization’s CRM and technology initiatives.
For some time, Project Open Hand was using multiple, disconnected systems to manage interactions with clients, volunteers, and donors, but none of them were meeting their needs. By working together, Heller and Project Open Hand came up with a strategic implementation plan to smoothly transition Project Open Hand onto a single, cohesive system, and to streamline and optimize the inter-related aspects of the organization’s business processes.