How Nonprofits Can Navigate Change

This year, everyone’s lives changed, and nonprofits were thrown into a new way of raising funds, connecting with constituents, and using technology.

From what we at Heller experienced with our clients, we know that many organizations out there like yours had to quickly adapt and adopt new technologies that serve them in the short term. And now, nonprofit leaders have told us that they are shifting focus to lay the foundation for long-term technology adoption and success.

After doing over 1,000 technology change projects, we know firsthand that you must manage the people going through the change as much or more than the technology itself.

How do you do that? Change management.

Change Management Tools for Nonprofits

Change management is not an amorphous approach; it is a concrete management methodology. Today’s practitioners rely on proven frameworks and understanding of neuroscience and behavioral psychology to drive toward lasting change.

Change experts rely on a variety of tools and techniques. These tools include workshops, coaching, and one-on-one work with stakeholders. Flowcharts and mapping are used to help visualize processes. Surveys are used to get qualitative input and quantitative benchmarks for analysis. Some of Heller’s most frequently used tools are user surveys, communication plans, stakeholder maps, and sponsor action plans. All of these are tools that help put a framework in place around what might be thought of common sense, but they’re things that work best when they’re planned before getting into the thick of a change because when you’re in the messy middle, it is hard to remember what to do next.

One frequently used model to guide people through transition is Procsi® ADKAR, an acronym that represents tangible outcomes that people need to achieve for change to take root. The building blocks are Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement.

Awareness
  • I understand why….
  • I understand the business reason why…
  • explain the value proposition behind the change
  • communicate how it will help deliver on organization’s mission more effectively.
Desire
  • I choose to participate…
  • understand desire for or resistance to change by analyzing impact on individual or groups of stakeholders
Knowledge
  • I know how to…
  • assess the skills and information that participants will need to successfully transition
  • Identify existing gaps
Ability
  • I am able to….
  • assess ability to implement the change and address any gaps, including skills, behaviors, funding and resources
Reinforcement
  • I will continue to….
  • nurture and sustain change over the long term, provide support and encouragement

Sustaining Change: Reinforcement

Explaining the reason for change once, or twice, or ten times, and even getting staff members to nod in agreement just isn’t enough. Reinforcement, communication, and patience are key to making sure the change sticks.

Here are some of the most effective ways to reinforce behavior that leads to lasting change:

  • Frequently remind stakeholders of “the why” in both formal and informal settings. Why is this change important to them and how does it tie back to the organization’s vision and mission? This is how you build awareness and how the change becomes something everyone participates in, not just something that happens to them.
  • Proactive communications are key. Talk about progress, provide updates, and keep everyone informed. Share what’s been done so far, what’s happening now, and what’s coming up next. When your team knows about what to expect, they have fewer surprises and uncertainty to contend with.
  • Celebrate milestones – big and small! An intranet shoutout, a newsletter spotlight, a pizza party, or a coffee gift card go a long way. Find out what matters to stakeholders and help them celebrate the project’s progress and their contributions.
  • If they’re stuck, help them out. Ask questions about challenges and obstacles. What worries do they have? What’s standing in the way of feeling like they can get on board with the changes?
  • Help them with what you can, like clearing their schedule so they can be in trainings.
  • Listen! Be there for them to share the things that are tough and that they need to work through. Often the most important thing to stakeholders is to be heard.

Read more about change management

Our certified change management experts put together a free guide that explains more about change management for nonprofits. We also include success stories from the Canadian Cancer Society, Make-A-Wish America, and others. Download today!

And be sure to check out our other change management blog articles:

About the Author

Ralitza Zikatanova
As a strategist and project manager, Ralitza puts to good use her hands-on experience gained from working for ten years with nonprofits. With a passion for data-driven strategy, her experience includes multi-year, enterprise Salesforce implementations of the NGO Connect and... Read More
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