Practice Resiliency to Move Your Nonprofit Forward in Times of Crisis

Resiliency is an important characteristic for any successful organization. It allows businesses of all types to adapt to change, with minimal disruption to their work. In times of crisis like those we face today, resiliency is no longer optional. It’s a must-have.

As a certified change management professional at Heller Consulting, I often think about resiliency from the perspective of CRM software implementation projects for our nonprofit clients: how to prepare the organization to launch and adopt a new technology system as smoothly as possible. This might sound like an “IT thing,” but principles from change management can be applied to build more resilient attitudes and behaviors that help organizations handle change of all kinds — from new strategies, systems, and processes to continuing work during a worldwide crisis.

Even as we face one of the most challenging times in recent history, nonprofits can practice resiliency to keep programs, fundraising, and projects moving forward. And, resiliency is not just for an organization’s leaders. Every person in the organization has a role to play.

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Here are four ways everyone in your nonprofit can work toward a more resilient organization:

  1. Be courageous.

    Being courageous at work doesn’t necessarily mean that you must be a hero, charging the way forward. It means being open to stepping outside of how you normally work and possibly feeling vulnerable, especially in the face of changing circumstances. This can translate to things like:

    • Acknowledging that you are overloaded with work and asking for help prioritizing projects
    • Being mindful of everyone’s time (including your own) by questioning if a proposed meeting is truly necessary, or if it’s necessary that you attend
    • Suggesting an approach to a process or challenge that might be different (but also more efficient or effective in current circumstances) from the way the organization normally operates
    • As a leader, modeling these actions and encouraging the entire organization to do the same, when appropriate, as part of a thoughtful approach to dealing with change
  2. Have empathy.

    Having empathy allows you to think outside of your own experience. This is particularly helpful in times of change, when each person in an organization might be experiencing something new and challenging. Some ways to practice empathy include:

    • Trying to think of circumstances from the other person’s perspective
    • Even if you don’t identify with the other person’s perspective, at least recognizing what they might be going through and that it is different than what you’re experiencing
    • Having empathy for yourself — cutting yourself some slack by not putting unnecessary pressure on yourself
    • As a leader, acknowledging that everyone in the organization (including you) might be stepping out of their normal roles during times of change, and encouraging the team to be aware and understanding of reactions to each other in new roles
  3. Embrace uncertainty.

Uncertainty rarely feels comfortable. However, embracing it can give you permission to try new things you might not have tried before, which can open new ways to move forward. A few important things to keep in mind about embracing uncertainty include:

  • Knowing that a well-considered next step can be useful; even if it doesn’t turn out as hoped or expected, it can be a valuable lesson learned
  • Acknowledging that the organization does not know what the future brings, but by trying new things and adapting along the way, it will progress
  • Leaning on governance structures, escalation paths, and change management processes you already have in place to help guide new ideas while adapting to the situation at hand
  1. Practice critical thinking.

We all hear about the idea of “fight or flight” survival instincts in response to danger. This type of thinking suggests that it can be difficult to think and act rationally during times of crisis. However, the following practices can help your organization turn back to rational, versus emotional, thought and response:

  • Working through the project plans you have in place
  • Communicating regularly and thoroughly to ensure everyone involved knows the latest about any given project or strategic direction, especially if things are evolving rapidly
  • Revisiting your organization’s goals and mission and vision statements regularly to remind the entire team of what you are all working toward

Being resilient takes practice and, in a time of crisis, is not easy. However, applying some of the principles of change management from this article will help you build an organization that can adapt to change and keep moving forward no matter what challenges come your way.

Learn more about managing change for your organization, visit our change management resources page.

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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