Why Change Management is Well Worth it for Your Nonprofit

If you’re hearing a lot more about change management these days, it’s not surprising.

Change management helps businesses of all types adapt to change of all types, with minimal disruption to their work. In our hyper-changing world, change management is no longer a “nice to have.” It’s a must have.

But, as a nonprofit leader, you want to be sure that change management is worth the cost, time, and effort for your organization.

So, let’s take a look at the impact of change on your organization and how change management can help.

The threat of change fatigue

Like most businesses, nonprofits have seen extraordinary changes over the past year and a half. Today, organizations continue to face changes due to the global pandemic, including:

  • The transition of moving back to an in-person office environment
  • Continued strategy adjustments and resulting process changes
  • Residual financial impacts
  • Changes in staffing levels

Add to that list any other shifts an organization might be going through, plus personal changes in staff members’ lives, and most nonprofit staffers will say there are simply too many. This change saturation — when the amount of change exceeds the ability to handle it — can lead to change fatigue. And, change fatigue poses threats to new projects that you need to roll out. These threats include:

  • Resistance to participating in or supporting the project
  • Poor adoption of new processes, technology, etc.
  • Job dissatisfaction

In this environment, projects can go sideways. What might otherwise be a low-to-medium risk project becomes a medium-to-high risk one.

This threat of change fatigue to your organization’s future is one you can’t ignore.

Dive deeper into change management techniques with The Nonprofit’s Guide to Change Management

The benefits of change management

This is where change management shines. Change management is a framework and a set of resources that help prepare an organization to launch and adopt a new project — such as a new technology implementation and rollout — as smoothly as possible. It helps ease the path toward transition by building buy-in among people impacted by the change, providing information they need to understand and adapt to a new normal, supporting them through the transition, and reinforcing behaviors that are required for them to be successful.

While a successful project launch and increased user adoption of new processes and technology are the ultimate goals of change management, here are some other benefits you can expect to see in your organization as a result of a strong change management plan:

  • Decreased resistance — By communicating regularly with all stakeholders and providing them with the tools and resources they need to work through change, everyone involved and impacted by the change is more likely to participate actively in the planning of the project, support the project, and adopt any new processes or technology related to the project.
  • Increased enthusiasm — People often have emotional reactions to the stress associated with the uncertainty of change. As a nonprofit leader proactively managing the organization through the change, you’ll provide a framework that gives staff a sense of clarity and certainty that helps to reduce stress levels and improve enthusiasm for the project. It can even increase overall job satisfaction for staff members.
  • Improved focus — The process of change management helps to ensure the entire organization stays focused on the “why” of the project. Stakeholders are better able to stay focused on the beneficial outcomes of the project versus the temporary challenges that change can produce, which ultimately results in a project that stays on track.
  • Sustainability — Managing change successfully through one project helps set the stage for proactively managing through other projects. It helps build your organization’s change management “muscle” and sets an example for how to handle change well in the future. Ultimately, strong and proactive change management is the backbone of business transformation, helping your organization to stay resilient no matter what the future might bring.
  • Inclusion — In the end, a project will be more successful when it captures the perspectives of all those who are impacted. Change management gives your organization a framework with the language and instructions needed to ensure all stakeholders have a chance to voice their viewpoints.

Change management in the real world

Here’s an example of change management for nonprofits in the real world: The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) was in the midst of a massive project to restructure from a de-centralized organization to one national organization. The organization was also merging with two other nonprofit organizations and facing a reduction in staff and revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As you can imagine, this technology change impacted the entire organization. Preparing staff for the change was critically important to the success of the project.

To ensure a smooth transition, the Heller Consulting team worked closely with CCS to apply proven change management techniques — including a vision for the project, a master timeline, and a staff communications plan — which paved the way for successful technology change.

Gear up for change management

Change management is about preparing your organization for a new project — often a process and/or technology change. It’s a way to identify and manage resistance your staff might have before, during, and after the transition.

Change fatigue can lead to a lack of user adoption — one of the most common reasons new process and technology implementations fail. By having a change management plan in place, you can improve team satisfaction with your project and reduce risk involved with the change.

Learn more key concepts, tips, and real-life examples of nonprofit change successes. Read the paper, The Nonprofit’s Guide to Change Management.

About the Author

Smita Vadakekalam
In 1998 Smita starting work on the front-line of the nonprofit sector helping organizations with fundraising, technology strategy, and operations streamlining. Since then she has worked with hundreds of nonprofits implementing strong business practices, technology and change management strategies to... Read More
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