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Not from Around Here

If you hear about a successful program at another nonprofit, how do you adapt it to fit your nonprofit?

The desire is to adopt the idea as is. However, it seldom, if ever, works that way. Usually there are adjustments that must be made.

Does it fit your mission? Usually the idea needs a little adjusting to fit the mission. The originator of the idea had a different mission.

Does it fit your clients? Think of all of the differences between your clients and theirs. Think of all of the difference between their demographics and yours. Is there the same level of engagement with the community? Do the family members of your clients have the same expectations? Are your client’s aspirations the same?

Does it fit with your donors? Why do your donors support your nonprofit? Will the new idea fit with the donor’s expectations?

Does it fit with your nonprofit’s culture? Does the organization who originated the idea make decisions the same way you do? Are their staff members empowered the same way your staff is empowered? Do they define quality the same way you do? Do they have similar expectations of their clients? How do their goals compare with yours?

The preceding list of questions is incomplete but you now have a starting point for your analysis.

The purpose of the questions is to help you determine how much work it will be to adopt the new idea. Sometimes a few fine adjustments are all it takes. Sometimes it takes a redesign of some of the systems (your current systems or some of the systems in the new idea or both).

If possible, try the new idea on a small scale (only the newest clients, only the clients in program X, etc.). This offers the opportunity to see how well reality matches your expectations and to make adjustments to improve efficiency and effectiveness before you fully commit. It also demonstrates the success of the idea and helps to win the support of doubters and donors.

Next Step:

Determine what adjustments are necessary before committing to implementing the idea

Determine how to do a limited scale implementation

Make the anticipated changes necessary for the limited implementation

Determine how to adjust the process to make the full-scale implementation more effective and efficient

Gather donor support for the full-scale implementation

Successfully implementing new ideas keeps your nonprofit relevant and increases its sustainability. Using a carefully structured process helps to increase your level of success. In addition, a structured approach to change is more comfortable for all of those affected. Each success makes it easier for your nonprofit to embrace the next change.

What is the new idea your nonprofit will be adopting in 2012?

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