How to Recover from Trouble

Every nonprofit experiences trouble from time-to-time. Knowing how to recover prevents the problem from growing, becoming persistent, or threatening survival.

The recovery steps are:

Be Proactive – Being proactive enables the leader to take the other four steps mentioned here. Sitting on the sidelines and letting the storm pass leaves the nonprofit weaker and less able to respond to the next challenge.

Change Your Cultural – If the issue is significant enough to be called a problem it suggests that the culture of the nonprofit needs to change. At a minimum, it indicates that communication of early trouble indicators needs to be stronger.

Improve Quality – Most problems are perceived by others as an indication that quality has declined. Using the problem as an opportunity to improve quality (whether a quality improvement is needed or not) builds confidence within the stakeholder community.

Take Risk – Problems sap resources. Recovering from a problem requires the leader to act boldly and take risks. It takes courage to step forward, acknowledge the problem, and deploy scarce resources.

Refresh Your Vision – The leader must have a vision of what the nonprofit will look like in the future (5 or more years), how to use the current problem to strengthen the mission, and facilitate the vision. The problem, whatever it is, is an opportunity to inspire the nonprofit to reach higher. Even if you already have a vision, use this opportunity to refresh the vision making it wider, deeper, or stretch it further into the future.

Next Step:

Be intentional about taking the preceding five steps when trouble arises

Use the recovery process to build strength

Make the recovery plan and execution of the five steps a group effort

When the recovery team is large and consists of a cross section of stakeholders it builds strength in a variety of ways. The large group reduces the burden on you and your nonprofit and makes recovery quicker and easier. It demonstrates to everyone the strength of your support system. It encourages volunteers, donors, referral sources, and advocates to continue to support your nonprofit and its mission. It gives the clients confidence that your nonprofit will continue to serve them.

You care deeply about your mission, nonprofit, and clients. Taking the five steps when problems arise will help ensure that what you care about continually becomes stronger and more sustainable even during difficult times.


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