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Rapid Change

By now, most nonprofits have learned to deal with constant change. As long as the speed of change remains relatively constant or slows a little, everything should be fine. How do you prepare your nonprofit for rapid change?

It is difficult to insulate your nonprofit from rapid change. Therefore, it is wise to prepare for rapid change. Since it is difficult to predict the driving force for the change, it may seem difficult to prepare for the unknown. Preparation may be easier than you think.

The three primary attributes your nonprofit needs, if it is going to be prepared for rapid change, are flexible, adaptive, and committed. Goal-driven organizations have an abundance of those attributes.

Every organization has a variety of goals it is pursuing at any moment. Some are long-term goals that will take years to reach. Some are mid-term goals that can be reached in 3 – 5 years. Some are annual goals that should be reached in a few months. Others are operational goals that determine the effectiveness of the mission and should be achieved almost daily.

How often does your organization (nonprofit, department, or group) reach its goals within the expected timeframe? Your answer will tell you about the level of flexibility, adaptability, and commitment of your nonprofit.

Commitment is the most important of the three attributes. Organizations that are fully committed to their goals are best able to deal with rapid change. Their commitment to achieving a goal helps them to be flexible and adaptive. Every impediment is conquered because keeping the commitment is their first priority.

Most of the time, the change has significant impact on the operational or service level goals. Because of the time span between now and when the other goals must be reached, it is possible to step back, analyze, and plan a long-term response to the change.

Typically, the least experienced staff members handle the operational activities. They are also the members of the staff who typically rely on standard practices and policy to guide their work. However, during periods of rapid change, policy and practices are obstacles to success.

Part of an organization’s flexibility must be to allow staff members the freedom to abandon policy and practices in the quest to find a new and better way to reach the goal (adapt). The organization must also hire individuals who are willing to risk criticism for the sake of achieving a goal.

Next Step:

Increase your nonprofit’s commitment to its goals regardless of the timeframe or the obstacles to success

Develop a culture that encourages flexibility and adaptability and values the courage to take risks

Remind the staff that standard practices and policies are meant to guide decision-making rather than constrain action

There will be periods of rapid change in the next decade. It is difficult to say how many but the nonprofits who are ready for those rapid changes are the ones who will have the highest level of sustainability, find it easiest to incorporate the change into their processes, and prosper while others are struggling.

Change is good. Being ready for change is better.

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