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Change Can Be Blocked by Inertia

Here we are in a new year. It is a time when many of us are thinking about the changes we will make in this year. What is keeping your nonprofit from making those changes?

Have you ever found yourself saying, “Our nonprofit could be so much stronger if only …”? Perhaps an unseen force is keeping your nonprofit from making the change.

Change is hard for most people and organizations. Usually one or more of the following four unseen and unspoken forces is blocking the change:

Internally – An investment in a building, processes, personal preference, tradition, or a preconceived understanding of how things must be

External – What competitors are doing or perceived to be doing or the expectations of donors, volunteers, and the community

Perception – When the perception is that the problem is small there limited motivation to change (decline in relevance, funding, support, etc.)

Emotional – Change implies giving up something and the emotional attachment to what might be lost can be powerful

Two things to remember when it is necessary to overcome the inertia of the status quo are:

Stakeholder Groups – Stakeholder groups contain people with similar interests or activities. However, stakeholder groups seldom contain individuals who think alike. Therefore, it is necessary to know what is keeping the individual stakeholder from supporting the change rather than assuming he or she is resisting for the same reasons as someone else.

Value – Resistance to change is an indication that the individual is unable to see compelling value in the change. While time consuming, helping others understand the change is also a valuable contributor to success and sustainability. As you modify the change process to address the value needs of various stakeholders, you are also increasing the potential for success and broad support.

Next Steps:

Test your planned change with a cross-section of stakeholders

Modify your plan to ensure it will overcome resistance (inertia of the status quo) and provide the value necessary to generate support

Keep all of the stakeholders informed about progress and the value created as the change process progresses

Remember that just overcoming resistance is insufficient to ensure support. Support depends on supporters understanding and appreciating the value the change creates. When the resistance evaporates, it can mean that the individual has disengaged and that your mission has lost a supporter. It would be unfortunate to discover that the cost in supporters lost is higher than the value produced by the change.

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