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Take Control

Nonprofit executives can be leaders or followers.  Leaders create the change the followers copy.

Someone out there is trying to find a faster, cheaper, and more effective way to do what you are doing.  Unless you and your team are also looking for that new way, your nonprofit is at risk.  A high level of sustainability comes with being the one who finds the way or an even better way.  To find the even better way, you must be aware of what all of the organizations similar to yours, and those who are likely to compete with yours, are doing.

The survivors in the next round of competition will be those who create the change or leap over the initial change maker.  As you know, when a segment begins the change process, it is always a series of changes.  Those who are slow entering the change process are usually the ones who are eliminated because the need to make the cumulative changes exceeds their capacity to change (skills, funding, time, etc.).

You need to take control.  The best way to take control is to be the initiator of change.  Historically, leadership training has neglected to teach leaders how to be change makers.  This is because it is hard to teach anyone to see the next step in the evolutionary change.  It is also hard for leaders to take the risk because leadership training and the expectations of the typical nonprofit board encourage making safe decisions.  Stepping into uncharted water is never the safe decision.  However, failing to step in has now become just as dangerous.

At the same time, people’s needs and wants are multiplying.  Therefore, the opportunities to be the change leader are almost unlimited.  Luckily and currently, you and your staff have close personal contact with your clients.  That provides you with valuable insights about the changes your clients and community want and need.  In the future, someone is going to find a way to do some or all of what you do over the internet or with some other technology.  When someone else is serving your prospective clients, it is harder to know what the people who could be your clients need and want.

Next Step:

Monitor what your competitors and potential competitors are doing

Survey your clients and community frequently to determine their evolving needs and expectations

Be bold and take the first step to change as soon as you see an opportunity

One of the easy ways to spot an opportunity is to match an emerging trend with an existing technology.  Most innovations occur that way.  It is also easier than spotting a need and trying to invent the technology to meet the need.  In order to innovate, your nonprofit needs to be using the latest technology and have an understanding of how to use its potential as well as how your operations work.  This means your nonprofit needs cross-discipline teams who are looking for new opportunities.

Taking control of your nonprofit’s future is a fundamental challenge.  It is the best way to ensure the survival and sustainability of your mission.  It is something you can learn to do.  The only way to learn is to try a new idea.  When a new idea works, it is one of the most valuable gifts you can give your clients and community.  Since it helps to perpetuate your nonprofit and mission it is also a gift of improved job security for your staff.

Take It Further:

Keep your technology up to date

Change your board and organization’s culture to be change seeking rather than change avoidance or change acceptance

Ask your board to change the way it monitors and measures the success of your nonprofit

Use new idea development as a way to measure your increasing sustainability

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