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The Dynamic Nonprofit

Many nonprofits look like their organizational models were copied from an assembly line. Clients come in through one door, are serviced by a staff member, move on to another staff member, and so on until they complete the program. The nonprofit’s goal is to take the least time possible to serve each client and to serve as many clients as possible. Some clients will achieve everything the mission promises and others will fall short.

For many years it has been a good model. It allows staff members to specialize and become highly efficient. It keeps costs to a minimum. It is easy to understand and explain. It is how many of the organizations represented by the nonprofit’s board members are structured.

However, machines and assembly lines are unable to dynamically change. All of the things that make them highly efficient restrain them from being highly effective when there is variability. The nonprofit that is organized like a machine usually gives the average client what the average client needs and gives the atypical clients what the average client needs. It is optimized for the benefit of the average client and the operation of the nonprofit. Atypical clients are almost guaranteed to receive less than they need.

Unfortunately, the atypical client probably needs to be successful more than the average client. Those who are atypical face more challenges and have a harder time being successful than most.

We live in a time of near-infinite customization of consumer services, which is just what the atypical client needs. However, most nonprofit are structured in ways that prevent them from being adaptive, agile, and flexible. When your nonprofit commits to being adaptive, agile, and flexible, it creates a competitive advantage and reaches a higher level of sustainability. It also positions your nonprofit to significantly increase its value to your community. When it has a more adaptive, agile, and flexible culture, it is also able to respond quickly to any changes (adverse or advantageous) in the market, new threats from competitors, and changes in societal attitudes or priorities. When nonprofits are unable to be dynamic, donors and the community see the nonprofit as less relevant.

Next Step;

Restructure your nonprofit to be dynamic and self-organizing around the need to be highly effective for each client

Give your staff the freedom to be adaptive and experimental

Use the growing success of your atypical clients as the benchmark for your commitment to being adaptive, agile, and flexible

Your donors will embrace your efforts to be more dynamic. They want your atypical clients to be as well served as the average. They understand that it will cost something to change your processes and that the ongoing operations of a dynamic organization are more expensive. However, nonprofits with services that are tailored to each client’s needs are also more effective and provide more value for their clients and community. It is the effectiveness of your nonprofit that your donors care most about.

The increased satisfaction of your donors and clients will attract additional supporters and increase the perception of your mission’s relevance. It will also help increase your nonprofit’s sustainability.

Take It Further:

Ask your fundraising team to become more adaptive, agile, and flexible so that your mission will appeal to a broader group of supporters

Ask your board to help you create a more dynamic organization that is focused first on results rather than on processes, procedures, rules, or financial outcomes (let finance and fundraising worry about the financial results so the rest of your nonprofit can concentrate on mission effectiveness)

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