Promoting Successful Long Term Changes in Your NonProfit Organization

Step 1: Ponder the Situation

In this step you should seek to dig a little deeper into the reasons change must take place. First, be sure you understand exactly what it is you want to accomplish by defining your current state as well as where you hope to be at the end of the process. This could include issues such as:

–       Resolving branding/image inconsistencies.

–       Merging information silos within the organization.

–       Eliminating poor management techniques.

–     Improving communication standards.

–       Taking a new look at vague job descriptions leading to too much or not enough freedom for employees to garner support, or function in their realm of expertise.

–       Developing better workflow.

–       Etc.


Step 2: Change Before You Have To

Many organizations hold on to the old out of a fear of the unknown, and of finding comfort in the familiar. Unfortunately if you wait until things are falling apart it may be too late to recover. Start the process when you first see warning signs of deteriorating processes and you’ll be ready to help your organization enter a healthier phase when the time is appropriate.


Step 3: Do Your Homework First!

Whatever you do, don’t define your goals and jump right into the process! There are right and wrong ways to promote change within an organization, and if you do it without the proper information, tools and techniques, you may end up right back where you started. Some very important subsets to this step include:

  1. Studying organizational change. This is a two part process.
    1. i.            Seek out organizations that have been in a similar situation to yours and learn as much as you can about how they went through the change process. It is always helpful to learn from real-world examples, hearing both the successes and failures of those that have been in your shoes.
    2. ii.            Often when organizations make the choice to restructure they choose poor change model strategies. A couple of examples of these include the empirical-rational & the power-coercive models in which organization leaders give the ‘change orders’, assuming that evidence and arguments will motivate people to do things differently; and/or that one can simply force change upon their subordinates.

Better models that are more likely to garner support include: the normative-re-educative model which seeks to educate staff regarding the issues and opportunities faced by your organization, and create interactive collaborations to induce healthy attitudes and willingness for change; and the advanced-change theory which is similar to the aforementioned, but it begins with positive change within the leadership, becoming transparent, approachable and a part of the team.1

  1. Collecting data to support the change. This includes performing an analysis of your organization, having open communication with staff and managers, and thoroughly studying your current processes – drilling down into the root of the issues you’re experiencing to better equip you to find the appropriate solutions.
  2. Testing new ideas. Promote collaboration amongst your staff seek to gather ideas for improvements and test them out before settling on a final path. While one may seem like the best route on paper – it may not be as effective in a real-world situation.

Step 4: Know your Culture

Like building a house, the foundation of your change process is the most important part. That foundation is made up of a clear understanding of your organizations culture (both present and future). During any metamorphosis it is imperative that you take an honest look at the current culture, identify the old, negative and/or ineffective patterns, and nurture a newer, healthier version into existence. A great way to accomplish this is to foster an environment that encourages teambuilding, positivity, ideas and creativity amongst staff, middle and upper management.


Step 6: Promote, Communicate and Train Ahead of Time

Most people are naturally resistant to change. However if you take the time to promote, communicate and involve staff in your changes ahead of time you will be more likely to garner support. If employees feel like their concerns and ideas are being heard, they will be more flexible when the time comes to do something different.


Step 7: Implementing Change

Once you have completed the research process, made a thorough plan, learned effective new leadership techniques, and communicated with staff regarding the coming changes – it’s time to make them! Once staff and board members are ready – give them the tools and flexibility they need in order to take action. Eliminate any foreseeable obstacles, keep the doors of communication open, and implement performance and reward standards for those who consistently meet new objectives.

Step 8: Over the Long Term

Once the initial steps to your change process are complete, look for any loose ends that were not covered or fixed and get them all tied up! Next, to ensure long-term success, create a system to ensure that all of the recently implemented reforms become an ongoing part of your operation. This last step is crucial to the longevity of your change project and can take up to a decade to complete. Don’t immediately declare victory, and allow your staff and culture to revert to old habits. Instead continue to guide your organization in the direction you want it to go through a commitment to ongoing vigilance, communication, training and consistency within the new processes you’ve committed to.