Three things your nonprofit needs when you need change

I took part in the coolest meeting this week. It was with the fundraising folks at an organization that’s seeing declining fundraising results. The program used to work well for a long time, but a combination of rising costs and changing audience expectations have turned the once-effective strategy into a financial decline.

But this wasn’t a “woe-is-us” meeting. It was a “let’s-fix-it” meeting. And that’s what made the meeting energizing and just plain fun.

Change is hard. Most organizations need at least some kind of change. And all organizations have political and psychological barriers to change. That’s why many venerable fundraising programs are in death spirals these days. They’re running on the remnants of once-proud brands, but failing to connect with donors. They’re failing to get, retain, and upgrade enough of them to pull out of the decline. And they can’t see a way out. They can’t even see a way to think about finding a way out.

What does it take to turn around that kind of situation? Three things, I think:


  1. Willingness to change. This is the hard part. Change means letting go of the old. It means taking risks — better kinds than the risk of not changing, but less comfortable. It takes strong, visionary leadership with wide buy-in from stakeholders who are willing to set sail across an unexplored ocean.
  2. Ability to change. Highly siloed organizations are hard to change. Politicized organizations where who’s your friend matters more than how competent you are are hard to change. Poorly led organizations are hard to change.
  3. Clarity about what needs to change. Even the most broken fundraising program has pockets of magic still operating. Effective change identifies those things and uses them as the springboard for new magic. That’s far better than trashing everything

Does your organization need change? Can it happen? Those might be the most important questions you face.

Seeing an organization that’s aligning itself to navigate through those things is exhilarating. That’s the kind of meeting I’ll take more of!


Comments

2 responses to “Three things your nonprofit needs when you need change”

  1. Great post. I’d recommend anyone facing change or who feels they need to create change in their organization or personal life read Chip and Dan Heath’s “Switch.” It is a great book to shows examples and tips for making change happen.
    One of the tips they mention connects directly to your #3 – they call it “find the bright spots.” You can use those bright spots to show others in the organization that success is possible and have peer examples of how it can happen.
    Kevin

  2. Great post. I’d recommend anyone facing change or who feels they need to create change in their organization or personal life read Chip and Dan Heath’s “Switch.” It is a great book to shows examples and tips for making change happen.
    One of the tips they mention connects directly to your #3 – they call it “find the bright spots.” You can use those bright spots to show others in the organization that success is possible and have peer examples of how it can happen.
    Kevin

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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