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Responding to Social Transformation: Strategies for Change in an Organization

A group of businesspeople sit together at a table having a meeting. Two of them are shaking hands.

Today in the CharityNet USA Blog we’re going to look at strategies for change in an organization in response to social innovation and transformation. The core assumption here is that your nonprofit organization is socially aware, with tactful respect both to your organization’s work and, if applicable, the concerns of your donor base.

Developing, maintaining, and updating your organization’s strategic plan is one of CharityNet USA’s core services to our clients. Learn more about Developing Your Strategic Plan.

Strategies for change are an important component of your overall organizational strategy because of ongoing socioeconomic and cultural issues on a global level, and the ground beneath you will always be changing as a result.

Let’s take a deeper look at how organizations can navigate ever-turbulent and transformative times, then explore the process of developing successful strategies for change in your organization.

A Fast-Changing World

So far, the 21st century has brought exponential developments in automation, migration, and globalization, all of which have caused social upheaval and change across the globe. Economic stagnation, expansions in civil rights, and shifts in social norms have caused old prejudices to flare up hotter than ever before. Environmental awareness has radically transformed the way we think about our energy consumption and consumerism. All of these developments shape how nonprofit organizations do or do not pivot to meet new challenges in their respective sector.

The most effective strategies for change in an organization build on the world as it exists now. As new ideas and ways of thinking gain traction, old conventions that previously worked well and might once have even been considered forward-thinking may have suddenly become outdated, or even insensitive. As cultural focuses shift, people’s social priorities change.

Framing the Issue Constructively: Think “Sustainability”

In these respects, social innovation and transformation are essentially a business problem, and the issue of developing successful strategies for change in an organization is mainly a sustainability issue.

It’s important to frame the matter in these terms, and not in political terms, because it’s going to be a lot more productive to approach the development of new strategies for change in the same mindset that you would approach, say, disruptions to your supply chain.

For the successful nonprofit, social change is an organizational challenge. Any political element on top of that is up to your nonprofit’s particular needs and sensibilities. This is not to say that social innovation and change itself isn’t political, nor is it a free pass to be dismissive of the importance of today’s pressing social issues. It’s simply about framing the issue constructively. There’s only so much you can do about a political problem, but there are countless things you can do—and should do—about a sustainability problem. Organizational sustainability is life: Many nonprofits fail when they can’t scale up or move forward to meet the challenges of the day.

  • Tip: Achieving long-term sustainability for your organization is part of the process of capacity building, another service we offer at CharityNet USA. Learn more about Capacity Building.

Developing Strategies for Change

We have analyzed the process of strategic social innovation and grouped the various steps into several distinct phases:

Phase 1. Define and Quantify the Challenges

Two black women sit on a staircase looking at a computer.

Before you can develop effective strategies for change in your organization, you have to get a handle on what the problem actually is, and how it specifically intersects with your organization. This requires a top-down review of all aspects of your operations, as well as a review of your mission statement and institutional values.

Your primary goal should be to identify problematic language and practices, misplaced (or overlooked) priorities, racial and sexual insensitivities, and other shortcomings that could hinder your nonprofit’s long-term stability.

Don’t limit your organization to its own point of view. Seek out feedback from your donors, partners, vendors, beneficiaries, etc., particularly if they feel that your organization is doing something (or not doing something) that dampens their enthusiasm for working with you. You should also look at other organizations in your field to see what they are going through, and how their own strategies for change are evolving. Social change can be a minefield, and it’s important to study other people’s mistakes.

Key Questions

  • What are the problems?
  • Where do they show up in your organization?
  • How do your organization’s problems impact your work/impact others?

Phase II. Create a Roadmap for Change

A neon sign saying “Think about things differently” in capital letters with the word “differently upside-down.

Now that you have a better grip on the problems, what do you want to do about them? Your strategies for change need to be highly targeted and prioritized so as to make the best use of your finite time and resources. This phase is all about optimization and strategic planning.

It’s important to make good plans, but it’s also just as important not to become joined to them at the hip. Many organizations develop a roadmap for change and then either become prisoners to it, or declare that they have solved their problems and that social change is no longer an issue. Don’t fall into either of these pitfalls! Remember: The ground is always changing beneath your feet.

Key Questions

  • What do you want to do about each of the problems you have identified?
  • Where do you want to end up? What does “success” look like?
  • What training will be required of your staff? Should you bring in a consultant? How will you know if the training is effective?
  • What is the optimal amount of resources to invest in your social innovation and reforms?
  • What do your specific solutions look like, and how will you implement them?
  • Who in your organization will be responsible for what?

Phase III. Implement Timely Reforms

An hourglass with red sand.

The implementation phase is where the strategies for change in an organization are truly put to the test. The following are critical:

  • A sense of urgency: Your planning isn’t worth anything if it isn’t implemented, and the world is changing by the day.
  • Benchmarks: You need to develop a way of measuring the effectiveness of your social innovations as they are implemented, as well as after the fact, so that you can revise and refine your roadmap.
  • A system of accountability: The people in your organization need to take responsibility for the problems under their jurisdiction. Give your people the power they need to participate fully.

And remember: Be flexible! During the implementation phase, be responsive to the impacts of your strategy as you roll it out. As the old saying goes, you always need a plan, but you should rarely stick to it.

Key Questions

  • What actions are you taking? Who is taking those actions? When, where, and how?
  • Are you getting the results you expected?
  • How will you communicate the implementation of your strategies for change to your donors, etc.? How often? Through what platforms?
  • How are your social innovations aligning with your organization’s overall goals?
  • Do your people need a support structure to optimize their effectiveness?

Let CharityNet USA Help You Grow

These strategies for change in an organization don’t just apply to social transformation, but to all organizational change. Implement them effectively, and you will be much better positioned to flourish in the years ahead.

CharityNet USA specializes in helping new nonprofits get off the ground. Whether it’s obtaining your tax exempt status, porting an old legacy website, or becoming more successful in your fundraising, we have the experience to guide you.

We also specialize in helping established nonprofits grow to a new scale. With our payroll services, corporate sponsorship advice, and much more, we have the solutions to help your org rise to the next level.

Contact us to discuss how we can help you succeed!