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Navigating Change: Part II – Developing a Plan

In order to ensure the continued success of your nonprofit during a time of change or crisis, the organization’s leaders must take action by developing a plan.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” While it may feel easier to simply “hope for the best,” the increased cost and risk associated with not having a plan in place when your organization is inevitably faced with a crisis all but requires you to think ahead and actively plan for the long term success. From experience, I can tell you that your organization will incur 100% of the cost related to a crisis if you wait until it occurs, and approximately 20% if you plan ahead.

Step 1: Identify the problem and define the anticipated changes your organization may face. These could include changes in 1.) leadership, 2.) work environment, 3.) programming, 4.) tracking donations, or 5.) external changes like economic shifts or technological advances. These changes may occur by choice or by chance. Either way, finding the balance of defining the change as thoroughly as possible while not over-limiting the applicability of the resulting plan is necessary.

Step 2: Detail the processes involved in making the change. Determine how your organization will move from where you are to where you want or need to be. For example, if the identified change is shifting your annual fundraising gala from the original plan to a virtual setting, detailing the processes involved in order to make this change may include logistical matters like contacting any vendors involved, notifying attendees of the change, re-examining the budget for the event, and choosing an online platform where the event can be held.

Step 3: Identify the impacts of the change. Consider the stakeholders that will be affected, such as the staff in your organization, that will have to effectuate the change. Specifically describe the ways in which the change will impact the stakeholders you identify. It may be useful to categorize the impacts from high to low to help identify those that will require the most attention if (or when) the change takes place.

Step 4: Prepare for action. Write down the specific actions that will need to be taken to navigate through the plan. How will job responsibilities or expectations change? Will additional assistance be needed from the board? What will be communicated, to whom, by whom, and when? How will your organization’s mission continue to be advanced through the time of crisis? These questions, and any others you think of, will need to be addressed in your plan.

Step 5: Implement the plan. When the time comes to implement your plan and navigate through the change, it is important to lead with confidence. Click here for more information about strategies to consider while implementing your plan.

While it is impossible (and probably not the best use of anyone’s time) to plan for every minute or remotely possible crisis that could occur, it is never too late to make a plan when you find your organization to be in a season of change. In light of the current COVID-19 health crisis, many organizations have found themselves facing a variety of obstacles requiring immediate attention. Now is the time to rise to the challenge and be prepared for whatever else may cross your organization’s path!

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